Archive for the ‘twitter’ Category

It is a blessing that in general one only comes across a company that is a complete and utter failure in customer relations on a few rare occasions during one’s lifetime.

Now seems to one of those moments for me.

let me explain; last year I flew with Continental Airlines from Shannon (Ireland) to Fort Lauderdale (USA) on my way to do charity work in Haiti. I obviously also flew back with them three weeks later. No big issues during the flight. However when I unpacked my luggage the next day I noticed that several items were missing from it. Most notable was my missing netbook. A few smaller items were also missing. All had obviously been stolen from my luggage while it was being transported by Continental Airlines from Florida to Ireland. After I was finished having a big hissy fir over this I pulled up the Continental Airlines website to see if they could advice me on what action to take. There were no clear instructions so I decided to email them. Oh by the way Continental, your website is a user nightmare. I listed what flights I was on, dates, times and missing contents, I hit sent and waited, and waited and waited…..

I’ll keep it brief-ish but it took 6 months and a lot of chasing up from my side until they issued me with a travel certificate for $2000 as compensation. Which was great but I had no plans to travel any time soon and as we needed more funds for our charity work in Haiti I decided that it might be worth selling the voucher and using the proceeds in Haiti. So I put a message up on twitter offering “1 Continental Airlines Travel Voucher” up for sale. I got a few replies but then someone pointed out to me that the voucher was non-transferable. Strange but hey rules are rules. So I withdrew it from sale. I also called Continental Airlines customer service to check this and was told that yes indeed I could not sell it but as I still had the voucher and it was obviously not sold it was still valid. I even gave the person on the other end of the phone the certificate number and she confirmed that it was still valid.

Roll on 3 weeks ago. I had decided that I was going to go back to Haiti to do a few more weeks of work to kick of a few new rebuilding & development projects there. As I still had the Continental Airlines voucher it was logical that I would fly with them. So I went online and booked the flight with no problems. Or so I thought. My booking was accepted and I received a confirmation email. However three days later I received an email notifying me that the voucher had been voided and that I could not use it to pay for this flight.

I contacted Continentals customer service department for clarification but all they could tell me was that the voucher had been voided in November 2010. For further details I had to email their “Corporate Security” department. I duly sent of an email to request clarification and several days passed by before I received a reply. The reply was 2 lines long:

Last November you attempted to sell your ETC on twitter. The terms and conditions clearly state that any sale or attempt to sell will result in the ETC being void.

The ETC will not be reinstated.

Ignoring the T&C’s for a moment this reply is not exactly a great display of social skills or an awareness of customer service principles. I obviously didn’t accept this and have been emailing with Continental Airlines on a daily basis for the last two weeks. That means really that i email them every day but that Continental might reply once every 5-6 days. I have outlines how I obviously haven’t sold the voucher, how I checked last year after I withdrew the voucher from sales and was told it was still valid, how they cannot reasonably enforce legislation like this on something that is compensation for items stolen from my luggage while it was in the custody of Continental Airlines.
All to no avail so far. After I brought this situation to the attention of a few other people in Continental Airlines I received an email stating that they were willing to reinstate the voucher to the cost of the ticket I had booked ($625). As this was less that 1/3 of the original value I replied and called the offer not acceptable.
Oddly enough within 10 minutes of them making the above offer I also received a notification that they had tried to retract the email containing the offer. Strange.
Anyway, their reply to my refusal was short, even shorter than their previous emails:

We will not be reinstating the voucher

At that point I was just too busy with preparations for my trip and needed to just have a flight booked so I emailed that in light of this time pressure I was willing to accept their original offer (of covering the cost of just one return ticket). Within 12 hours I received the following reply:

Once you declined and threatened legal action, the offer ceased to be available.

The above is not a quote from the email, it is the actual whole content of the email.
At this stage I am really wondering if I am emailing with a big mainframe computer spitting out answers. “Computer says no” comes to mind. It takes Continental Airlines 6 months to settle a simple claim for items stolen while in their custody, they then void said compensation on an argument of questionable legal validity and what most infuriating; their emails are typed by someone possessing the social skills of a brick.
I also find it “interesting” that they managed to pick up the one tweet offering the voucher for sale but the @continental twitter account has so far failed to reply to at least 2 dozen tweets that I have sent them in the last 3 weeks. It clearly shows where their priorities lie. Same for their Facebook page. Lots of messages but no replies. Continental obviously does not give a damn about its customers.
Because I am under time pressure I am now forced to pay for a ticket. This is $700 odd that I won’t be able to spend on aid projects in Haiti. Way to go Continental Airlines! I obviously will not be flying continental.
Lastly this game is not over. I will not let this rest until Continental Airlines comes up with an acceptable offer. Until such time I will make this issue as public as possible as well as taking the applicable legal steps. In the long run this will cost Continental Airlines a lot more than the cost of a $2000 travel voucher. The choice is theirs.

I recently blogged about the criticism I was coming under from a small group of people related to my work with Haiti Connect a charity which I founded that is providing aid and assisting in the rebuilding efforts in Haiti. Initially the criticism focussed on whether or not our aid was needed and if Haiti Connect would be able to deliver. The small band of detractors repeatedly and publically questioned the need for improved internet access and communications and also stated that I (through Haiti Connect) would never be able to deliver on this promise or that we never even would make it to Haiti.

It’s obvious to say that they were proven wrong. Still, a free-lance journalist working for the Irish Mail on Sunday decided to write an article about me. He emailed me a list of questions putting forward that he was pursuing this in the public interest. I replied to him answering each separate question concisely and truthfully. However my answers must not have suited his agenda as he completely ignored them and did what could be largely considered a copy and paste job using the few criticizing blogposts as his “source material“. This was obvious because he repeated verbatim the same wrongful assumptions and accusations as made in these blogs. However he also tried to discredit me personally by referring to unpaid debts and also attacked one of my companies by questioning the truth of information on the company’s website. None of this had anything whatsoever to do with Haiti Connect and/or its work. Still it got smeared all over the pages of a national newspaper causing a lot of personal stress for myself and my family.The gossip mill went into overdrive leading to the bank that Haiti Connect was banking with closing the account and so-called friends turning their backs on us. It even lead to our kids being pestered by some classmates because “your dad is a crook”. Now personally I will take anyone on but when this affect my kids and wife in an unfair way it has gone too far. Way too far.

I did not take this lying down and filed a complaint with the editor of the Mail on Sunday. Not surprisingly he dismissed my claim. Below is a quote from his reply:

I refer to your e-mail of June 1. The article published on May 9 was factual and balanced and indeed was largely based on your own words – either in response to our reporter’s questions or comments you had posted on Twitter or on your blog. We fully stand over the story. Furthermore, we believe you were given adequate right of reply at the time of publication. I must therefore inform you that we cannot accede to your request that we publish a retraction and an apology.

Following this I lodged a detailed complaint with the Press Ombudsman and today I received notice from them that they have taken this complaint up with the editor of the Irish Mail on Sunday as part of their mediation process. More about this soon.


I must have stepped on someone toes by lodging these complaints as last week I received another email from the same free-lance hack working for the Irish Mail on Sunday. This time there were no questions about Haiti Connect or it’s work, instead it contained a range of questions based around the previously referred to debt. His line was that because of these debts I should not be soliciting public donations as I “obviously” could not be trusted. He also referred that Haiti Connect was not a “registered charity”. As he had previously ignored my detailed answers to all his questions and as he had clearly no intention in writing a balanced article I decided not to reply to his email. He followed this with two more emails which I also ignored. Next were two phone calls, conveniently made from a “hidden number”. I actually answered one but told him I had nothing to say to him and hung up. He called back and left a voicemail stating that “they would be printing another article next Sunday and that I had been given sufficient time to reply”. Like before I ignored this. Next followed a series of public tweets aimed at me outlining some of the nonsense & lies that he intended to write.

Now I might be a bit sensitive but this crossed over into harassment in my opinion. His article has no news value, does not contribute to “the greater good” and only does harm. To me, my wife, my children and to Haiti Connects work helping people in need. In short it’s a piece of shit.

But as he seems intent to publish it I will use this platform to tell me side of the story, the truth if you want it;

Yes, the judgments are real. They are the results of debt incurred through my involvement with a start-up venture in 2005. I was employed by this company as their CEO. The company was a US registered entity listed with the SEC. The company had ambitious but realistic plans and relied for its funding on the public sale of equity. I was hired by one of the main investors who was also in charge of raising funding. I set up a trading entity in Ireland and worked on developing the company. Obviously, as with any start-up, there was need for a few small lines of credit. These were applied and granted. However as the companies CEO I was asked to guarantee these loans. As we had just moved back to Ireland I also got some loans to cover the costs of setting up home in Ireland. After all I was on a good salary and the future was looking bright. However that situation changed. Because the company was founded and registered in the US and most of its investors were in the US we felt the first tremors of the impending economic crisis very early. Earlier than most people in Ireland. Funding basically dried up and we were not able to progress along the chosen path. As I had faith in the venture I kept working away without getting paid but by the end of 2006 I had used up all our personal financial reserves and ran up a credit card bill as well. Time to move on. (note: the company is still in existence but on the backburner until the economic climate improves). However as I had received no income for close on a year there was no way I could repay all the outstanding loans. Apart from that there was a dispute about alledged personal guarantees. One of the debts resulted in a recent judgment referred to in the article

So I did what I was taught to do; I picked myself up and started anew. Nothing like hitting rock bottom to teach you how *not* to do something. We are now 4-5 years on and I am absolutely astounded that these old debts are being put forward as a reason why I should not be allowed raise funds for a charity. Does failing make me evil? A bad man? Someone to be avoided like the plague?

It’s even more astounding considering the current global economic situation. Hundreds of thousands of people have lost their jobs in Ireland. Business small and large are failing every day. People with humongous mortgages are 100’s of thousands of euro in negative equity. The world has turned into an economic and financial disaster zone and in that climate my 39,000 euro debt is being measured on a yardstick to show that I am not to be trusted?!

Why is it in this country that failure is seen as a disaster and people who fail at business are encouraged to crawl under a rock or are expected to be cast aside as the flotsam of society? How do we ever expect to recover from this recession if people are only given one shot at success and are treated like lepers if they fail? We should stimulate entrepreneurial resilience (within reason) and allow people to learn from failure.

In the words of Malcom S. Forbes: “Failure is success if we learn from it.”

On to his next “accusation”; he alleges that Haiti Connect is not a charity. What does he refer to? What exactly is this thing called a “charity”? shows this definition:

1.generous actions or donations to aid the poor, ill, or helpless: to devote one’s life to charity.
I would say Haiti Connect fits that bill.
Now lets look at the legal framework for registering a charity in Ireland. Ooops, there isn’t one. What?! Yes, that’s right there is *NO* legal framework for establishing a charity in Ireland. Let me quote from the Revenue Commissioners website:

There is no legal framework for the registration of charities in Ireland. The Office of the Revenue Commissioners, Charities Section maintains a database of organisations to which they have granted charitable tax exemption. In granting tax exemption Charities Section give the body a CHY reference number. The full list of bodies granted exemption is published on the Revenue Commissioners website.

It’s a common mistake made by people who are not familiar with this process. The Revenue Commissioners maintains a database of organisations which carry out charitable work and which qualify for tax-exemption on that basis. Haiti Connect has applied for this status and our application is currently being processed. As it’s the first point listed on Haiti Connects FAQ page I am amazed that this guy during all his “thorough” research missed this. If I was to write a newspaper article accusing someone of being untrustworthy thereby causing him and his family significant stress I would make sure that I did my research and got my facts straight. But maybe I am setting to high a standard by expecting morals and common decency.

So now you have the full story. Time to turn the tables. What kind of person would write an article like this? Well to get an answer to that question we only need to look at some of his previous “work”. Thanks to this guys intrepid work we now know that Shell to Sea campaigners were planning a guerilla war and that Eircom has hired staff with the specific purpose to intimidate people on Twitter. I will let you make up your own mind after reading that.

In regards to the article on Haiti Connect and the supposed follow-up I have clearly stepped on his toes by publically criticizing him and he is running a personal vendetta against me using a national newspaper as his platform. His rantings serve no purpose whatsoever, there is no news in them, they do not serve any public purpose and any imaginable result is only negative. The results so far are that I have lost income, some people who we thought were friends have turned their backs on it (but we have also gained new ones) and that the emotional stress is taking a huge toll on my family. Interestingly enough Haiti Connects activities haven’t really suffered, most of our initial material sponsors have since donated or pledged further equipment, we have expanded the scope of the project into the areas of e-learning and telemedicine and we are receiving significant support from some quite formidable people. However if this continues and the emotional stress on my family increases I don’t know if it would be fair on them to continue this work. Personally I will take any shit thrown at me for work that I consider right and I will fight to the bitter end to defend my actions. However I can not stand seeing my family and my wife suffer because of this. Especially when she has already been extremely supportive (part of the money we put into Haiti Connect was earmarked to pay for her college fees).

In short I need this nonsense to stop. Can you help me? You can indeed. While I have received a lot of private messages of support I need people to speak out publicly and condemn this nonsense. Blog about it, tweet about it, or email the editor of the Irish Mail on Sunday objecting to the articles on Haiti Connect and myself. Make known that this malicious nonsense should not be accepted any further because as long as it nobody is imune from it…

I passed the magic 3 years on twitter 6 weeks ago and had planned to blog about it then. Work interfered and I had to delay it until today. Having turned from someone who preferred Jaiku over Twitter to a complete twitter-addict has taken a while but Twitter has now become an integral part of my daily life.The stats speak for themself; I first set up a Twitter account over 3 years ago, have 3225 followers and passed the 50,000 tweets some time ago. This makes me one of the most active tweeters in Ireland. Not that numbers say anything but it serves as an indication.

So what have I learned from using Twitter and how has it benefitted me?

  • It has greatly enhanced and improved my social life. I have gotten to know people that I would otherwise would have  never been in contact with and have actually gone and met quite a few of them socially and professionally.
  • While I started using Twitter as a business tool it has now become a professional as well as social medium.
  • Numbers mean very little. A lot of my tweets are “disposable”, off-the-cuff remarks with no relevance whatsoever.
  • Twitter is very much like real life (but real life is not twitter!). There’s good people, bad people, excellent people and real *ssholes. Deal with it. If you do not like a comment or tweet, defend yourself. If it’s just too stupid just ignore it. If people complain about your tweets point them to the unfollow button.
  • At the same time Twitter is *not* real life or a replacement of such. While Twitter has over 75 million registered accounts (many of which are not active) there are still 6,622,254,041 people on this planet not using Twitter
  • Leading a very public life on Twitter can have some very nasty results. There will always be bad minded people who will cherry pick certain tweets and mis-quote them to suit their own agenda. Be aware of this. If you can’t take the heat get out of the kitchen.
  • Twitter pares down the “six degrees of separation” right down to one. If used right it will enable you to get into contact with people or organisations some of which you would have never been able to have a one-on-one with. I’ve had DM chats with celebrities from the comfort of my couch. I’ve been able to get advise or assistance from people in position that would have been much harder, if not impossible, to directly contact without twitter.
  • I have also been surprised and impressed by the numerous great ways in which people apply Twitter and the network it creates. Have a look at #HaitiTech and HumanityRoad for two great examples.
  • It has greatly added to my TV viewing enjoyment. I do not think that this was what the proponent of “Interactive Television” had in mind but watching TV programmes while discussing the content in real time with tens, hundreds if not thousands of people on Twitter makes it all much more engaging and enjoyable. This goes for current affairs programmes as well as series.
  • The Twitter “audience” can also be very fickle. Don’t expect that just because something gets retweeted or mentioned a lot on Twitter that it will have an impact in real life. The “retweet” button is very easy to use and the twitter attention span is generally only 140 characters long.
  • DON’T EVER, EVER LOOK AT THE PUBLIC TWITTER STREAM!! It will make you go blind instantly.
  • Twitter will bring you news well ahead of the mainstream news channels. However that doesn’t mean it’s true.
  • Twitter is addictive.
  • Lastly the data generated by Twitter makes for very pretty completely useless statistics:

Shortly after the earthquake in Haiti I decided that it was my time to do something and try to help out in a way that went beyond the usual “effort” of donating some cash to a charity. Having a background in wireless (wifi) networking has had me thinking about the applications for wifi networks in disaster areas for some time. Wifi networks can be deployed quickly, cheaply, require no spectrum licenses and most of all have been proven to work. The fast roll-out of wifi networks after Hurricanes Katrina & Charley in the US had shown the benefits of such technology.

Anyway I digress, this is not a blogpost about technology. What I want to write about is how digital media can be used to organise a disaster relief effort. The first thing I did after the idea started formulating in my head was to put up a blogpost. After this blogpost went up it was important to drive traffic to it. Twitter is the best way to do this so I tweeted a link to my post (including the title). As expected this led to an increased number of visitors to the blogpost and shortly after that it also spun out into a good number of comments. Comments are the real lifeblood of a blog. Without comments there would be no discussion or exchange of opinions and your blogpost will just fade away into the grey mist of time. Comments will also increase the page ranking of your blog as keywords used (and repeated) will be picked up by the search engines. It’s a bit of a vicious circle. More comments will drive more traffic which will result in more comments….

I also put direct contact details (email, twitter and even phone number) in the blogpost. I would normally not include all this but the point of this blogpost was to raise awareness & create action and support so it was essential for readers to not only be able to comment but to also contact me. So now I had lots of traffic coming to the blog, plenty of comments and an increasing number of emails, tweets and phonecalls. In other word people were becoming aware of what I was trying to achieve and the support that I needed was starting to come in. No time to relax though. I next setup a dedicated website, Linkedin group & FaceBook page. My aim was now to move traffic away from the blogpost and direct it to the website which was now the hub of our online activities. The website would contain the “who, what, where & how” while twitter, Facebook and Linkedin would give updates on progress and create discussion.

I was not alone in working digital (online) media for these means. The updates and “calls to action” in regards to Haiti was ever increasing. There was a constant stream of updates on the situation in Haiti. There were even people in Port-au-Prince using Twitter to distribute information about aid distribution or to offer to share their meagre resources. News of any of the aftershocks also made it onto Twitter long before the mainstream media picked it up.

We are now 6 weeks into our relief effort and the results have been astounding. Through the use of social media we have now a pool of 45+ qualified volunteers, around $250,000 worth of donated equipment ready to ship, a forward staging area in Florida and air transport from Florida to Haiti. 95% of our communication internally and externally goes via email, twitter & Skype. We have also been in constant contact with NGO’s & relief organisations on the ground, ISP’s & Telecoms companies in Haiti and what’s most important we’ve bene talking to Haitians directly.  The greatest advantage of this is that our “organisation” is working with people spread across different continents, across different timezones without being bound to location. I can be anywhere but as long as I have internet access I can use my trusty Nokia E71 or my laptop to communicate, arrange and stay in touch. This also means that there is no need to spend funds on office space, equipment or other overheads. That way we can ensure that almost every penny we receive in donations is spent on actual aid to Haiti.

Now I am not saying that this is groundbreaking or in any way pioneering but I hope that it goes some way to showing other people how it is possible to organise something like this by using free digital media tools. It lowers the treshhold to actually making a difference and reaching halfway across the globe to help people in need. Now Haiti Connect is by no means “there” yet. We are now in urgent need of flights to fly 4 volunteers & equipment from Ireland to Florida. Only then can we actually start building the much-needed networks. So if you read this and are in a position to help us with this please do not hesitate to contact me! And off course we need to keep up the ongoing fundraising during the 6 month duration of our initiative to ensure we can cover all our expenses. Again, most of the costs are incurred in Haiti so the money spend on them will benefit the local economy.

The title of this post is one of the many Twitter messages over the last few days complaining over the bad quality of the wifi access at the TechCrunch50 event. I am really surprised and slightly disgusted by this. As far as I can recall last year there was either no wifi access or it was plagued by problems.
Really guys, it’s not *that* hard. You just need someone in charge of the wifi who knows what they’re doing.
You need to consider signal propagation paths, interference, reflection, channel management and roaming. And that’s the wireless part.
Connect that to managed switches and sufficient backhaul and Bob’s yer uncle…
Not that TC50 is the only conference that suffers from bad wifi. Most technology conferences are marked by dire connectivity.
I have repeatedly made the offer via Twitter but want to repeat it here; if TechCrunch wants someone to supply them with working public wifi access at their next event all they need to do is contact me.
And no, I am NOT boasting. Those that have used wifi services supplied by me/Airappz can testify that it works.
So there you go; if TC (or you) need wifi for an event or public location feel free to contact me…

Most of you will be aware of Twitter, it’s an SMS driven micro-blogging tool.
Messages are sent to a central number and are then displayed on the Twitter website. You can subscribe to other people’s tweets, send direct messages, receive updates to your mobile, import your tweets into your blog etc.
It’s a great way to throws short (140 character) messages into the public domain and start discussions or exchanges.
Recently I used Twitter for another purpose; we were providing public WiFi access at the IWTC conference in Dublin.
Part of the agreement was that we would also support the network during the conference.
Rather than permanently place someone on-site I decided to use a new approach to providing support. I knew that there would be a good few “twitterers” at the conference so I decided to communicate with them via Twitter to keep track of the networks performance and to correct any issues.
On one of the days we were alerted that the connectivity had dropped but very little other detail. I quickly put a message out on twitter seeing who at the conference was using the wifi access and in what areas. It was quickly determined that the issue was in the bar area. I logged into the network remotely, rebooted the wireless access point in question and put another message on twitter to see if the problem was solved. I had a response within a minute letting me know that everything was back up and running.
All this took less than 10 minutes and was done during my lunch from the kitchen table in my house!
It really shows the power of a medium like Twitter.