Monday, February 25, 2013

UKHomeOffice2.0 : towards a more engaging UK Home Office?

Extract of email sent to UK Home Office on Monday 25 February 2013...

Dear UK Home Office,

I thought to share some feedback regarding your social media engagement, with the view to enhancing your activities and resources.

It is superb to see this UK Ministry making use of various social platforms. This spans twitter, Flickr, Facebook, YouTube, and LinkedIn. The twitter account makes regular postings, which link back to web site entries or link to other UK Home Office social media websites. The Flickr account shares Ministry info-graphics and photos from recent police seizures in support of UK Home Office objectives. This initiative is to be commended, particularly given the sparse resources sometimes made available to extend existing communication channels (email, phone, posted letters, printed articles). The regular updates is important for social engagement, this is because it entices more frequent viewing by others and could lead to greater engagement and collaboration. The simple layout of the web pages makes for easy navigation, with core text in main body of web page, major sections listed across the top banner of the web page, web links to related content in the right side (with clear delineation of links to twitter and Flickr content), links at foot of page that include complaints, terms & conditions, etc; and an opportunity for the user to share articles via various social media platforms.

Some suggested enhancements:
  1. The links from  to the official social media tools do not always offer a web link when they perhaps should. In general, if there is a reference to one of the social media tools, then ideally the text or icon/graphic should link to the UK Home Office's account on that platform.

    Example 1: missing links to official social media tools on Twitter policy page - There should be links to the related social media accounts used by UK Home Office.

    Example 2: links to twitter and Flickr toward bottom of main text on - Suggested enhancements: the text regarding Twitter is "Follow on Twitter with #beatthepeak", this could link to the @ukHomeOffice twitter account (additional ideas listed in the next paragraph).

    Alternative links for twitter on this web page: could provide web link to a twitter search for tweets containing the hashtag 
    #beatthepeak. I would not recommend this simplistic approach as the results might include tweets that have no relationship with the @ukHomeOffice campaign; this is because there is no ownership of a Twitter hashtag. Indeed, the same key word could be used by another twitter account for other purposes. A better option might be to link to tweets containing both @ukHomeOffice and #BeatThePeak: this can be done using the following URL: - If you prefer to scope the search results to tweets published by @ukHomeOffice (not those published by any other twitter account) that contain the hashtag #beatthepeak, then use URL - In both cases, the results will only contain the recent 6-9 days of tweets, if there are any matching tweets.
  2. The policy governing how the UK Home Office uses social media to be published on the UK Home Office website - This could be linked from both the "About Us" and "Contact Us" sections of the UK Home Office website.

    This goes beyond a "Twitter Policy", which is available on (and which is linked to from "Publication" section on the right side of the Media Centre web page Indeed, a Social Media Policy is likely to play a role in the digital strategy, and perhaps merits a section on the website: - It is perhaps representative that at present the Digital Strategy and Twitter policy appear to be disjoint, with no cross links, and lacking an overarching Social Media Policy. Such a policy might explain the approaches being used, the intended uses, how often the Social Media policy is to reviewed, who conducts the review, and how any external input is solicited and appraised.

    Neil Williams, Digital Product Manager within UK Government Digital Services, has published a template guide (for Twitter) for UK government departments. This is a 20 page guide that is available online - Additionally, in 2011, Neil and colleagues published a consultation paper on this topic

    Related Idea: if the Home Office requires a policy or guide for *internal* staff's use of social media, I would recommend referring to the IBM guidelines that have been made public, and used by a number of other organisations for their own internal policy:

    (disclaimer: I previously worked for IBM, and might therefore be deemed biased; I share this information on my own initiative)
  3. Twitter account @ukHomeOffice appears to be used for broadcast only, with some retweets.

    The twitter account does not seem to make any response to other Twitter users. This appears at least to be consistent with the UK Home Office "Twitter policy" which states that messages to the @ukHomeOffice account will be reviewed daily, and which also states that twitter messages toward the @ukHomeOffice account might receive a generic response suggesting that the message sender make use of an alternative communication tool (email, phone, posted letter).

    Whilst the use of Twitter, together with other social media tools, to disseminate information is meaningful and useful, this does not take full advantage of these platforms for social engagement and client focus. The use of one-way messaging limits the benefits of social media as only a news outlet. This might also stifle feedback, by raising barriers to communication. A more engaging approach might include responding to queries with personalised message that directs the user to a specific web page or FAQ on the UK Home Office website, or absorbing feedback received via the various social media tools used by the UK Home Office, and responding in a manner to indicate how this feedback will proceed through internal UK Home Office systems.

    The "Twitter policy" page indicates that "
    At the moment we are only following other governmental Twitter accounts." This might be sensible, yet there is a lack of consistency. Amongst the 30 accounts followed by @ukHomeOffice (on 25 February 2013), there are at least 2 non department twitter accounts: @martinbeckford - editor for Mail on Sunday, and @TimesCrime - editor for The Times. Furthermore, it is not the case that *any* government twitter account is followed, only those relating to *UK* government departments. Perhaps you might update the Twitter Policy to state that only official "UK Government" twitter accounts will be followed by @ukHomeOffice, and that these will be complemented by following "reputable and related UK media" (specify the criteria, perhaps also with a defined mechanism for proposing additional twitter accounts to follow). The @ukHomeOffice account could then make use of "Twitter Lists" to clearly identify those accounts that are UK media, rather than UK government departments.

    Twitter policy has a section titled "Direct messages" that appears to confuse the nomenclature used within Twitter. The Twitter terminology of "Direct Messages" (aka "DM") refers to private messages sent to another Twitter account that follows you. The Direct Messages section starts with the text: "In most circumstances we will not reply to direct messages". Given that @ukHomeOffice only follows UK department accounts (and 2 media twitter accounts), it is unlikely that there will be many cases where @ukHomeOffice will receive Direct Messages on Twitter.  It might be appropriate to amalgamate the two sections on the UK Home Office Twitter policy web page, perhaps referring to the section as "Responding to your Twitter messages". This section could simply state that tweets to @ukHomeOffice are reviewed daily, yet not all will receive a personal response via twitter; and that the approach used by @ukHomeOffice at present is to suggest that any feedback or queries be submitted via other routes, such as email, phone, or posted letter.

    Whilst it is the case that twitter limits messages to 140 characters, this does not necessarily mean that it is not feasible to provide meaningful responses via Twitter. This goes back to creating a policy of engagement across the social platforms used by UK Home Office (see related comments in section 2). In a recent tweet by William Hague, UK Foreign Secretary, it appears that the FCO has an engagement social media strategy - there is a recent example of  FCO's social media engagement with @RDavisFCO twitter based Q&A that used the hashtag #MiddleEastQA (see related newspaper article In the near future, it might be reasonable for the @ukHomeOffice to respond to comments received via the various social media platforms, including Twitter and YouTube. This should be consistent with the UK Home Office digital strategy, rather than done on an ad-hoc basis.

    Neil Williams, Digital Product Manager within UK Government Digital Services,
     helpfully provides a curated list of UK departments using twitter, this might simplify the task for selecting the UK government Twitter accounts for @ukHomeOffice to follow :
  4. Published information graphics on UK Home Office Flickr account are not legible, see - The names of towns are pixelated, making it hard to read. Consider using higher resolution images for #BeatThePeak info-graphics, so that these can be read after being published online.

    On a related note: the info-graphics for the #beatthepeak campaign only provide data for 4 grouped areas of UK: Scotland, Wales & Northern Ireland, the Midlands, and North East & North West England. As this information has only recently been published, perhaps it is the case that the other regions will be released in the near future. Why not indicate the reason for only sharing 4 "regions" within the article? Will more data be published at a later date? Will you also release World Wide data relating to the passport applications made from overseas?
  5. Invalid links to icons resulting in links displaying a question mark...

    Example: links on right side of webpage do not appear to find valid icons to be used - instead the links have an icon of a question mark. It might be the case that the graphical images have been moved.

    This error appears to be repeated on other web pages on the UK Home Office website, see right side links on page and

My desire is for these suggestions and comments to be positively received. They are intended as constructive input into the ongoing evolution of UK Home Office services.

Please note that I have posted these onto a personal blog, such that they can be reviewed and augmented by others... making use of social media to crowd-source additional suggestions and feedback.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Celebrating Women in Science, Engineering & Technology

We are witnessing the first signs of Spring in the UK, with Snowdrops popping up... and the coming weeks brings forth also the recognition of Women in the global arena: International Women's Day on 8 March 2010

Indeed, the ladies at Imperial College have seeded this celebration by organising an Engineering Open Day for young female students on 24 February (disclaimer: IBM sponsored the 'Open Day for Girls', and I presented in the morning session). This event saw over 80 girls (Year 10-11, aged 14-15) from 8 London schools visit the South Kensington Campus of Imperial College, they received a talk from Alexandra 'Xis' Fawkes on Social Media, participated in group activities, and toured several labs in the Faculty of Engineering of Imperial College - London

A day out from school must be a good thing! even better will be to have inspired the next generation of academics, and future industry leaders... This Open Day could help identify a new pursuit (or one rule-out!). I hope the school students appreciated the efforts of the WSET Student Society in constructing their visit.

This marks just the start to the season of WSET events

photo of London City Hall, buildingHead over to Tower Bridge (London), and in City Hall you will find a wonderful collection of photographs. The 100Visions100Women Exhibition is also a creation of the WSET Student Society of Imperial College. The professional portrait photos are the result of collaboration with Jackie King, and celebrates women in science, engineering, and technology. The portraits show women in various stages of their career, from students to professions - and across a wide range of science/engineering fields. Event info (

In conjunction with the portrait exhibit at City Hall, back on campus the university students were challenged to submit photographs that showcase Women in Academia. The We.Are.Science photography competition closed on 25 February 2010, and the winner will be announced on 8 March 2010 - with many of the submitted photos being placed on display at the entrance to Imperial College Business School (Tanaka Building) until 19 March 2010.

For future WSET events, including Robogals, check out their web-site: - presentation on

- - - -

City Hall is open to the public: 8.30 to 18.00 Monday to Thursday, 8.30 to 17.30 on Friday. The portrait gallery is on display on the second floor.

IBM sponsored both the 'Engineering Open Day for Girls' and the 'We.Are.Science Photographic Competition'

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Thank you Air France. No thanks.

A few flights of fancy, that was all asked of AirFrance... and to be frank, it was not the accumulated delays on my two flights on Day1 that frustrated me... it was a little more the delayed luggage (containing festive gifts, a selection of British cheese, a haggis + clothes, etc), and it was most certainly the denied boarding on Day5 - thus causing me to miss a day with my fiancée ...and then having to purchase a new ticket at the airport to fly Day6. Drats, neglected to mention that the delayed luggage was eventually retrieved (by me) in a damaged state.

Then again, if I was to inform you that there were over 6,000 pieces of delayed/missing luggage at Paris CDG airport - that would be to skip ahead of the story. Sorry.

Sorry. A word that was only mentioned by Alitalia staff, and by one AirFrance member of staff (the one who finally helped me to obtain the missing luggage). Surely, dear AirFrance, it would not have been hard to offer help, even if it seemed painful to show compassion. Indeed, there was one AirFrance staff (senior ground-crew on the ticket sales desk for AirFrance at Rome Fiumicino on Sunday night, 27 December) who appeared to be requesting a change of job. Let me take you through my story. This will also help me to articulate my letter to AirFrance whilst also offering guidance to others who might be in need of similar information...

♠ ♣ ♢ ♡

Log of events:

Wednesday 23 December
✈05:15 NationalExpess coach service from Winchester to Heathrow airport, due to arrive 06:35
✈06:45 Just missed a Heathrow Express service to get to Terminal 4, waited 22 minutes for following train. Proceeded to massive check-in queues; checked-in around 07:40 (last check-in time being 07:50) and scrambled to get to the Gate
✈08:20 AirFrance flight London>Rome AF2081 due to arrive 10:50 in Paris, Charles de Gaulle (CDG) in FRANCE.Flight delayed more than an hour, for what I was told was de-icing, a very long de-icing (insufficient de-icing equipment at LHR?).
Folly: spent most of this 'extra time' on telephone to Priority-Pass and American Express, eventually identifying that my Amex Platinum Card was not the right Platinum Card to benefit from complementary lounge access. And there I was suspecting that I might end up spending a lot of time in airports...!
✈12:35 AirFrance code-share (flight operated by Alitalia flight) AF9846 Paris (CDG)>Rome, Fiumicino (FCO), Italy. Suffice to say that I was not expecting an easy ride, having arrived at CDG Terminal 2E at 12:30 and the next flight due to depart CDG Terminal 2F at 12:35. It was made worse by having a seat row 4 in an aircraft (ATR 72) that has only one exit at the rear. To my great surprise, the flight had not yet departed. Whilst I did reach the gate in time to board the flight, it was not quite as simple as one might hope: Terminal 2E and Terminal 2F, so close, yet so far away...
I was required to exit Terminal 2E, follow a walk-way, walk-up some stairs (escalators not working, CDG FAIL), and check-in once again. Curiously, on each of the electronic screens that I passed, my next flight was still indicated as boarding - and yet no delay was reported. This did not prompt any assistance from AirFrance staff. Indeed, on three occasions I sought the guidance of AirFrance staff regarding check-in, but was told to join the queue and wait my turn. When I eventually got to the front of the check-in desk, the lady that received my e-ticket was equally as surprised that the flight had not yet departed. After a lot of typing on the computer system (well, it seemed like a long time - but was perhaps only 3 minutes), all without looking up, she eventually told me that I could take the flight. I asked if my luggage would follow me onto the flight, and was quite trivially assured that this had been organised. (we will return to this topic later).
The security scan at CDG was a touch more demanding than LHR, this time I was asked to remove my Magnum boots (gift to my during my volunteer work for St John Ambulance, importantly they are steel-toe capped, and almost always set off the metal detectors, yet did not concern security at LHR). At the gate I comprehended that the flight had been delayed on its arrival into Paris, it was held back 1hr in Rome due to morning fog at Paris CDG. Additional delays ensued before took-off, whilst awaiting authorisation from air-traffic control.
Suffice to say that the expected arrival in Rome was considerably later than 14:40. Indeed it was closer to 16:30. Whilst longer than my earlier delay, I was to learn that this was nothing (no doubt others faced more serious delays over festive season).
Time now to return to a topic hinted at earlier: Checked-in Bags/Hold Luggage. Luggage in Rome has not been favourable to me. Same time last year, the Italian ground-crew were on strike - leading to 2 hour delay just to obtain my luggage! This time it was a more curious experience: some luggage arrived after 10-15 minutes, then some more 5 minutes later, and another batch several minutes after that. Alas, in none of the batches did I find my luggage. I was not alone in failing to find check-in luggage... the crowd in the Baggage Office made it evident that problems existed (flights Milan to Rome in most cases). I was joined by an American lady from my flight, waiting near the office doors. Behind us was something resembling a queue. In front of us was anything but a queue! The shouting, the gesticulations, the mess. Eventually the police were called, and the verbal+arm-waving exchange died quite suddenly. Lots of noise these Italians, yet apparently lacking guts.
Time: shortly before 19:00, finally I departed Rome Fiumicino airport - holding my letter declaring the loss of luggage (and a SkyTeam basic toiletry bag). Importantly this letter was issued by Alitalia, as the national carrier of the terminus (although operated by ADR). I was repeatedly informed (by Alitalia staff) that it would serve no benefit to contact AirFrance - it turns out that this is not quite true, as AirFrance do not share all their information with their alliance/partners (more later). Arrived at my final destination at 20:30, quite a lot later than the planned 16:00.
dreaming of AirFrance making travel easier...

24-27 December
✈Multiple attempts to obtain status update regarding missing luggage, at least once daily.
✈Asked again if I should contact AirFrance too, and was informed by Alitalia that there would be no benefit - as the information was shared. (later found to not be the case)
✈Purchased replacement clothes, including pair of trousers and dress-shirts. This is the festive season - and my smart clothes were missing/lost; and the clothes I had worn for travelling were going to need a wash!
✈Sunday, late morning, called Alitalia Lost Luggage service one final time - ahead of afternoon flight. Luggage still not found - apparently...
✈Advised by Alitalia to check Lost Luggage at Fiumicino airport prior to departure - just in case this was the location of my missing luggage

Sunday 27 December
✈Before 3pm, arrived Rome Fiumicino - 2hr15 before scheduled flight departure. Following instructions from earlier phone call with Alitalia Baggage Service, and headed directly to Lost&Found. Found in Terminal3 - also found to be closed on Sundays
✈Terminal1 check-in, retrieved electronic ticket from automatic check-in booth and then waited AGES to do "quick bag drop", some 30 minutes. The deposit of hold luggage was farcical, clearly AirFrance had insufficient staff at check-in (you would think they would have insider knowledge as to the volume of passengers expected, and could use their rather significant experience managing check-in flow) - it would have been faster to queue for regular check-in. Eventually an extra desk was added for the fast bag drop, after many people complained. When dropping off my bag, I asked the check-in staff (carrying AirFrance badge) if I had time to verify if the missing luggage had been found, I was advised "yes, there is time" and given directions through T1 Departures so as to access T1 Arrivals.
All subsequent activities were done under the direction of AirFrance or Alitalia staff.
✈Proceeded through T1 Departures, going through security scan with rather casual oversight by the Guardia di Finanzia (who did not check my Missing Luggage Declaration, nor did the security staff check for a boarding pass!), I descended to T1 Arrivals baggage area - so as to conduct a visual check of luggage (there was quite a lot gathered in the far corner of the lounge) and then into Luggage Service office once again (processed much quicker than first experience, less hand-waving). Also updated location contact details for the following days (which had been logged incorrectly). The Alitalia staff advised me to go to T3 Left Luggage for ticket-less luggage, at other end of airport
✈16:25, found that T3 Left Luggage was not the right indication - and was directed (by staff at T3 Left Luggage) to T3 Arrivals Guardia di Finanzia so as to gain access to the ticketless luggage office. Another security scan, this time with more scrutiny of the passport and paperwork.
✈16:30, arrived at the ticket-less luggage office and informed the staff that I had a flight departing at 17:15 and asked if I had time to check for a missing bag. Told to be quick. The room was surprisingly small, with shelves marked with dates for when the luggage had been found. There was very little luggage for 23 December, a rapid check of other sections did not identify my missing bag. Before leaving I asked if the gate could be informed that I was on my way. "Yes, sir..." was the response. I ran.
Indeed all this activity had been at a fast pace, between terminals, up&down the stairs. Rush. Rush.
✈In Terminal 1, I ran passed my waiting parents & sister and (again) through T1 security scan. Thankfully not many people. I got to the gate at 16:55, the digital display showing "Boarding".
And yet, the lady at the Gate did not look pleased to see me. She was shaking her head and said I was too late. Boarding had stopped, they had sent the bus at 16:30 with the other passengers who had checked in. That the plane was located away from the terminal. I asked if I could take another bus, or another vehicle - hey, I had run so much (I was sweating heavily) that I would have appreciated the run outdoors to the plane. No. Another phone call. No.
She asked where I had been, that they had made announcements for me. I informed her that I had heard no such announcements in neither T1 nor T3 Arrivals. She looked surprise, so I explained that I had been in Terminal 1 Arrivals, and had just come from Terminal 3 Arrivals - looking for the luggage that had been lost on my previous AirFrance flight, and that I had verified with the AirFrance staff at the check-in before undertaking this (fruitless) exercise. Could I please take another vehicle to the plane? No. Another phone call. No. What about my luggage? it had been removed at 16:30 when I had not boarded the bus to get to the plane. Is there another flight that I could take? No... you have to retrieve your luggage and go to the Ticket desk next to the check-in area. All said rather abruptly, certainly no empathy, making me feel more like I had made the lady miss her plane. I asked if there was another flight departing that evening that I could use, perhaps if we hurried I might be able to still get to my destination that night. Eventually she made another phone call. No, next flight tomorrow. Still quite abrupt.
My ticket was cancelled at 17.10, the flight took off with a delay. Yes, probably time for me to have caught it...
✈After 17.30 arrived in AirFrance Departures - at the sales desk, with luggage retrieved from a lonely conveyor belt (the flight I missed was now indicated on the digital screens as having departed). My primary objective was to get to my desired destination, given the circumstances I was expecting support with this - and ideally without additional cost. What I encountered was a mixture of half-hearted initiative (could get you to Paris, but then you could be stuck and have to work it out - oh, there is a TGV to Bordeaux that leaves Paris Montparnasse at same time that plane lands) and a blame culture (i.e. me/Alitalia, not the fault of AirFrance) - coupled with rudeness from a senior AirFrance representative that was best described by an unknown female passenger who said she thought the AirFrance employee “had been a bitch [to me]”.
Purchased additional ticket 475.05 Euro, departing Monday 28 December very early AM, with curious return to Venice a few days later (probably in quest to keep cost down, evidently this leg of trip would not be used)
✈Returned to my Rome residence for another night... yet more wasted time - Thanks AirFrance

Monday 28 December
✈Before 5am, arrived Rome Fiumicino for check-in for flight AF2305 Rome>Paris CDG, and proceeded through security and to the gate promptly - not wishing any repeat from the previous day. AF2305 departure was delayed, no justification was offered – eventually arriving Paris CDG after 10am. The extra time was spent chatting with Alitalia staff - from whom I learned insights into the rather lopsided alliance between AirFrance and Alitalia. Quite sad to hear the stories, yet matches on my own behavioural observations.
✈After 10am arrived Paris CDG. Connecting flight AF7624 to Bordeaux was due to depart at 13.10, I therefore obtained directions to the Baggage Service in terminal 2F.
✈From 10.25am to 11.30am I was at the AirFrance "Service Baggage", from whom I learned (after waiting in a queue quite some time) that:
   ✛bag did not leave CDG since 23 December
   ✛bag found by AirFrance on Sunday 27 December shortly before 8.30am in Fret1 – and that this was recorded on the Air France electronic luggage tracking system. (if this had only been communicated to me, it would have avoided stress, wasted time, extra costs, etc - thanks for nothing AirFrance!)
   ✛Advised to seek reimbursement from AirFrance for all extra costs, including postage of gifts
   ✛11.25am bag retrieved from conveyor belt outside CDG Baggage Service. My luggage had been damaged.
   ✛Obtained damaged luggage report from AirFrance "Service Baggage" – together with details for approved repair services in France and UK
   ✛Commend Estelle on handling my case. Indeed, she was the first to apologies on behalf of AirFrance.
✈After retrieving the "lost/delayed luggage" I rapidly proceeded out of 2F Arrivals and to check-in. I now needed to register the "lost/delayed luggage". Again, a long delay was encountered to check-in. Additional time was lost whilst staff verified that I could register two bags, as I now had two bags for the hold (a borrowed bag that was only partially filled, and the "lost/delayed bag" - sadly they could not be merged into a single bag)
✈After rapid processing by security, I arrived at the gate before the scheduled boarding time. Alas, the flight was delayed – no justification was given.
✈Flight AF7624 landed in Bordeaux shortly before 15.00 (scheduled arrival 14.25), luggage was retrieved 15.17 permitting me to (just) catch the awaiting bus service from Bordeaux Merignac airport to Bordeaux train station (next service significantly later).
✈SNCF train from Bordeaux to Libourne, and taxi to my final destination – arriving 18.30 on Monday 28 December, roughly 21 hours after my anticipated arrival time

♠ ♣ ♢ ♡

Result = wasted time, energy, & money:
Total costs incurred due to delayed luggage by AirFrance: 751.95 Euro
Total cost for damaged baggage: 35 Euro
Total : 786.95 Euro

♠ ♣ ♢ ♡

Email received from AirFrance on the morning 28 December 2009. Quite ironic really, given that it refers to the initial delay caused by de-icing... 1,000 air-miles for just over 1hr delay, so how much for 22hr additional delays?

I write to you further to the delay to your flight on the December 23, 2009. Please accept my sincere apologies on behalf of Air France for any inconvenience this delay may have caused. Let me assure you that the delay you experienced on this occasion was not in line with the high levels of service we aim to provide.

As gesture of genuine regret for the inconvenience suffered on this occasion, I am pleased to inform you that 1000 Miles will be credited to your Flying Blue account within the next few days.

I very much hope you will give us another opportunity to welcome you on our services and that your future flights with Air France will be to your entire satisfaction.

Yours sincerely,

Customer Relations Department

♠ ♣ ♢ ♡

Related links...
AirFrance Customer Support - via online form, or using postal addresses
AIR FRANCE / Service Clients
TSA 60001

Aeroports de Paris (ADP) Passenger Rights

European Commission's Air Passenger Rights includes national authorities responsible for
enforcing these rights.

Denied-boarding compensation system - Regulation (EC) No 261/2004

If denied boarding against their will... and
- confirmed reservation on the flight concerned
- check-in at the time indicated in advance

This Regulation does not apply to passengers travelling free of charge or at a reduced fare not available directly or indirectly to the public.

1999 Montreal Convention, aka Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules for International Carriage - specifies a compensation for the victims of air disasters.

However, the Montreal Convention has yet to be ratified by all states, and as such the 1929 Warsaw Convention, amended 1955 and 1979 still holds...

Warsaw Convention - regulating liability for international carriage of persons, luggage or goods performed by aircraft for reward
- claim must be made within 2 years
- limits a carrier's liability in terms of compensation using Special Drawing Rights (SDR) and includes checked luggage/cargo + hand-luggage
- and the carriers have to issue passenger tickets and issue baggage tickets for checked-in luggage

For EU Citizens, when all efforts to obtain your rights via the carrier - final sort is to write to "Geschillencommissie Luchtvaart", P.O. Box 90600, 2509 LP The Hague, The Netherlands or calling 31 70 3105326.

Wikipedia entries:
Aviation Law info
Lost Luggage

For anyone bumped, offers a quick reference...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Storytelling by a Geisha - a birthday treat

I received a generous invitation to attend a Story-Telling event on a Japanese themed island within SecondLife (image on right from event notification on As such, I found myself within a visually beautiful environment being serenaded by Yoshiwara Geisha and Yoshiwara Musume - in Little Yoshiwara - Home to Yoshi, Milarepa
secondlife coordinates (76, 49, 43)

the show

the audience

appreciating the artistic work

investigating the gardens and relaxing in the gardens, next to the lily pond

The guest list...

A brief technology insight is offered on a personal blog:

It is not that I have spent significant time within SecondLife. Indeed, since my initial foray into this virtual world - my presence has principally been for virtually meetings. The group presentation is quite conducive for virtual environments, offering more than the visual and oral input that is achieved by joining an audio conference with the presentation foils on your local computer. Briefly, from my perspective, the benefits include the social interaction before and during the presentation (local conversation of private chat), which might offer new contacts with like-minded people, or simply identify individuals with specialist skills. Let me return now to the Geisha event -

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Assessment of Professional Values in Education System

I was recently asked for my views on the introduction of an appraisal of 'Professional Value' within university computing degrees. This to support part of a academic paper by a research group at the University of Southampton.

[Alas, the research team rather foolishly made the survey as a MS Word document - rather than a SurveyMonkey, or indeed a GoogleDoc web-form. This would not only have allowed easier community-sharing, but also would have made collating the results a lot easier!]

Back to the survey and my response. The academic work is "part of a wider study of the attitudes of computing professionals, academics and students to the assessment of professional values in Computing degrees". The particular emphasis was made on both the feasibility and the acceptability of assessing professional attitudes and values within a university degree programme.

Perhaps I should add a disclaimer... - as a chartered member of several professional institutions (BCS, EurIng, ...), I have signed a code of conduct. Indeed, the BCS have published their Code of Conduct online (together with the Code of Good Practice). My current employer also has a set of Business Conduct Guidelines, which extend into blogging and virtual worlds... - this might introduce an element of bias in my comments. That said (written), whilst accepting to adhere to these guidelines was a condition on being accepted as a chartered member (for BCS, EurIng) and a condition of my employment; I was quite happy to accept these terms - indeed, I might suggest that I adhere to even stronger (and constantly updated) values than those described in such documents...

Back to my feedback to the research team:

The judgement of character or professionalism is not at the heart of modern education systems. If it were, it might create a conflict between the morale upstanding of the teacher/academic and that ‘imposed’ by the Education Board. Yet, it is through the influence of the academic staff that students might be set on a pathway to professional conduct – and the education environment offers an excellent opportunity to debate professional standards and conduct (link to 70kB MS PowerPoint file, Virginia Tech). It is likely that the institutions, such as the British Computer Society, would lend their support to such a scheme - as it is very much in their interest to enhance the credibility and social standing of their professional members.

An approach that might be seen as a compromise would be to complement the education/syllabus with industrial placements, such that the student can function within a structured professional environment and thus bring back their experiences to discuss/debate with the learning environment AND commence to instil best practices and a professional conduct from an early stage. Mentoring scheme can also offer superb insight into professional dilemmas (for the conspiracy-theory activists, this might be seen to also serve as an early warning system for renegade students).

photograph of Charles DarwinIt might be noted that many great advances have been made in science, technology, and engineering (and indeed Medicine) by individuals and groups who have pushed what might have been deemed unethical or at least questionable research. To take but one example: Charles Robert Darwin and his theory on National Selection - his work was very much at odds with the ethical beliefs in the early 19th century. For this reason alone it would be foolish to impose a particular conduct on young people. Instead, reasonable direction and open discussion could serve a better pattern so as to enhance the professional conduct of those working in the industry.

Perhaps a strong impact could be had by allocating an academic supervisor (mentor) for the whole of the university degree, to serve as a sounding-board for idea sharing and personal development during the students' academic years. Instilling 'mentoring behaviour' into the academics then becomes the task, as not all staff are inclined to allocate effort outside of the domain of their research; it might also be a character attribute (and skill) that they are lacking. Why would they if their employment contract does not specify this? Would a great mentor be well revered amongst their peers? How would this social contribution be evaluated versus research performance?

Donald Gotterbarn made the following distinction:
- Codes of Ethics are "aspirational," often serving as mission statements for the profession and thus can provide vision and objectives
- Codes of Conduct are oriented towards the professional and the professional's attitude and behaviour
- Codes of Practice relate to operational activities within a profession

Evaluating good or bad attributes will necessarily require objective values to be defined. Yet, a professional code is based on behavioural characteristics and on an attitude by which the individual works within a social environment. This might be seen to force a common approach on the collective. One advantage: a customer might receive a similar experience when working with different members of an external company. The quest for conformity should not be at the cost of individual excellence. Instilling a rapid learning loop could bring best practises into the group approach, whilst allowing individual creativity and innovation to flourish.

There is most likely a far larger debate to be had on what might be the attributes of our education establishments in the future.
SmarterUniversities anyone?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Sunrise Sunset 2009 - Windsurfing 4 Cancer Research

My friend Andy Gibbs is surfing to raise money for Cancer Research (W4CR): on behalf of a friend lost to cancer in 2008 and also for the founder of the event itself. Please consider contributing...

My family has also lost loved ones to cancer, and for this reason alone I am very willing to sponsor Andy in this activity; - he is also a great individual with a strong passion for those he holds dear and for causes close to his heart.

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"Eddie would go, when no else would or could. Only Eddie dared."
- Eddie Aikau

my variant...
Undoubtedly Eddie would go; & you guys care

- in tribute to Eddie Aikau, to those who have suffered greatly with Cancer, and to those showing their willing spirit by surfing from Sunrise to Sunset!

Monday, April 06, 2009

Crowd sourcing for self-publicity

Cunning idea by Scott Bourne, offering a single prize for people to link, twitter or follow his podcast, blog postings, or his tweets...

(as I protect my twitter entries, it would be foolish for me to even think of re-tweeting other comments about this marketing stunt ... that is if I wanted to be in with a chance to win! *)

This differs considerably to the home-brew marketing that has helped propel Coca-Cola to the top of the Facebook tree ( Indeed, in the spirit of collaboration this company opted to joint ownership so as to comply with trademark rules (i.e. facebook t&c) and thanked the duo creators by flying them to 'Coke HQ' for some filming!

Corporate or personal, the use of social spaces has certainly opened new avenues for influencing where we spend out online time, and perhaps how we do it too.
It remains to be seen if this can also influence our $£¥€¢₣ spending habits!

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* ... not that long ago I won an intriguing book by being 'participatory' when I commented on "why don't they get it" book competition - and as a result I received a free copy of: The Age of Conversation 2: Why Don't They Get It?. The book offers a collection of short articles that provide insight into the challenges of becoming a listening and open organisation - a participatory corporation. This is a sequel to The Age of Conversation - by Gavin Heaton, et al. Following the competition I received sweet messages from Sheila Scarborough - one of the contributors to the book... and who cheerfully dispatched the book to a pal in Belgium -

Which goes to show that immersing in web2.0 can offer all sorts of rewards... ;o)