If you had the chance to delight a customer a zero cost, would you? Not if you’re #AirFrance

For a long time, Air France in general and the Airport Paris (CDG) in particular have been on my avoid-at-all-cost airlines/airports.  But sometimes, it’s not avoidable, for instance for getting to Toulouse for EclipseCon France.

Every time I have bad experience with a service/product/whatever and I try it again, I really try to open my mind.  Maybe they will delight me this time, inspite of my bad experience in the past.  Turns out I got disappointed again.  This time in a scenario that would have been easy for Air France to fix, and for free on top.

See, I like sitting in an aile seat on planes.  I had one.  It was broken.  It didn’t arrest its position, which was annoying.  So I asked, before take-off, whether there was a way for fixing it, or to reseat me to a functioning aile seat.  The Stuadress was nice but informed me that none was availble.  When I pointed to the ten free aile seats further up front, she informed me that she could not reseat me to business class.  Mind you, this was a one-hour flight from Düsseldorf to Paris.  So "business class" was just a tid bit more leg room, nothing else.  No fancy dinner or anything like that.

Being an avid reader of Seth Godin, he would cringe.  Was I unhappy? Yes.  Was there a way for fixing it? Yes.  Would it have cost the airline anything? Not a cent.  Why does Air France not empower their staff to delight, if it does not cost a thing?  I have no idea.  Just to clarify, I did not feel entitled to be reseated.  It’s the airline’s decision.  I just think that it’s a bad decision that will make me try to avoid Air France even harder (and help spread the word).

In the Stuardesses defence, I saw her talk to her supervisor, after our conversation.  The fact that I didn’t get reseated implies that heir supervisor either was not empowered, or did not care.  One as bad as the other.  Air France, good luck with your ongoing race to the bottom.

“Honest” open standards should come with an open source reference implementation, like #RMF for #ReqIF

In IT Standards and Open Source (Repeat), Dirk Riehle argues that there are two types of standards, "honest" and "dishonest".  He cautions to "be wary of any standard that does not come with an open source reference implementation; it might not be an honest standard." The ReqIF standard comes with a reference open source implementation, Eclipse RMF. Many other activities indicate that there is an honest desire to be open.

Auctionata – cracking the fine art online auction market

Very cool interview with Alexander Zacke: "People are coming from all over the world to these auctions. They will register and then 30 minutes later, buy a piece for $100,000 and send the money the following morning." Wow.

The interview is quite insightful – in particular, how this team failed once big time, before managing to crack this market.  A market that Ebay (and others) unsuccessfully tried to develop.

Crumpler’s 30-year warranty is a marketing gag, no substance

After five years, the zipper of my Crumpler Big Belly failed.  Crumpler proudly offers 30 year warranty, so I thought I’d check whether this is for real, or just a marketing gag.  I actually recall my mother once claiming warranty on an AMC cooking pot (they also offer 30 year warranty), and she got it replaced, even though the damage was partly her fault.  Kudos to AMC!  That’s great service, and good brand building.

Well, Crumpler declined to honor the warranty, stating that it is "unfortunate that the warranty conditions are so often misunderstood", specifically that they don’t cover "wear and tear".

While I understand this, I wonder what can possibly fall under warranty that is not wear and tear.  Broken zipper?  Wear and tear.  Seam loosening?  Wear and tear.  Sorry, but I cannot think of anything that’s left for them to cover under such a warranty.

My new laptop backpack is a Samsonite with "only" two years warranty.  If it lasts for five years, then I can feel good about having gotten good use out of the product. The Crumpler also lasted for five years, and without the 30-year warranty, I would have felt great about it (possibly getting another Crumpler).

Instead, they offered a phony warranty (well, I am sure it’s legal and all in the fine print).  But they did a lot to damage their credibility and their brand, and this violates the trust of their customers.  Typical short-term marketing thinking.  They should read Seath Godin’s All Marketers are Liars.

Good grates for ReConf Talks

The Organizers of ReConf 2013 just distributed the results from the feedback sheets.  Participants had to rate presentations on a scale from 1 (very good) to 4 (mediocre).  The best grade of all talks was 1.35, the worst was 3.43.  I had two presentations.

Werkzeuggestützte Konsistenz zwischen Anforderungen und Spezifikation





Qualität der Präsentation


Anspruch (hat der Vortrag Ihrem Anspruch genüge getan






Eclipse RMF in Action





Qualität der Präsentation


Anspruch (hat der Vortrag Ihrem Anspruch genüge getan






 I am quite happy with these results.

ProR development continues (Eclipse OpenSource RE tool based on RMF/ReqIF) – feedback wanted!

I am project lead on the Eclipse Requirements Modeling Framework (RMF), which also contains a tool called ProR for requirements engineering (http://eclipse.org/rmf). In two weeks, we’ll start a sprint to improve the GUI. We welcome feedback, so that we can prioritize properly before starting the sprint. More details can be found here:
We appreciate any feedback!
BTW: You can subscribe to our newsletter to receive regular updates regarding ProR and RMF.

Finally: New nuclear reactors being built

As a German, I live in a country that prides itself in its abandonment of nuclear energy. Personally, I consider this a tragedy. Hearing that elsewhere new reactors are planned is good news. Before you flame me (or stop reading), please hear me out.

First, I acknowledge that nuclear energy has a problem – Fukoshima demonstrated that. But I would argue that the problem has less to do with technology, but with regulation. With proper regulation, and above all transparency and supervision from independent bodies, nuclear energy promises to be a safe, economic and environmentally friendly technology.

So let me dismantle the arguments against nuclear energy:

Safety: The truth is, nuclear energy is safer than everything else we have. The estimates from the death toll from Chernobyl ranges from 5,000 – 200,000. My guess is that both numbers push agendas. Either way, this picture puts death by oil, coal and nuclear into perspective. But as it does not cite clear numbers, let me throw in that 24,000 deaths every year are caused by coal-fired power plants in the USA alone! This is just the US (Think how high the number probably is in China and India), and does not include deaths through mining. Do the math yourself.

Waste: Storing nuclear waste is a huge problem. Less known is the fact, that many of today’s aging reactors were designed to produce material for nuclear weapons as a byproduct, but also large amount of waste. There are several promising designs that produce significantly less waste. Not only that, there are also ideas for "cooking" the waste (Pyroprocessing), which could get rid of radioactivity in as little as 100 years while generating energy. But more research is needed here.

So, what’s to be done?

Regulation: Here I see the biggest problem. The energy industry ruined the reputation of nuclear power by practicing secrecy and obstruction for decades. Japan’s TEPCO is notorious for this, but I’d argue that Europe’s Vattenfall is not much better. Compare this to the aviation industry: The low fatality rate is impressive, inspite of a technology where failure can easily lead to hundreds of deaths. But if something happens, the incident is analyzed and published with merciless rigor. We need the same oversight, rigor and transparency in the energy sector.

Technology: There are many promising reactor designs that could be safer, produce less waste and use cheapter fuel, like Molten salt breeders. Other designs include PRISM and IFR designs in general. Some of these are specifically designed to close the nuclear fuel cycle. While this does not remove the existing waste, they promise not to increase the waste problem.

I consider it madness to abandon this technology, rather than to try to tame it. I applaud Bill Gates for investing in nuclear technology. We have a serious energy problem on this planet, and nuclear power can be a part of the solution. Everybody is talking about the environment. Nuclear power has the potential to help.