What I Hate About Booking Travel Online

I’ve traveled a good bit in my day; I’ve been to some 20-odd countries, 4 continents, you know, the works.  And if there’s one thing that I hate more than airports, it’s booking travel online.

The problem is this:  my goal is not to book flights at specific airlines, at specific airports, with specific ticket classes — it’s to book a trip.  Trips have different goals.  For example:

“I want to visit Albany and New York City next week.  I have to be in Albany on these days; NYC is flexible.”

or

“I want to go to central London next week, and need to be there for at least 3 days.”

I don’t care about the details.  I want to know:

  • What are the options?
  • How much do they cost?
  • How long do they take?

I don’t want to have to know that Airport X is actually 30 miles from London, so I’m going to have to get a bus that costs me another £30 and takes an hour.  That should be worked into the equation.  I don’t care that renting cars is twice as expensive in Manhatten as it is upstate.  If it turns out that a high-speed train is almost as fast as a plane, I want to know that.

See, travel sites create the illusion of providing the information that I cite above, which is what makes them so infuriating.  In practice, it almost invariably takes me several hours of looking at options just to figure out how I effectively can get from point A to point B, and what the costs and logistics involved will be.

In my dream world:

Here’s how it works in my dream world:  I pick two places on a map, just like I do on Google Maps, and I get back options for how to get from point A to point B, with all variable covered.  I get nearly exact amounts of time, total costs and when I can get started.  I can chose to optimize for speed, comfort or price.

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Only 6 of the 20 largest software companies are in Silicon Valley

So after Fred’s post caused a little bit of a stir in the blogosphere by downplaying some of the advantages for startups being in Silicon Valley, and being from a Berlin-based startup that’s out exploring the Silicon Valley vibe this month it set me to wondering — just where have most of the “great” software companies been started?

Forbes has a list of the 2000 largest public companies, so I went through and picked out the top 20 and noted their locations.  Here’s the list:

  1. IBM, New York
  2. Microsoft, Washington
  3. Oracle, California
  4. Google, California
  5. Softbank, Japan
  6. SAP, Germany
  7. Accenture, Bermuda
  8. Computer Sciences Corporation, Virginia
  9. Yahoo, California
  10. Capgemini, France
  11. Computer Associates, New York
  12. Tata Consultancy Services, India
  13. Infosys Technologies, India
  14. Fiserv, Wisconson
  15. Wipro, India
  16. Symantec, California
  17. Adobe Systems, California
  18. Affiliated Computer Services, Texas
  19. Activision Blizzard, California (non-Valley)
  20. Intuit, California

Notably, 7 are based in California (all but one in the Bay Area).  On the one hand, it certainly is far and away ahead of any other location (Bangalore, interestingly, being its closest competitor); on the other it shows a wider distribution of companies than one might assume.  I’ll leave further conclusions as an exercise for the reader.

Update:

I realized after publishing this that I’d used the 2007 numbers rather than those from 2009.  The number of companies in Silicon Valley remained the same.

2007 Numbers:

1. IBM, New York
2. Microsoft, Washington
3. Oracle, California
4. Google, California
5. SAP, Germany
6. First Data, Colorado
7. Electronic Data Systems, Texas
8. Softbank, Japan
9. Yahoo, California
10. Symantec, California
11. Computer Sciences Corporation, Virginia
12. Capgemini, France
13. Tata Consultancy Services, India
14. Fiserv, Wisconson
15. Adobe Systems, California
16. Infosys Technologies, India
17. Computer Associates, New York
18. Wipro, India
19. Affiliated Computer Services, Texas
20. VeriSign, California
  1. IBM, New York
  2. Microsoft, Washington
  3. Oracle, California
  4. Google, California
  5. SAP, Germany
  6. First Data, Colorado
  7. Electronic Data Systems, Texas
  8. Softbank, Japan
  9. Yahoo, California
  10. Symantec, California
  11. Computer Sciences Corporation, Virginia
  12. Capgemini, France
  13. Tata Consultancy Services, India
  14. Fiserv, Wisconson
  15. Adobe Systems, California
  16. Infosys Technologies, India
  17. Computer Associates, New York
  18. Wipro, India
  19. Affiliated Computer Services, Texas
  20. VeriSign, California

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Twitrack – Keep track of unfollows

I’m not one of the sort of folks that gets irritated when people unfollow me on Twitter, but I do like to keep track of it.  Qwitter used to provide that service, but it’s been absent without leave for a good long while.

So I hacked together a little Ruby script that when run shows me the folks that have unfollowed me since the last run and a little info on them.  Just add your username / password right up there at the top and let the disgruntledness begin! Enjoy.

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Patch to fix RSS feed for news.yc

I’m an avid reader of news.yc, but it’s annoyed me for some time that the RSS feed is rather broken.  So, I decided to dust off my Lisp skills and give it a go.  The biggest chunk was adding code to do conversion from UNIX timestamps to UTC in Arc.  Significant stuff that works now:

  • Articles are properly sorted newest to oldest.
  • Articles have proper timestamps so that they’re sorted properly by feed readers.
  • Articles that drop off the homepage aren’t immediately removed from the feed to prevent them from being duplicated in if they come back.

Patch is here.

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The Long Walk To 2.0

I got started with web programming in the early days. ’97, specifically.  CGI.pm was the soup of the day for 4 years straight.  But starting in early 2001, I went off to do server and desktop programming and didn’t return to the web until 2008.

I’m not a designer; I’ve never intended to be.  But I do think I have a better eye for it than the average hacker.  So it’s been an interesting process getting my feelers out to web-design again.  These are the 5 designs (in current form, the first two have been updated to look nicer) that I’ve done in the last year.  It’s been a steady progression from my out-of-the-90s-let’s-get-Pearl-Jam-on-the-phone style design to something more modern.

Design seems to work like a lot of things.  When you’re not doing it, you’re not paying attention to how it works, what you like or why you like those things.  Once you start paying attention to it, start becoming self-aware, it starts coming more naturally.

The downside is that there’s a wake of designs I’m not thrilled with behind me.  The Directed Edge page is hurting for an update, but it’ll probably be deferred to our next product release.

 

screen-capture-1
screen-capture-2
screen-capture-3
screen-capture-4
screen-capture-5

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REST API tester UI sketch

After a handful of Tweets on the topic a while back I ended up having a brief email exchange with John Musser from Programmable Web (great site, by the way, basically an index of web service APIs).  I’d mentioned that I’d really like to find a tool for handling both quick and systematic tests of REST APIs.  I went ahead and sketched out a UI here for how I might do something of the sort.  Perhaps at some point in the not too distant future I’ll actually implement the code.  curl is a bit tedious.

rest-tester

Here’s the Qt Designer file.

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Winter Wunderland

We’ve had more snow in Berlin this year than since I moved to Germany in 2002.  I’ve been a wanna-be-amateur photographer for a few years now, so this morning after the heaviest snow of the year — the good sticky kind of snow — I set out to Görlitzer Park with my Olympus E-500.  The last shot is now my desktop background.  Kind of creeps me out with its tunnel-of-snow look.

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Berlinale ’09

p2171101
 Really looking forward to the Berlinale this year.  So much, in fact, that I’m going to see 5 of the competition films:

I’m an armchair enthusiast in film and have quite a few friends involved in film production.  In the past I’ve always been too slow in sorting out tickets to see the films that I really wanted to, so this year I was glad to get a couple days with several films in a row that I wanted to see.  Since weekends have all but evaporated since co-founding Directed Edge, it’ll be a welcome break.  It almost feels like a short vacation on the horizon.  One of the things that I enjoy most about living in Berlin is its status as an arts and culture mecca, so it’s wonderful getting to take advantage of having one of the world’s largest film festivals a short bus ride away.

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I’ve been listening to too much Charlie Hunter.

Yesterday, in a rare display of lack-of-guilt-for-not-working, I pulled out the bass for a bit and started improvising into the sequencer. Pretty soon it needed a second line. Then I ripped the G-string in half on my bass and decided to round out the ending on guitar, which I never did, hence the track still ending abruptly, but I did a little guitar ditty in the middle. Then it needed organ. You get the idea.

Even though my musical efforts have been mostly focused on electronica for the last many years, every once in a while it’s fun to lay down some stuff from good old stringed instruments. Not for really any other reason than posterity, since this is a rough mix that I’m likely to never cleanup, and a structure that doesn’t really work, but well, these are the interwebs, this is a personal blog, so indulge me. It’s under two minutes of bass wankery, in a moderately funky, semi-fusiony, way.

NYR5

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