Category Archives: Social

A Recommendation for the Air New Zealand Customer Carbon Offsetting Programme

Air New Zealand has a Carbon Offset programme and that’s a really good thing. I wish it was more attractive to flyers, though. If you don’t normally offset your flight’s carbon footprint, I’m curious to hear if the changes I propose below would make you more interested in participating in this programme.

At KiwiFoo this year I spoke to a few smart people and asked them if they offset their carbon footprint when flying Air NZ. People looked away, shrugged, and shook their heads. When asked why, their answers were a variation around the same theme: it felt futile, and a bit of a waste of time and money.

The rest of this blog post details how I believe this programme can be rejuvenated. I believe more people would participate in the programme if they felt appreciated and rewarded.

Real benefits

People are asked to spend money in order to offset their flights. There is even a calculator for that.

The offset cost for a return flight from Wellington to Auckland, as far as I know, can be as low as $2.49.

Wellington to Auckland Carbon Offset Cost $2.49 In return for that, what you get is just a good feeling. And that should be enough. But it’s not in our human nature for an anonymous good gesture like that to become the norm. What humans need is rewards, or, as we like to call it nowadays, a strong value proposition.

What if, upon paying to offset the carbon emissions, flyers get the following in return:

  1. A bag tag (or an insert in the vein of the orange priority tag that Star Alliance Gold members receive) that makes the bag stand out. How about a Pohutukawa insert that flyers can pick up somewhere near the check-in machines? This would be very similar to how Electric Vehicles often carry a blue badge.
  2. Luggage priority (value!). That would require the creation of a middle tier in luggage processing. Orange priority tags > Pohutukawa tags > Regular.
  3. Upweight for OneUp.  Currently, these are the upweight tiers: Elite – 50%, Gold – 30%, Silver – 10%. What if Pohutukawa was 5%?
  4. A creative, community designed, visual representation of the flyer’s aggregate contribution on the Air New Zealand website and apps.

Peer pressure

When other travellers see repeatedly the Pohutukawa Bag Tag insert, they may become curious with regards to what it represents. They may even learn more about the programme, and they may be encouraged to try it.

For each flight, let all the flyers see how much of the carbon footprint has been offset. Visually, that could be as simple as colouring in an Air NZ plane. Better still, maybe there is a way to produce a heat-map of the plane showcasing where the carbon offset spending occurred.

When there is a positive offset (ie. more carbon was offset than produced), then maybe there can be a new form of reward for the fliers who contributed (e.g. discount on the carbon offset cost of their next flight).

Closing notes

I’m secretly hoping somebody from Air New Zealand comes across this blog post and it inspires them to look at the Carbon Offset Programme once again. Is it producing the results that they were hoping it would? Are there ways to make it more attractive to flyers and to encourage them to contribute? I am a Star Alliance Gold member, I fly a lot more than I’d like to, and I often forget that this programme exists.

Cocoaheads Members on a Plane

Playgrounds – The story behind our group picture

After attending the Playgrounds conference in Melbourne, I was on the Air NZ 850 flight back home to Wellington together with several other Cocoaheads Wellington members. Prior to boarding, we talked about taking a picture on the plane that we could use both as a backdrop for our website and also as a “thank you” picture that we could send to Andyy Hope and the Playgrounds crew. That idea (and the process of taking the picture) almost gave a poor woman a heart attack.

Here’s what happened: before boarding the plane I asked everyone in our group if they were keen to take a picture together mid-flight. Everyone was “on board” with the idea, and because I was seated right at the front of the plane, I took the first opportunity and I asked the flight attendants if it would be okay for us to take a picture after they had finished with the food-and-drink service. The flight attendants confirmed that it would be okay so we proceeded with the plan.

We used the in-seat communication channel to chat to each other. I was talking to Sam, Tim was talking to Raj or Max, you get the idea. Giggles ensued as Tim suggested that maybe the pilot could join in on the photo, since the plan would surely have an auto-pilot feature. Since we were all scattered around the plane, getting out of our seats was going to be a bit tough and even crawling under the seats was considered. Silly stuff.

The flight was smooth and the food and drink service went by quickly. Once the aisle was clear I stood up and I made my way to the back of the plane. As I approached someone from our group I’d lean over and say “We’re doing this now. Come to the back of the plane”. The first person stood up, then the next, and eventually I reached Tim. He was seated in a window seat right at the middle of the plane. Soon everyone had stood up and assembled at the back of the plane, as per our plan.

I gave Julie my iPhone and asked her to shoot a few photos. She took some pictures of us smiling, and some other photos of us attempting to make the letter “P” (for Playgrounds) using our fingers. We were smiling, giggling, and we were completely unaware that a flight attendant had stopped next to where Tim used to be seated.

Minutes later we started making our way back to our seats but the flight attendant that had stopped next to Tim’s seat was now chatting to him at the back of the plane. A few of us looked back and we didn’t quite understand what was going on so we went back to our allocated seating.

It would all make sense to us later on. After going through the security check, we regrouped and Tim told us what had happened: as he was messaging using the in-seat entertainment system, the woman next to him caught glimpses of words: “…pilot…”, “…auto-pilot…”, “…under the seat…”, “…back of the plane…”, “…after dinner…”. Then she heard my say (in my Eastern European accent) “We are doing this now”, and then she saw a couple of men follow me and the one next to her excuse himself to join us.

It’s easy to see how all those pieces of information could form more than one puzzle (ie. taking a funny picture for our new Melbourne friends) so she rightfully summoned a flight attendant. Luckily I had already informed this particular flight attendant of our plans and she could see us setting up to take a picture so she was able to reassure the worried passenger that it was just a misunderstanding.

I’d hate to think what would have happened on a different flight, with a different crew. In hindsight I smile, because the woman seated next to Tim laughed it all off. But I wonder if I would have had a heart attack, had I been in her place.

In conclusion, thank you Andyy Hope and the Playgrounds crew for a fantastic conference. We all got back home safely and, to the best of my knowledge, nobody was hurt while taking the picture attached to this blog post.

Do you want to own your status updates?

After backing Manton Reece’s microblogging kickstarter I decided not to wait any longer and setup a MicroBlog section on my website where I would keep my short form updates. This post covers my goals and the approach I took to achieve these goals.

Goals

There are just a handful of things that I thought I’d need:

  • I own my content. I don’t mind posting to Twitter (or Medium) but the canonical location for my content is my own website
  • It’s easy. I can easily separate short form content (ie. statuses) and long form writing (ie. this post)
  • I still engage via Social Media. I can publish short form updates to my own website, and then the entries get cross-posted to Twitter
  • I  can post from my iPhone without needed to make edits from WordPress before publishing

Approach

I tried a few approaches (involving a range of apps such as IFTTT and various WordPress plugins) before I settled on the approach below.

It’s easy to own my content

My website is currently running on a self-hosted WordPress installation. There were two options here:

  1. I import all my Twitter posts under a special Category, or
  2. I post on my website first and then cross-post to Twitter

Option 2 feels more like “doing it right”, and, should anything go wrong in my setup, I never lose any posts I made from my own website.

What I decided to do was to:

  • create a new Category called MicroBlog
  • update the Menu to include this new category
  • replace the stock RSS widget with Category Specific RSS and use it to surface the MicroBlog RSS feed into the side bar
  • exclude the MicroBlog posts from the main page using the Ultimate Category Excluder plugin
  • make all posts in Category use the post format “status” so they looks consistent and timeline-like
  • remove all extra post decorations (ie. sharing) from the list of posts, but leave it on the post page itself
  • not use a post title, in order to mimic a status post more accurately

With these changes in place I ticked the first couple of boxes. What was left was to sort out cross posting to Twitter and publishing while on the go.

Sharing status updates to Twitter / Social Media

Posting to Twitter proved to be more difficult than I thought it would be. The obvious way, via Jetpack’s Publicize feature, seems to share only the link to the post when a title is not present. Therefore I had to look for other options, although I’d much prefer to just use Publicize.

The choice I settled on is an IFTTT rule: “when a new feed item is added to parfene.com/category/microblog/feed post a new tweet to @nicktmro”. The issue with this approach is that IFTTT doesn’t have a smart way of appending a URL to the post when it is over 140 characters, so I was “forced” to append a URL to the original post. It’s not very tidy but the counter argument is that it drives traffic (and search engines) back to the canonical location of the status update.

Posting while on the go

I carry an iPhone and a Pixel with me all the time. Posting updates to my website is a task I assigned to my iPhone.

I seek speed and simplicity when it comes to capturing my thoughts, which is why I use Drafts for almost every form of text capturing. This text sometimes ends up in iMessage, or in OmniFocus, or in an email, or in my Clipboard, or in WordPress… You get the idea.

I looked at the existing Drafts actions but I soon realised that I needed to be able to post exiting text and snippets, too. I needed an extension point. Enter Workflow. By delegating the communication with WordPress to Workflow I managed to increase the ways in which I drive content to my website.

Here’s how it all works:

  • I have a workflow that expects text input (or extracts it from the clipboard)
  • The workflow presets the WordPress category, post format, etc
  • This workflow is added as an action to Drafts

Now I’m good to go. When I choose to share my next status update all I do is go to my usual app (Drafts), write a snippet of text, and choose the Post to Parfene.com action.

Wrap up

I encourage you to try microblogging for yourself. My post is lengthy but you don’t have to do everything in one sitting. You don’t even need to fully automate everything, like I have.

This approach has made me feel more involved, engaged, and responsible with regards to the things I share with everyone. As somebody who oftentimes doesn’t count to five before he speaks, this should be a positive outcome…

 

 

Be Counted During Māori Language Week 2016

I want to ask all the people who speak or understand Māori to change the preferred language on their devices to Te Reo Māori at least for one day during Māori Language Week July 4 – 10, 2016. I emigrated to New Zealand in 2005 and I have loved this country ever since. My close friends know that I get emotional when I speak about the incredible difference living here has made to myself and my family. I’ve tried to give something back whenever I could, which brings me to this blog post.

What I want to achieve

With your help, I want to prove that there is a large enough group of people in New Zealand that would like to see support for Te Reo Māori in our software. Right now we are dealing with a vicious circle: businesses don’t see enough Māori users in their analytics therefore it’s difficult to prioritise implementing support for this localisation over other initiatives. I believe that we can help break this cycle by setting on our devices the default (preferred) locale to be Te Reo Māori.

You can help

Regardless if you’re a technical person or not, there are two things you can do to help: set Te Reo Māori as the preferred language on your device (even just for one day!) and then spread the word.

Step 1. Make Māori the preferred language on your device

Don’t worry:

  • apps and websites will fall back to English when Te Reo Māori is not supported.
  • this change will not update the language used by the operating system. It will however let apps present content in Te Reo Māori whenever they can. See the Google search screenshots below.

iOS

Do this from Settings > General > Language & Region > Other Languages (or Add Language if you already have more than one). Look up Māori and then select “Prefer Māori”.

Running a Google search for “Te Papa” will then produce the same results,  but the word “Images” has been replaced by “Atahanga”.

Google Te Reo

You may think it’s a worthless change. That would be true if nobody else makes the language change I’m encouraging you to make. The more of us do it, the more we move the statistic needle.

Android

Android support is patchy. Unfortunately support for Te Reo Māori does not come out of the box for the official Android releases. If you’re lucky, your particular device may have Māori or Te Reo as an entry in Settings under Languages.

The good news is that Google Developer Group Wellington (which I founded a couple of years ago) has support from Google to put together an official Pull Request to Android that will introduce support for Te Reo Māori. Get in touch if you wish to help.

Windows

I need to disclose that I am not an active Windows user so the information below may be out of date. I do believe that Māori has been an option since Windows 8, though. Below you can see a couple of screenshots of what you need to do to express your preference.

p1.png

p2

Mac

Setting the preferred language on the Mac is also quite straight forward.

  1. Navigate to Settings and search for Language & Region.
  2. Ensure that your Region is set to New Zealand then click the + button under Preferred Languages
  3. Select Māori from the list. And click Add
  4. Select Use Māori and then restart your Mac

You’re (almost) done

Check here that you have successfully updated your language settings.

From this point onwards every time you use an app or website you will be counted. Ka pai!

Step 2. Spread the word

I believe the best thing you can do next is to just speak to people about this topic. It really helps with awareness and it’s more personal.

An easier option would be to send your friends a link to this article or to any of the resources on the internet that discuss this topic.

If you want to be succinct you may consider asking your audience: “Set your device’s language to Māori during Māori Language Week July 4 – 10. Help make Te Reo an option in the apps you love. #TeReoBeCounted”. You can click here if you want to tweet this message.

Supporting Organisations

A number of organisations have accepted to help this initiative in one way or another. There will be a follow-up post after this week is over to report on what we have collectively learned. Thank you Trade Me, Xero, Powershop, Radio New Zealand, KiwiBank, and Te Papa. If you engage with their apps and websites, and you have set Te Reo Māori as your preferred language, your voice will be heard.

1. Your apps count, too

If you build apps / websites targeted at New Zealanders, you can help, too. What you need to do is to share with me the number of users or sessions that you see for the mi_NZ locale, before and after Māori Language Week.

Here are a few options for how you can share what you learned:

  • Preferred: raw numbers. For example you could tell me Unique users on the 4th of July and on the 11th of July. You can check these numbers with most analytics tools anytime after the 11th of July.
  • Great: growth numbers. If you are comfortable with this option instead, then please share just how many of your users preferred Te Reo Māori on the 11th of July, versus the 4th of July.
  • Good: percentage change. If you’d rather not disclose the number of users who chose to start using Te Reo Māori, then maybe you can share with me what the % change was (positive or negative).
  • Nice: whatever you can tell me 🙂

Feel free to use (without the need for attribution) the instructions above to tell your users how they can go about setting Te Reo Māori as their preferred language. Get in touch with me if you want to continue the conversation.

2. Spread the word

Your organisation already engages with customers and this is a great opportunity to let the inner Kiwi show. You can break some of the BAU routine by educating your audience that Te Reo Māori is a viable language on their devices. You could take any of the following actions:

  • prepare a newsletter
  • write an announcement on your website
  • post on social media
    • Twitter.  “Set your device’s language to Māori during Māori Language Week July 4 – 10. Help make Te Reo an option in the apps you love. #TeReoBeCounted”. Click here to do it right now!
    • Facebook. Use whatever language you are comfortable with. Feel free to use the instructions above on how to change the language settings. Make it clear if your app/site supports or doesn’t support Te Reo Māori at the time of the post. Link to my blog post if it helps.
  • tell your front line (customer service, host and hostesses, sales, etc) about this initiative
  • update your showroom/store. Prepare and clearly label devices that already run Te Reo Māori. Train your sales staff and ask them to spread the word to your customers.
  • improvise

 3. Encourage your audience to engage

Now that you’ve spread the word, these users can be counted in the participating apps and sites. It would be a nice gesture to mention (wherever appropriate or by linking to this page) who else is participating in this campaign.

4. Post campaign

After the campaign is over, I will aggregate the results and I will communicate to the participants what we have collectively learned. I will then follow up with another blog post for the benefit of the community.


FAQ

What drives me?

Aotearoa is my home. There are many other people, much more informed than me, who can probably tell you why doing this is a good (or not so good) idea. What follows is my personal view.

Kiwis are amazing. I love Wellington. Even the laws are pretty great when comparing with the rest of the world. All these things play a an important part in how I feel about this place. However I feel that the language does not contribute at its full potential to this sense of belonging.

What does a best case scenario look like?

With enough exposure, here’s what I hope this initiative will achieve:

  1. Make more Kiwis aware that Māori is a viable language option on their devices
  2. Help those doing software development to better understand the makeup of their Kiwi audience
  3. Long term, I hope to prove that investing effort into localising our apps to mi_NZ (Te Reo Māori) is not just respectful but can also have positive effects on the relationship between app builders and their audience
  4. Get localisation support added to the roadmap of as many apps and services as possible.

What about the Census?

According to the 2013 Census, there were 148,395 people who can speak Te Reo Māori. Unfortunately I cannot settle with this number. Here are a few reasons:

  • there may be Kiwis who, out of modesty or self-consciousness, did not claim to be able to speak Te Reo
  • speaking and reading are different things. The census asks about the former
  • some people who can speak Te Reo may choose to not use the language on their devices. It makes me sad, but I can definitely respect their choice
  • not all these people have devices that can show content in Te Reo and some people may have more than one device

In reality, we may never be able to know how many people prefer Te Reo. All I want is to show that this number is large enough to justify treating it as a priority in our apps.

What does “our apps” mean?

I am doing this as a community member, not as the Head of Mobile at Trade Me. By “our apps”, I mean the apps and websites of the entities (people or organisations) who participate in this initiative and wish to better understand their audience.

We’ve promoted this. Now what?

If you build apps or websites please start tracking the number of users and sessions that use mi_NZ (Māori, New Zealand) as their preferred language.

If the number of users and sessions goes over the critical threshold for your organisation, then it’s time to update your definition of “done” and include localisation to the new features and apps that you build from here onwards. Don’t forget to update your testing strategy to cover text input in Te Reo Māori.

I’ve changed my mind

On iOS, you can go back to the same settings screen and tap the Edit button on the top right. Then you will be able to remove the newly added language.

Kia kaha e hoa mā! (Let’s go team!)

Update 5 July

  • Clarified that when there is only one iOS language, the option reads “Other languages” rather than “Add Language…”.
  • Added instructions on how to remove the language on iOS if you have changed your mind
#Jafac picture

#JAFAC – Don’t Miss It Next Time

I had the privilege to speak at the very first edition of #JAFAC hosted at the fantastic GRIDAKL. Many people requested that speakers share their slide decks. Since there’s nothing sensitive in mine, I’m able to post it below.

During the interactive part of the talk I mentioned a number of apps. Some these (iOS) apps were: Air NZ, Amazon, Chirp, Drafts, Emoji++, Evernote, Garageband, IMDb, Instagram, Instapaper, Kibo, MacID, Musixmatch, OmniFocus, Overcast, Slack, Starbucks, Trello, Way2Ride, Workflow, and Trade Me.

I didn’t know what to expect when I was invited to take part in this event. I have a lot of respect for the people who put it together, so I went. This tweet right after the conference pretty much sums up my experience:

I came back reassured, inspired, and motivated. Thanks Sandy, Brenda, David, Steph, Jimmy, Christine, Te Miha, Richard, Colart, and everyone else I had the pleasure to listen and to talk to.

It was also very impressive to see just how knowledgeable were all the people in the attendance. Day two, the un-conference, enabled all of them to play a more active part and turned into such a revelation.

Stephanie BySouth

“Coaching Leaders” session with Stephanie BySouth. Part of un-conference on day two

If you focus on enabling people to work together successfully, if you are all about empowering teams, if you are keen to find ways to remove needless processes, if you want to learn on how to use feedback properly, if you desire to be in the company of really smart (Agile) people, then trust me, you don’t want to miss the next edition. In the mean time, I’ll leave you with a quote from Sandy: “no pain, no Spain”.

I’m Attending Google I/O 2016

Although I have attended WWDC several times in the past, I have never attended Google I/O. I wanted to, but I didn’t manage to. This is about to change.

After a couple of years of becoming more and more involved in the Wellington Android community (by organising both the Android Meetup and GDG Wellington) I have finally been able to register for Google I/O.

I am a lot more excited than I thought I would be. The advent of Material Design and the relase of better and better Android devices (it’s no secret I’m a fan of the Nexus 5X), have contributed to making me more deeply involved in the Android ecosystem.

If you are around San Francisco between May 15th and May 21st, and you are keen to catch up and talk mobile stuff, get in touch. 

I can’t wait to attend I/O and to come back home to share my expeirence with the rest of the Google and Android community here in Wellington, New Zealand.

Adobe’s Efforts

In 2014, Adobe purchased the photo editing platform Aviary and integrated it into is Adobe Creative SDK. Aviary was known to be an easy-to-integrate photo editing tool, which is why so may 3rd party developers embraced the platform and integrated it into their own apps.

A year and a half later, developers are told:

  • the old Api Key won’t work anymore
  • they need to bloat their apps and include more of the CreativeSDK
  • they need to create a new App ID on the My Apps page on CreativeSDK.com
  • they must write down the secret token information since they won’t be able to retrieve it after registering their apps

This would be easier to come to terms with, had it not been for the insincere opening statement on the developer site:

We’ve made great efforts to ensure that migrating from the Aviary SDK to the Adobe Creative SDK is as seamless as possible.

Did I mention that end-users may end up needing Creative Cloud accounts before they can use the tools? The Getting Started guide is a herald of the future change: “Authentication is part of every Creative SDK workflow and every action performed requires a logged-in user”.

I do hope to see this change for the better, but I’m not holding my breath.

Deciding on which iPhone to Buy

I bought a new iPhone today. My current one is damaged, but to be honest with you, I probably would have upgraded anyway. Here’s how I decided which iPhone to buy.

iPhone 6S

The choice was between the iPhone 6S and the iPhone 6S Plus. I have never owned a phone as large as the iPhone 6S Plus and I sometimes find even the screen size of the iPhone 6 to be too large for me.

I considered the 6S Plus because of these factors:

  • Optical Image Stabilisation for both Photos and Videos
  • Longer battery life
  • With a screen that large, it could replace my Kindle

In the end I bought an iPhone 6S because of these reasons:

  • Easier to handle single-handedly
  • More comfortable in my front pocket

The two things above I will be doing a lot of and I just don’t want to have to pay attention to how I handle the phone. The size of iPhone 6S Plus would make me be too aware of how I handle the device.

I have no doubt that the iPhone 6S Plus is a superior phone. Sometimes though, the more pragmatic choice prevails, even when it’s not a matter of cost. There are people who have to have the best, and to them I say: enjoy your iPhone 6S Plus.

Android Fragmentation – Just the way I like it

The 6th instalment of the Wellington Android Meetup took place today. I decided not to write about the content (I wouldn’t do justice to the presenters, and the audience contributed so much content, that I’d surely forget to mention something important), instead I wish to write about just how “fragmented” Android is … in Wellington, New Zealand.

Four talks

We had four speakers. Two men: Matt and Lucas; and two women: Jayna and Leonie. That was not planned, it just happened.

Matt talks about I/O

We had two fairly technical presentations that encouraged us to improve our technical chops and solve problems in more beautiful ways, and two that challenged us to think about what we like, what brings us joy, and what we are prepared to do from the goodness of our hearts.

People in the room

I glanced around the room and I was so happy to see how diverse it was. So many skin colours, genders, ethnicities, and ages!

Jayna impresses everyone with her knowledge and passion

In the room we had students, unemployed folks, business owners, developers, designers, testers, and even Windows Phone developers! There were people working for startups and people working for organisations with 500+ employees!

There were women. Not just sitting on chairs but engaging in the discussions. Driving them and asking the tough questions. Challenging the speakers and the audience. Recommending better ways to do things. As it should be!

I bring this up because I think back of where we started. I looked at some old photos I took and I struggle to find the women. I looked at the GDG Wellington reports I sent, and I blush seeing a mere two women attending one of the early sessions! Today, almost 20% of the audience were women!

Lucas in full swing

But we are not stopping here. Tonight Lucas announced that we are planning a GDG Dev Fest W.   The plan is to create a safe place for an evening, a day, or a weekend, where women can come and learn about technology without fearing that they may get laughed at, looked at in a condescending way, interrupted or ignored. Get in touch with Lucas or with myself if you want to help.

Fragmented

The Android community in Wellington is fragmented in the best possible way. This diversity makes the meetings more interesting, the points of view more diverse and more relevant.

I was the proud host of tonight’s gathering. It this kind of fragmentation that keeps me going, that motivates me to try harder, that makes me proud to be a small part of this incredible community. Our group now has more than 200 members, so I am hopeful that we have not seen the best of what this incredible bunch of people have to offer!

Thanks to everyone who attended.

Google I/O 2015 Extended Wellington

I am so proud to have helped organise what is likely to be an amazing Google I/O Extended event!

If you appreciate Google technologies, are keen to view a bunch of very interesting five minute talks, and stay up to date with Google’s announcements at I/O, and meet more like-minded people, then you should register here! Make sure you fill in the RSVP and you may take home some very attractive swag, too.

I am especially proud of my friends and colleagues Kate, Konnie, Gili, and Matt for helping coordinate this event.

Many thanks go out to the sponsors who’ve been providing support to our group: Trade Me, Powershop, Uber, and Victoria University.