News for May 24-31 2012

Travelocity losses•Customer friendly ancillary revenue•Selling ads not flights•AI Travel Agents•Fare Calendar•Kayak IPO Delayed•Travel Photos•Windows 8•Facebook Opera•Nook teardown•SpaceX•User-led innovation•Mirror cube treehouse



Travelocity losses dragging down parent company Sabre. Some interesting insights, including several years of Travelocity losses, are revealed in a disclosure the privately-held company recently made to investors.


This article suggests a customer-friendly way for airlines to increase razor-thin margins, in partnership with content providers and retailers like Amazon. Priceless quote: “Delivering a better passenger experience and driving ancillary revenue are not mutually exclusive.”

We can only hope that Allegiant and Spirit airlines are reading.


Fascinating article on how OTAs including Expedia are using Intent Media’s big-data driven predictive analysis to monetize non-buyers. If the algorithms predict that a website visitor is not likely to buy on the current site, it offers up ads to competitors’ sites. The referring site earns money from the resulting ad revenue.


Dr. Charles Wooters of Next IT suggests that “Artificial Intelligence” driven avatars can be used to provide personalized travel services. I agree with the idea of using intelligent software agents to make travel shopping more personalized and pertinent—I’ve written use case scenarios around the concept. I disagree that these agents necessarily have to work through avatars with human characteristics. Software agents should use interaction modes appropriate for their particular tasks. That may mean using Natural Language Processing to provide an intuitive and usable search experience, but it doesn’t have to be presented through an avatar. I’ve used spoken commands and received verbal responses from my phones for years. Such phone interfaces have become increasingly useful and sophisticated without incorporating faces. The idea of using pervasive avatars has too many aspects of the uncanny valley and Microsoft Bob for my taste.


New fare calendar sources real-time fare data rather than user search results.


Prior to the Facebook IPO I reported on speculation that Kayak would move ahead with its own long-delayed IPO if Facebook’s was successful. In the wake of Facebook’s poor showing, Kayak has chosen to keep delaying.


Time for another selection of Overhead Bin Travel Photos




The Windows 8 Release Preview, probably the last pre-RTM public build of the new OS, was released today. The Windows 8 pre-releases have garnered mixed reviews due to significant interface paradigm changes and the practical need for many users to deal with both the new and old interfaces. This review seems to be warming to Microsoft’s latest.

The Verge

Facebook drops recommendation for Google’s Chrome browser in favor of Opera, lending credence to rumors that Facebook is going to buy Opera.

Internet Explorer 10 to make “Do Not Track” the default.


iFixit’s latest teardown, of the new Nook with GlowLight is pretty cool. The fascinating part is the physics of light distribution used in the new e-ink reader. B&N uses a variable rather than a linear diffraction grating to ensure that the light is distributed as uniformly as possible across the screen. If they had used a standard linear diffraction grating, the screen would have been much brighter at the top where the eight LEDs that provide the illumination are located. iFixit figured this out by shining a laser through the grating. Read the detailed iFixit report here or read the The Verge’s short 3 paragraph summary if you are in a hurry.

The Verge

SpaceX’s Dragon capsule splashes down. Successfully completes the first private cargo mission to the International Space Station. It’s great to be able to be excited about space flight again.


The New York Times reports how user-developed innovations arose in the wake of Microsoft’s Kinect. The Times reporter implies that user-led innovation is a recent trend. I’m guessing he’s unaware that Professor Eric von Hippel at MIT formalized the concept, with supporting evidence, decades ago.

The New York Times

Just One More: Let’s talk architecture: This mirrored-cube tree house was developed for an avant-garde Swedish hotel. Now you can order up your very own. You have to check out the exterior photos. The big cube almost disappears from your perception as it reflects the trees and sky around it.




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