I Finally Experienced Uber

I just got back from vacation (Florida. Great. Thanks.) and I discovered Uber. My first impression was a good one, and I found the whole experience better than taking a cab. You basically download an app and provide it with your credit card info, all of which takes a minute, then when you need a cab you call up the app and order one.

Only you don’t really get a cab, which is why this service is not permitted in many places. What you get is a person with a car, who has signed up to be a Uber driver.

How it works is when you start up Uber, it pops up a Google map of where you are, asks you for your location (which it pretty well knows anyway via GPS) and your destination. It also knows which driver is nearby and assigns one to you. You are told how much the trip is going to cost, and given a few options such as whether or not you are willing to share the ride in exchange for a price break. You are kept apprised of how long you have to wait for your ride and in fact shown the car moving on the map. You are told what kind of car to be on the lookout for, the driver’s first name, and the licence plate number.

When the countdown is less than a minute, you see the car pull up. You get in it, verify that you both are who you think, and off you go. When you arrive at your destination, you simply get out and your credit card gets debited the price it originally told you.

The cars we got were all fairly new (the low-end would be something like a recent model Toyota Corolla), the drivers friendly and knowledgeable, and you knew exactly how long you had to wait plus (if you had turned on data on your phone) you could see your trip’s progress on the map.

The only negative experience we had was one time someone else took our ride, and we had already paid for it. We ended up calling up another one, then contacted Uber who gave us a credit. I suspect the driver got a talking to as all this is tracked.

At first, we were a bit concerned about the issue of safety, but then when I think about it: the driver is known to the service, you are known to the service, the location is known, and whether or not the car reached its intended destination and via what route is tracked. Also, at the end of each trip, you are asked to rate your experience from 1 to 5, and if you say anything other than 5, you are asked to elaborate. So it sort of works like eBay in that sense. Not to say bad things can’t happen, and I’ve heard they have, but so do they with taxicabs.

When a request comes into a driver from Uber, they have 15 seconds to take it. Though that seems like a short time, they say it is ample, as most times they accept it. The drivers I talked to liked to do it. I did some quick math, however, and with the wear and tear on their car, gas, insurance, and Uber’s cut, I it’s hard to see how they can make much money at it.

Reports of the Death of Email Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

Five years ago, I was invited to be part of a technology panel, and I amused the crowd by reporting to them how some fifteen years earlier I had predicted the demise of the Internet. And on this later panel – the one that took place five years ago – I boldly predicted, with a head-bobbing “you heard it here first” attitude, that within five years, we would have fewer emails.

Let me say to you now what I said to them then: I may have been a tad off. After I cleared my inbox this morning, I finally got some time to think about this. I will admit I was wrong again, but not as wrong as the first time, because on a percentage basis of total human interactions, email has probably gone down, having been squeezed out by texting, social media, and “collaboration” platforms such as SharePoint and Lync.

What I didn’t figure was the sheer magnitude of messaging that was about to happen, a big part of what we now know as “big data”. Email is still big because it is so “permanent”. It is to us now what a home phone number or snail-mail address used to be. Those are still there (to some folks) but our reliance on them has been reduced greatly. For me, where checking the mail and phone messages on the way in the house was an everyday occurrence, these activities are now weekly at best.

Will this also happen to email? Heck, I’m not hazarding a guess!

How Active are Canadians on Social Media?

How active are Canadians on Social Media? To get an idea, I did a bit of online research, focusing on three platforms: LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. Some rudimentary figures turned out to be quite interesting: Canada has a population of approximately 35 million people. Of those, 11 million (31%) are on LinkedIn, 19 million (54%) are on Facebook, and 6 million (17%) are on Twitter. I have gotten these numbers from a variety of reliable sources, including the Globe and Mail, Financial Times, and the social media site providers themselves. Interesting that over half of all Canadians – including babies and nonagenarians – are on Facebook.

The Passport

So I just went to pick up my passport, and before they gave it to me I had to procure a picture ID.


Clippy Trivago Video

Remember Clippy? That animated paper clip thing that zipped around trying to offer help with Microsoft Office?

He was as annoying as is the Trivago commercial guy.

Here is something else I find annoying. I click on a link to an interesting article only to find out when I get there that it’s in fact a video. Now that means I have to put on my headset so I don’t disturb my coworkers, wait for all the junk arranged around it to load up and permit me to hit the start button, skip past commercials, and listen to someone deliver what one would rather read.

And how do you speed-read video? To be honest, most times I just click the exit button.

Am I the only one who doesn’t like video?