iPhone & your church web site, iPhone & usability, iPhone article round-up

Later today, alot of folks will be shelling out almost $600 to adopt Apple’s latest offering, the iPhone. A device that consolidates three popular mobile applications onto a single platform – delivered via a radically re-factored user interface built on top of touch screen technology. And while it may seem like a fad for now, I have reasons to suspect that it will have a significant impact on how we present our churches and charities online.

With it’s release imminent, I spent the past few days reading alot of blogs and watching alot of video on the iPhone. Not as some propeller-headed geek who wants to strut about his/her local Makers meeting with the latest in nerd toys – but as a product management director for a growing and successful software as a service company.

Meaning, those who don’t take into account disruptive innovations such as the iPhone run the risk of being ‘Left Behind.’

What it means to your church web site:

While many of us whom preach and practice usability are in a position to sit back and observe how the iPhone will shake out over the next couple months, I do think there are those church webmasters who need to wake-up and smell the incense ASAP, including those who:

  • render their church website using FrontPage, Word or Publisher;
  • rely on heavy doses of Flash to support simple navigation;
  • still insist on offering splash pages;
  • turn their home pages into splash pages with gratuitous Flash;
  • insist on putting a huge image of their church on the front page;
  • haven’t at least transitioned to HTML 4.0 Transitional;
  • rely heavily on using tables for rendering layout;
  • have a home page that leads off with a Spurgeon-eswue mission statement;
  • offer home pages deliver MIDI and/or scrolling marquees;
  • continue to represent text with images;
  • insist on pushing everything to PDF;
  • employ frames;

It is not that the iPhone can’t, won’t render such bad design practices – but rather the fact that pages that look bad on a 21″ flat screen at 1280×1024 pixels are going to look horrible on a miniaturized (zoomed-out) 3.5 at 320×480 pixels.

What it means in terms of usability:

The way to get around this is to adopt some good usability practices.

  • Putting your best and most sought after content up front;
  • Using CSS for layout instead of font, table and other non-semantic taggery;
  • Making sure images are physically reduced before rendering;
  • Compartmentalizing content into reasonable sized pages supported with common-sense navigation;
  • Removing any gadgets, gizmo or graphic that doesn’t support the site’s conversion goals (to get people in the door);
  • Testing your page on as many browsers as possible in as many sizes as possible; and
  • Testing your web site against tasks your ave rage visitor seeker to accomplish, and not what the resident geek thinks is cool or artsy.

Oh sure, there’s plenty of other suggestions I can make, but I figure better to walk before we crawl. And while some may rationalize against such efforts because:

  • the church is short staffed;
  • the pastor likes it that way;
  • they have more important things they’re working on; or
  • it is what inside the church that counts;

I’d counter that anything that turns people way is contradictory to the servanthood-related tenets defined in Scripture – especially something so fixable as the usability of one’s church web site.

Otherwise, why not dump last week’s kitchen garbage in front of the door to the chapel and call it ‘art?’

Getting back to the iPhone:

Apples iPhone

Here’s what I think will be the immediate impact of the iPhone:

quick adoption by competitors
Unlike personal computer manufacturers, the mobile phone industry moves hazardously fast, adopting competitive trends at break-neck speed. Meaning, don’t think that there aren’t iPhone-like implementations of the BlackBerry, Treo and/or Razr in the works. I’ll guarantee you they’re already in beta, if not just waiting to see how all this shakes out for Apple;
more software as a service
I’ve read some beefs about the lack of applications offered for the iPhone, but I don’t think this device needs a ‘killer app‘ to make it work. For example, providers of browser-based office suites such as Zoho and Google Apps are well placed to benefit from Apple’s target demographic: the highly-mobile business executive and/or manager and/or college student. Similarly, your pastor may enjoy the ability to leave the laptop at home or office to pickup and finalize documents started on the road;
re-factoring of navigational metaphors
watch the demo, think about how new navigational notions such as ‘flicking’ and ‘pinching’ … or graphic conventions such as transparent shortcuts of phone-related activities displaying during the course of a conversation … or confirmation through sliders;
more minituarization of media
thinks small media, YouTube sized media if you want. Think 10-15 minute sermonettes that look good on a 3.5 screen, as I’m sure the makers of television and film are already thinking along these lines. Might wanna put your podcasts on a diet too;
location, location, location
geolocation is already here, the iPhone will help Google push it to it’s next level. Tim Bednar offers great advice on how to take care of that today.

Again, there’s plenty more – but my job here is just to get to you start thinking differently about your church web site’s goals – and whether or not its current implementation will support emerging trends in how seekers use the web.

iPhone Article Roundup:

Here are some articles to get you thinking along those lines:

As always, your comments and linkage are appreciated.

Updates:

Hmmm … something this ‘BlackBerry’ killer can’t do that my crufty old 7130e can:

“iPhone doesn’t support the concept of selected text. That means you can’t just select a specific portion to quote of the message you’re replying to; nor can you select a chunk of the quoted message and delete it while editing. ” – Daring Fireball: iPhone First Impressions (hat tip Mark Pilgrim).

More later …

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Maximize your summer missions impact with disruptive technologies

Right about now, a number of you are creating checklists of what to bring on your summer missions trip. Here are a few technical items you might want consider, to help keep your family and/or sponsors up-to-date via your church’s website or personal blog … and if nothing else, to get your digital thinking out of the ‘disco’ era!

New Developments in Dog Years:

In my line of work, individuals measure ‘tech time’ in terms of ‘dog years,’ meaning one multiplies by a factor of 7.

This means that if you’re are returning to a missions field with the same technological mindset you perhaps traveled with in 2003, then basically you’re hitting the road with know-how that’s 28 years in the past … which for those of us old enough to remember what it was like back then … your digital thinking is ‘disco-era’ … and nobody wants that!

Something Old, Something New …
Here are some ‘disruptive innovations’ that you may want to (re)consider:

  • advanced online office collaboration services – such as Google Documents and Flickr – such tools not only allow you to work on the same document and photographs from any computer and/or smart phone anywhere in the world, but you can also share them real-time with other individuals – such as a church-staff member back in their quiet and air-conditioned office who can assure better post quality and clarity. Such tools were non-existent in 2004.
  • more comprehensive hi-speed Internet access – Malaysia was amazing for me, but me-oh-my, what reporting I could do-over if I had a chance to go back to Jordan ! For example, did anyone else notice that this past May, Jordan’s largest telco announced a BlackBerry Pearl offering in collaboration with a global telco partner? Or perhaps that the Jordanian Minister of Information and Communications Technology, Eng. Omar A. Alkurdi is himself a Skype user? It’s little things like that are Internationally available now that weren’t accessible then that will radically improve your ability and frequency to post articles of greater detail and depth.
  • broad adoption of syndication technologies – while the RSS feed existed in 2004, it wasn’t widely used, now it is. We see it being used by online newspaper and media outlets such as the Washington Postandr CNN. We see it widely used by the blogosphere – which is why many of our blogs enjoy free content advertising by several hundreds other blogs ( thousands more if you link this article today!-). We see syndication as the technology that drives podcasts and video snippets – meaning you could leverage the awesome power of Apple’s iTunes and Google’s YouTube to get your missions message out; free, globally and fast.
  • emergence of the online social network – virtual communities have been around well before 2004, but advancements in syndication, blogging tools and hi-speed Internet access/telephony have helped pushed social networks into the main stream. One need only look at the successes of such Web 2.0 inspired offering such as Digg and MySpace. blogs4God is experiencing a similar boom over this past year as we too have adopted the social bookmarking model. Taking advantage of such communities can help you communicate your mission’s achievements further, faster and ‘funner.’
  • better blogging and communications tools – available, but-no-so-reliable in 2003 was blogging by e-mail. Now it’s a snap. Too low-tech? Then why not instruct Google Documents or Zoho Writer … or better yet, have a back-home editor instruct the editor application to post your spell checked collaborative document directly to your church blog via the miracle of XML-RPC! If that fails, forward the document as text email to your blog. That failing – SMS that puppy via your cell phone! And if that fails, create a backup-blog via a free service such as Blogger.com to let someone know the date, time and place of your next Skypecast !

There are plenty of other tools and technologies, but my point here is just to get you to get your digital mind out of the disco gutter – and possibly provide your church, your family and/or your sponsors with 28 times more in-the-field reporting in 2007 than you did in 2003.

Something borrowed, what about you?

Your mileage may vary – so please, don’t be shy to drop in other technological advancements that may help those of you doing God’s work in the field.

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How to go mental with online mind mapping software

Mind mapping is defined is a diagramming process which includes a central key idea, task or words, radially surrounded by child or peer ideas, tasks or words. In the end, you wind up with a octopus-like picture of a mind-dump. Scary huh? Let’s draw one around the idea of podcasting the pastor’s sermons.

What is a Mind Map?

Scenario – your pastor calls a meeting of the web presence committee where he proposed you podcast his sermons. Immediately, the member with the neatest hand writing walks up to the white board and begins to write down all of the issues involved. Soon, what appears on the white board is a tentacled beast of ideas all centrally stemming out of a blob entitled “podcast sermons.”

This process is what is known in the information technology industry as “mind mapping” … the diagram below is an example of what a mind map may look like based on the above scenario:

sample mind map on meme: podcast sermons

As you can see, it follows many of the suggestions established by mind-mapping expert Tony Buzan that include:

  • Select key words and print using upper or lower case letters.
  • Each word/image must be alone and sitting on its own line.
  • The lines must be connected, starting from the central image.
  • Make the lines the same length as the word/image.
  • Use colors – your own code – throughout the Mind Map.

Where can I Mind Map?

You can mind-map anywhere, the trick is, can you collaborate anywhere?

Meaning, just as docs.google.com makes it much easier for many people to modify the same document from a wide variety of computer platforms spread all over the planet – so recently there have been a number of Software as a Service start-ups working diligently to free you and your committee from the constraints of client-based applications such as Visio and PhotoShop.

Put in English – you don’t all have to be in the same room huddled around a single lap top to mind map. Instead, your team can collaborate from anywhere using one of the following Software as a Service applications dedicated to helping you map your mind – listed in reverse alphabetical order:

Thinkature
I’ve seen this one before, so it came to mind first. It provides the curious with a nice, small but free account. First time users are greeted with a tutorial link and project. It seemed a bit slow to me today – not sure if it’s my bandwidth or theirs.
Mindomo
Wasn’t entirely inspired by the “requires Flash 9” that greeted me after I logged-in … nor was it entirely clear to me as why the latest and greatest iteration of Flash was needed for something this relatively simple.
MindMeister
I actually found this one the easiest of the bunch – perhaps because they keep it really, really, simple. So much so that one finds themselves wanting a bit more … which they gladly charge you for after your first month as part of their unlimited, add-free, $4.16/month ‘premium’ package.
Mind42
This one drove me nuts. They spend more bandwidth on having to explain the “Douglas Adams 42” than on fixing a javascript error that ran well past the boundaries of life, the universe and everything …
mind42 javascript error
Kayuda
Wasn’t as pretty up-front as some of the others – and seemed a bit sterile. But looks are deceiving on this one as once I got in, I ‘got it’ right away and got some simple stuff done.
Gliffy
Required Flash up front, the interface was rather klunky and found myself accidentally blowing out the first of only 5 documents a n00b gets on the free account. No warnings I was about to blow my foot clean off.
Flowchart.com
What the name says – this application is less about mind mapping and more about your classic flow charts. Seemed a bit slow but could have some basic utility where individuals want to move on from the mind map to a data flow solution. Now if only their software provides such a smooth transition.
Comapping
They lost me at “30 day demo.” Not because I didn’t mind doing it, but because it reflects to me a client-based application mentality trying to play in a Software as a Service arena. Get a clue and take a cue from Google, Zoho, Flickr, etc …
Bubbl.us
Their intro page needs healing as a first time visitor has absolutely no idea what the application does. A simple picture of a mind-map would help speak the 1000 words they offer to explain their not-so-simple product that requires I remember tiny little visual clues to get the job done:
not-so-memorable Bubbl.us anatomy lesson

Which Mind Map?

Not sure, probably none for now. I think part of the problem here is that some of the above selections are simply out there as venture capital – that is, create enough of a product and buzz until Google or Yahoo buys them out.

Mind Meister LogoIf I had to go mental with a Skype-based multi-location church website committee meeting, I think I’d work with MindMeister, not only because it already has Skype support built-in, but also because honestly, as a software product manager, I’m thinking if a mind mapping app. were to get bought out by a Google or Yahoo, this would be that app.

All that said – me being an ‘Agile’ kinda guy, I think I’ll keep to enumerating ideas using a Google spreadsheet so I can rank and categorize my ideas … and then sort them by as I please, exporting them into a document when it comes time to write-up a specification and/or action plan.

Agile is yet another application design process us geeks use from time to time … that I’ll discuss when I get the time.

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Note to Dr. Nielsen – quality is everyone’s job

Today’s Alertbox entitled ‘Should Designers and Developers Do Usability?’ Jakob Nielsen asserts “Having a specialized usability person is best, but smaller design teams can still benefit when designers do their own user testing and other usability work.”

How do I disagree with thee, let me count the ways … modus ponens style:

  1. good quality is everybody’s job
  2. good quality includes good usability
  3. therefore good usability is everyone’s job

In other words, despite the good efforts of the good doctor, the more people on your church or charity’s web development team who understand usability the better.

Sure, not everyone has to have the same level of expertise, but said expert should conduct periodic tutorials for staff and lay persons on small, 15 minute-a-piece topics such as:

  • defensive design
  • how usability increases page delivery
  • usability features built into WordPress
  • useful usability URLs online

If you’re reading this, I suspect you are that expert – or at least know whom he or she is.

That in mind, what have you done to infuse the quality of usability not only in terms of web site design, but in building your church’s “institutional memory?”

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CWADD: Church Website Attention Deficit Disorder

I write today to bring to your attention a growing malady among those seeking to find a church home online. Today I write about CWADD: Church Website Attention Deficit Disorder – a growing disease that continues to make our crufty old church web sites even more irrelevant and ineffective then they are already. Here’s why …

Again, with the Read/Writeweb folks, this time from Alex Iskold who gives us a short but powerful post entitled “Read-WriteWeb: Continuous Partial Attention: Software & Solutions” where he leads off with:

“The ways in which we consume and pay attention to information are changing. The changes are not minor, they are big and profound. Right now, it impacts us all individually – but soon the change will be visible on a global scale. We are splitting our attention over a rapidly growing body of online information.”

Let me translate that for you: if you are still treating your church and/or charity’s website like virtual brochureware then you’re likely wasting your time and that of the few whom manage to stumble onto your site.

Yeah, I know, that’s a bit rough but if yesterday’s good example of bad church web design was any indication as to the state of the Church online, then indeed Jesus weeps!

I say weeps because it says to me that much of the great cloud of witlessness publishing a parish’s web presence gives the appearance of less concern by not adjusting the means of conveying their message to “… the amount of information and the interrupts.” and “The massive adoption of broadband [that] gave birth to new media types …

For example, a line of questions to ask yourself about your church’s website’s relevance to the information consumption habits of those whom might find you online:

  • do you regularly publish your pastor’s sermons in text format?
  • do you support the regular publishing of you pastor’s sermons with an RSS feed?
  • do you provided accompanying podcasts of your pastor’s sermons?
  • do you still force laypersons to physically show up for all meetings?
  • do you still manage committees and projects by paper and physical presence?
  • do you still use client-based applications to collaborate on schedules and documents?
  • do you provide your congregation with any form of wireless access?
  • do you still insist on using FrontPage to deliver your web sites content?

I have plenty of other questions, but today’s message is a bit “heck and sandstone” to hopefully get some of you to realize that just as some 100 year old churches had to add parking lots and telephones to accommodate new means of communications that arose in the 20th century …

… so to we must make sure our online message is equally accommodating, NOT to change the message, but too change how the message is conveyed.

Now go email this link to your pastor and/or church media staff guy. If they complain, just send them to old Deano’ … I’m make them an offer they can’t refuse … or at least point out the speck in their eye!

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7 things I dislike about the Grace Baptist Church of Bellingham, WA website

There are six things that users hate, seven that are an abomination:

  1. text that’s hard on the eyes
  2. flying content delivered in tongues
  3. images that shed innocent bandwidth
  4. no dates and times so visitors can plan
  5. marquees that make waste of words that run
  6. a web address that’s hard to memorize
  7. and spinning gifs that sows discord among seekers

The Grace Baptist Church of Bellingham, WA welcomes you to our home on the web‘ – at least that’s what their website says. To bad their online actions speak louder than their welcoming words.

Meaning, while I’m sure the people at Grace Baptist in Bellingham are as beautiful in Christ as any other church body, their web presence betrays this beauty by employing some very irritating and unwelcoming web site practices that have fallen out of favor some ten years ago.

Though there are about sixteen things I’d like to change, and with apologies to Proverbs 6:16-19, here are seven to get the ball rolling:

sounding off
Don’t force music on your users during the page load because:

  • example 1 - loading mediait may seem nice the first time around, but becomes really irritating the second and third visit,
  • potentially problematic for someone visiting via the office or library computer
  • excessively and unnecessarily bad on bandwidth
  • potentially legal, RIIA royalty issues/entanglements;
gratuitous text
big blocks of bulky unreadable text:don't use images to display textblah, blah, blah …people don’t read the web, they scan it – especially when it’s small text set against dark backgrounds chock-full-o-church speak that potential converts cannot relate to ……it also doesn’t help that of all the textism on this page, the dates and times of services are somehow omitted from the front page;
gratuitous graphics
example 3 - graphic rollover menusDon’t use images to represent text, use text to represent text, especially in a day and age where everyone and their brother now has examples of how to use CSS to create rollover menu effects!
marquee madness
example 4 - scrolling textismnothing says your message is unimportant and unreadable than making users have to sit and wait to read it s-c-r-o-l-l-i-n-g o-n-e l-e-t-t-e-r a-t a t-i-m-e;
cheap divisiveness
example 5 - cheap divider bar Is it a curtain rod, or a capped pipe? I can’t tell – but what I do know is that cheap, party like it’s 1999-ish clip art dividers usually indicate clutter that needs to be cut;
alphabet soup
what’s easier to remember?

  • example #6 - alphabet url soupgbcbellingham.org
  • graceBaptistBellingham.org
  • bellinghamgrace.org
  • graceofbellingham.org;
Jesus Junk!
example #7 - Jesus junk!If I’ve said it once, I’ve said said it a million times: unless you have a gold lamee spinning cross on the roof of your church building, then you’re not allowed to have a gold spinning cross on your website … not to mention all the kitschy clutter at the bottom of the page!

Here’s my point. I think now would be a good time for the folks at the Grace Baptist Church of reconsider how they may re-factor their web-based welcome wagon for individuals looking for a new church home in the Bellingham, WA area.

How about your church website?

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A comparative cornucopia of online office ‘sweets’

Cornucopia of online office suite logosThe current implementation of Microsoft Office as we know it is dead – at least that is the conclusion I read between the lines of a “Read/WriteWeb article” by Richard MacManus. Taking the opportunity of today’s public beta release of Zoho’s Meeting, MacManus compares and considers many of the emerging office suite software services including Google Apps, Microsoft Office Live, Zoho, ThinkFree, and Zimbra – so should you.

The king of office software suites is dead … it doesn’t mean it’s going away, it’s just not going to further evolve as the client-side vertical product many Churches and Charities know as Office 2003.

I’ll prove this by asking these five thought provoking, rhetorical questions:

  1. How much is your church and/or charity spending on the following must-have office/communications applications?
    • email
    • email spam and virus protection
    • group calendaring
    • word processing
    • spreadsheets
    • presentation applications
    • wikis
    • blogs
    • chat
    • planning
  2. Now the next killer question: how much do you pay per seat – that is – do you keep your Church out of trouble by buying individual licenses of the above products for each and every member of the church staff?
  3. How about this common scenario: what happens when church staff wants to work from home, a mission trip, or are a lay person in need of collaborating from a variety of locations and computing platforms?
  4. How many of your lay persons or church staff actually use the advanced features built into Word, Excel, etc …?
  5. Finally, how many of your church staff and/or lay persons would move off the Windows operating system if they had access to a viable office suite?

These were questions I and others alluded to a few years back when Microsoft was strutting about smug in the knowledge that they still owned the desktop work space because there was no viable office solution alternatives other than the girthy OpenOffice.

The Software as a Service model has changed all that, as reflected in Richard MacManus’ comparative entitled “Web Office Suite: Who’s Leading The Pack?

In the article, MacManus leads off excellently by defining exactly what constitutes an office suite:

First of all let’s summarize what exactly is a Web Office suite. Such a beast should have, at the least, the following apps in it: email, calendar, word processing, spreadsheets, presentations. These are the core products of Microsoft Office, the dominant office suite package. You could also make a case for apps like contacts manager, task manager or even project management to be in the core products, but we’ll keep things real simple in this case. So here’s how the Web Office contenders shape up …

This followed up with some tables and notes that I strongly encourage you to consume and consider.

I’d also ask you to consider this killer paragraph from the article:

A note about Microsoft. Currently it has a number of different offerings, all under the ‘Office Live’ banner – there are 7 products listed on this page, including Office Live Premium and Office Live Groove. But as yet, no sign that Microsoft will risk its massive desktop Office revenues, by offering an online office suite. Indeed, that may never happen – as Microsoft attempts to create a desktop/online hybrid around its ‘services’ strategy.

Indeed is right, as I was privy to a conversation with a Microsoft product manager at the SIIA this past April where he essentially stated along similar lines Microsoft’s desire to attempt to have the best of both worlds … mostly along the ‘application service provider‘ model. A model I heard referenced religiously more than once this past October by development staff at the Microsoft Patterns & Practices conference whenever I asked about Software as a Service implementation.

To me, this is a recipe for mass confusion – in that in doing neither well, or at least not well enough for churches and charities – they’ll lose that and a few other significant segments of their user base; just before they lose a growing  mobile business sector who is increasingly demanding the ability to move off the static desk top and into the dynamic and collaborative web space.

Change is coming folks, and those that try to serve two masters – whether as a software provide and/or a consumer thereof – need to make strong consideration of what they’re using to produce both hard copy and online documentation, presentations and data stores.

Meaning, now is the time to see if Zoho, Google Apps and or various others are better suited to the office needs of your church and/or charitable organization.

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WiPeer: near perfect tool for your church office and meetings

WiPeer is a suite of applications for collaboration in server-less situations, such as committee meetings, retreats and/or church conferences. These applications include forming local social networks, chatting, file sharing, searching among shared files in other computers, and interactive multiplayer games.

What shows up on your church web site is potentially the result of data and/or communications shared in a lay person committee and/or staff meeting.

This is a good thing, but not necessarily an easy thing as in the past it often required:

  • providing a common access point over the church’s network;
  • asking users to establish sharing through NETBIOS services;
  • RS232 hardwire + software solutions; and/or
  • establishing a sneakernet protocol

Whatta pain to users … whatta administrative hassle … whatta security nightmare!

WiPeer screenshotFortunately, there’s WiPeer – a set of small applications that can help accommodate the work of churches and charities who are finding more and more of their functions attended by WiFi equipped parishioners and pastoral staff.

Simply put WiPeer enables simple sharing files directly among computers, playing multi-player games, chatting, and collaboration over both Wi-Fi and home/office networks – without having to hire a network administrator.

All that’s needed are a minimum two computers with a network card … in fact if the two computers have a wireless card it is possible to establish direct communication between the two computers without any router … though I’m in the camp that thinks WiFi access should become a common part of any church facility.

Yeah, sure, it does mean that certain individuals may use this good technology for evil … playing games when they should be paying attention to a reading of the minutes of the meeting of the committee to determine the protocol for committee meetings established for the reading of minutes …

… but hey, imagine how useful this could be the ‘wired team’ on the traveling to a mission and/or an inner-denominational convention/retreat?

Heck – I think I also just figured out what I can use at home without having to deal with the security risks of the neighbor’s kid trying to see if I’ve got NetBios and/or IPX leaking via file printer sharing services for Microsoft network and/or Samba.

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Howya do’win fram da Windy City

As ya might tell from the headline, I didn’t get a chance to test the bandwidth at Narita Airport in Tokyo. Japan Airlines had overbooked and somehow miraculously managed to only call out non-citizens of Japan to tell is we could either swim or take an earlier flight on a somewhat younger airline that left for Chicago two hours earlier.

Since this cut my layover in Tokyo by half, and gave me more time to connect at O’Hare – I opted to be treated like steerage – but only after gladly accepting some compensation for my hassles.

Still, I found the selection and ways in which only we ‘Westerners’ were politely but painfully endurerd … and selectively bumped … consistent with how most ‘gaijin‘ (a term I heard used in reference to me in the pejorative on my NYC to NRT flight) were treated by JAL staff and customers. A treatement I might add that was entirely inconsistent with the genuinely warm, generous and welcoming treatment I received by all other international sectors services industry and general populous in Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong …  … and Jordan a few years back.

I think when I fly back over to Kuala Lumpur next September it will either be on Malaysian or Singapore airlines.

That aside – those praying for my safety – thank you! As I elluded to in my last post, my alert taxi driver to KUL airport managed to bob and weave like a NASCAR driver avoiding a multi-car pile-up as a car in front of us lost control on the wet road … Spinning and sliding across all lanes of traffic before causing some others to brake or ‘break’ … Though my driver managed to miss it all.

Perhaps it was the Malaysian style hip-hop that I found irritating up until I figurerd that qwa one of the factors keeping him up and alert.

That said – though cramped and not as traditionally Japanese in protocol and amenities – I found the staff of ANA polite, attentative and far better at communicating in English than their JAL counterparts… though neither airline had artificiall sweeteners for their coffee.

I just found it a but lonely to fly on an 8 and 11 hour flight seated next to individuals who didn’t speak a luck of English. Good luck to them – especially the culture shock they are sure to receive when greeted at customs and eateries by Hispanic and African American faces. Two cultures I did not see represented at all in Malaysia.

Anyway – it’s good to thumb away again on my BlackBerry while waiting for a plane.

More travel tips in a day or two – just pray this full flight is about to leave.

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Goodbye and thanks for all the satay (fish too)

So it’s time to board my plane, but not before a quick shout out from the Burger King here at the Kuala Lumpur airport as pictured below …
A taste of home before heading home

… which was gracious enough to provide me with some free electricity and bandwidth.

See y’all from Tokyo in about 9 to 10 hours. Pray for me! Already avoided one close call already – more on that later.

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