The end of CAPTCHAs?

Looks like Google has figured out how to use a “CAPTCHA” (those awful “what are these words”, “which ones are numbers” tests) without actually using one.

CAPTCHAs have always been a bad solution to a real problem. I’m assuming this new solution is some set of client-side/user-agent evaluation, IP reputation, and behavioral (i.e. how does the mouse move on the page). This is probably going to be a similar solution to what CloudFlare does, where they’ll let traffic through to your site automatically if they trust the reputation of your IP/browser, might delay you if they need more data, or ask you to fill in an old-school CAPTCHA if they can’t tell.

While CloudFlare got there first, Google’s reCAPTCHA is so much more widely used that it could greatly reduce how often those awful (but, often, necessary) CAPTCHAs show up.

(Via Ars Technica)

A Tip for Recruiters

I work with a lot of recruiters (particularly tech recruiters). The vast majority of them are incredibly nice people who really are trying to help me fill a spot on my team. They’re able to get a job listing out and do the legwork of sourcing candidates, and after some trial and error, we can usually zero in on a candidate.

Some recruiters, however, are just awful.

There’s one recruiter right now (and, if you’ve ever talked to me, or had me return an email, it’s not you), who I will never do business with. Let me lay out the scenario, and see if you can figure out why.

  • Office phone rings, don’t recognize number, ignore and wait for voicemail
  • Cell phone rings, same number, no voicemail
  • Office phone rings, different number, ignore and wait for voicemail
  • Cell phone rings, that same number, no voicemail

That was within 2 minutes.

I did some googling, and it turned out that the number was a recruiter’s office I’d worked with before, and the other number seemed to point back to a particular person. Linkedin confirmed that person was a recruiter in that office.

Ok. Douchey, but I figured this person would leave a message or send an email, and then we could go from there.

Nope.

A few hours later?

  • Office phone
  • Cell phone
  • Office phone
  • Cell phone

This repeated every day for a week. And now it’s every other day or so. That’s just lazy. How hard is it to leave a voicemail, or send an email, or even send a stupid Linkedin message?

I’ve blocked the numbers on my cell phone. Shortly, I’ll do the same on my office phone. There’s enough recruiters who are willing to make my life easier (in exchange for the opportunity to make their company some money, and build a relationship). If you’re just trying to annoy me into answering the phone, why would I ever work with you?

2016

Man, what a shit year, right?

I’m way behind on my end of year music list, but I have some time off next week and hope to work my way through it. There’s so much music I haven’t listened to (my “to listen” list is 40 items long), that I’m hoping to get through at least some big stuff (Beyonce, Car Seat Headrest) in the next few days. I probably also need to give a relisten to the new Childish Gambino album (liked it, but it just didn’t resonate with me) and this year’s Angel Olsen album, which I think I liked, but honestly, don’t remember.

I do have a bunch of stuff that I’m pretty sure will end up on the list (really liked Haley Bonar, Lucius, Nada Surf, Frightened Rabbit), but I need to spend some time just listening.

In the meantime, a couple of recommendations for podcasts:

The Bugle came back this year, minus John Oliver (what, is he busy?) but with a bunch of guest hosts (Nish Kumar has been the best so far, but they’ve all been pretty great).

The West Wing Weekly is a weekly rewatch of The West Wing, but it’s so much more than that. It’s funny, is a great lens on current events, and is generally just a happy hour each week. I rewatched The West Wing a couple of years ago, and it is still so relevant and fresh.

Science vs. is one of Gimlet’s many podcasts, and I think it’s easily the best. It’s clever, funny, and is not afraid to tackle tough issues. I’m guessing that, like most things, folks who disagree with the outcome of the discussion will chalk it up to bias (the gun episodes, in particular), but for a 30 minute listen, it really does strive to cover the facts. Also, Australian accents.

Anyway, year end music list coming soon.

American Airlines Launches Real-Time Tracking For All of Their Lost Bags

“‘It’s something our customers have been asking for [for] a really long time, and we’re excited to make this available to them,’ American Airlines spokeswoman Laura Nedbal tells the Tribune.”

Really, what customers want is to have their bags show up at their destination. That fact that we’ll now know in advance that American lost our luggage is some sort of improvement, I guess.

(Via Consumerist.)

American Airlines Follow-up (or American Airlines Still Sucks)

If you didn’t see the post-script to my post about how awful American Airlines is, and how poorly they treated my wife and I (and thousands of other people), here’s the kicker—we made it onto our final flight and arrived home, and were even treated nicely (and sympathetically) for the first time by a really nice attendant.

And then our luggage wasn’t on our flight. Or the following two flights. It made the last flight out of Miami, meaning, once again, American made us wait an extra 24 hours to get our bags.

They delayed, cancelled, caused a missed connection, or lost our luggage on every leg of our travel. Both ways. Every leg.

I wrote them a long, detailed note while waiting in the line from hell. I actually sort of held it together and didn’t devolve into an array of f-bombs and calling people douchebag. I think that showed restraint.

They responded offering my wife and I each $200 in travel vouchers.

I politely told them to stick it and asked them that they give us a meaningful refund. We’ll see where this goes.

Why I’ll Never Fly American Airlines Again

I’m sitting here, at Gate D5 in Miami, waiting for a gate agent to arrive so I can try to ensure that my wife and I will have tickets home to Boston on our flight in about 2 hours. That doesn’t sound that bad (thought we’ll see what happens when they try to tell us we don’t have seats …), and I’m an easy flyer. Shit happens, flights get delayed, whatever. I’m usually incredibly nice and understanding to the airlines and attendants—they often have crappy jobs and have to deal with rationally (and irrationally) upset people.

But I have zero sympathy for American Airlines and their staff. I will go out of my way to never fly them again. I will pay my own dollars, or take an extra leg, to avoid flying this airline that clearly could give two shits about their customers.

It Begins

Last week, we headed to Logan to get ready for our flight to St. Croix. Got there nice and early, checked in, even though American’s ticket kiosk didn’t print out one of my tickets (the first sign of their incompetence) and even though they had a huge line for baggage drop-off, with 1.5 people working.

We get to our gate, get on the flight, and then …. we sit. We sit for almost an hour because the flight crew had to “file a new flight plan due to weather”. That sounds like a pretty horseshit excuse to me—couldn’t have done that earlier?—but, again, whatever. We take off 40 minutes late but expect to make up some time in the air.

The Cracks Begin to Show

We arrive in Miami just a little later than expected, so no big deal. We’ll hustle to our gate and we should be fine. Except we don’t have a gate. We are stuck on the tarmac. For an hour.

We’ve now, basically, missed our connection to St. Croix.

We get off the flight, the gate agent basically says “The flight’s closed, but you can run and take the skyway, and maybe you’ll get lucky.”

Thanks.

We do, and we make it. In fact, there were about 6 of us in the same boat, and we all made it.

And then we sat for another 40 minutes at the gate. So, you know, we didn’t have to run. They could have just delayed the flight and we would have all felt pretty good. Making it even better? They said they were getting some last minute baggage loaded up and we’d take the extra few minutes because “it could be your bag.”

It probably was.

The First Real Fuck You

But it wasn’t. Our luggage, even though we were at the gate for almost an hour after our flight landed, didn’t make the flight. Rather than leave it to American’s crack staff to deliver it to our hotel, we got a taxi to the airport to pick it up ourselves the next afternoon.

The Beginning of the End

On our way home, we get to the airport to find our flight back to Miami has been delayed almost 2 hours. They’ve already rebooked us on a connection … the next morning.

I say to Katie “let’s just get checked in, and I’ll call and see if there isn’t an earlier flight”. I guess this is my mistake, but really, you’ll see, it’s just another fuck you from American.

They check our bags to Miami, because of our expected layover.

I call American, they find us seats on the 9pm flight. We should be landing at 7:50pm. Should be no problem. Except our luggage. We’d have to go to baggage claim, pick it up, come back, clear security, and make our flight.

No big deal right. We’re still sitting in the airport. Let’s just have some go retag our bag to Boston, and we’ll be golden.

“Not possible.”
“Can’t do it.”
“Once it’s back there, no one can go near it, really.”

Seriously? Seriously? Seriously.

This to me is where American failed us over and over. Either they don’t empower their agents to do anything to help their customers, or they have a bunch of agents who could give two shits. The airport in St. Croix is tiny. It would have taken 15 minutes, tops, to find our bag and put a new tag on it.

We get on the flight and hope for the best.

Things are looking a little rosy when the pilot says we expect to land at 7:30. Fantastic. Good news!

We land at 7:44. We wait on the plane for a gate until 8:50.

Fuck you, American. Fuck you.

We run to our gate, the flight has just left. Ironically, our originally 7:50 connection had been delayed until 9:25pm. We would have had a better shot of making that flight.

No flight, our baggage is in theory at baggage claim, and we’re stuck in Miami. We’ll head to rebooking, get a new flight and a hotel voucher, and just deal with it.

The End of the End

The rebooking line is hundreds of people long. Some folks say they’ve been there for 2 hours and are still an hour away from the front. I call to get our flight changed to the earliest flight on Saturday (today), and wait in line for a hotel voucher.

And wait.

And wait.

Eventually, we overhear that there are no more hotel vouchers. There’s no more hotels.

We’d been in line for 3 hours. Not once did someone come by and express sympathy, or apologize. At 3 hours, we overheard another conversation and learned that we were screwed again. I went to talk to an agent to see if he could help me with our bags and at least book them through to Boston. He didn’t express any sympathy, or even feign caring. He snippily said “I’m busy, you’ll have to wait a few minutes.”

I admit to losing my cool and saying “I’ve been waiting 3 fucking hours. Can you please just help me now?”

That didn’t go over well. But, honestly, I could wait him out. In theory, our bags will be on our flight.

Katie and I walked around the airport, eventually got a few minutes of restless sleep, and now we’re waiting to see if we get on the flight we’re supposed to get on. At 7:52, for a 9:35 flight, we still don’t have a gate agent to give us our seats.

At this point, the odds of both us and our luggage making it to Boston are low. The odds of American doing anything and not royally fucking it up are low.

The End End

In all of this, not a single airport employee has expressed any empathy. Not one has apologized. Actually, I take it back. They apologized by saying how hard a day they had, too. With a multi-hundred person line, they didn’t walk around letting us know what was going on, or even offer water or snacks. They just let us stand there, until all the hotels were booked, and 99% of our food options were gone, and then said “sorry, you’re on your own.”

I don’t usually bitch about service. Bad service happens. People have bad days.

This isn’t “bad days.” This is a broken company who either don’t care, or assume that we have so few options, that we can’t do anything about it.

I’ve written to them on Twitter (and in the end, I’ll admit, I basically spent the night trolling them, responding to anyone else’s complaints to highlight them—including NBA player Ed Davis, who was likewise fucked by American), I’ve filed a formal complaint via the website, I’ve liked other angry missives on Facebook, and I’m writing this.

I fully expect none of it to matter. I fully expect American just doesn’t give a shit.

That works both ways, American.

Coda

We made our flight home.

Our luggage didn’t. They lost our luggage both directions. Even though we’d been assured by a snippy gate agent (during our marathon wait in line) that it would be on the flight.

It arrived on the last flight from Miami to Boston on Saturday. We received it Sunday right around noon.

To their, “credit”, American offered us a grand $200 in vouchers to use on their airline. That we will, most certainly not use.