Random ruminations as I figure out and deal with life, grad school, being an engineer and a product manger; learn more about technology, marketing, economics, news, writing short stories and other stuff that distracts me from doing whatever I'm supposed to be doing....
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Where did that printout go?
The instructions are pretty clear : "You will need to bring a copy of the printout with you to board the bus", but no one follows them :)
I often take the bus to Boston (and back) on the weekends, and generally follow instructions and take a printout of the ticket with me. Today (like me) the printer at home wasn't feeling a 100% so I decided a copy of the email on my Android phone would have to do. I'd seen a couple of people do this before, so I wasn't particularly concerned it would freak the ticketing agent out.
However, when I got there it looked like paper was the exception not the rule. I was 7th in line. and 3 iPhones, 3 Blackberrys and 1 Android phone later, the ticketing agent hadn't seen a piece of paper yet. He even seemed fairly nonchalant about moving my ticket on the screen window to make sure the date was right. On another note, there seem to a be surprising number of really young people that carry Blackberrys!
There's no reason this shouldn't be even more common. Scanning a bar-code of a phone screen should work just as well as of paper. This could, should (maybe even already is?) easily be extended to movie tickets, airline boarding passes, concerts etc. As a society, we've still not made the "paper-less office" a reality, but the time of paper-less ticketing does seems really close by.
Every once in a while, I'm reminded that humans can be completely lacking in humanity.
My wife had the following experience yesterday on her ride back home. She got on the train and found a seat. The train was unusually crowded and it looked a lot of people had to stand for a long ride. An elderly Asian gentleman carrying a few things in both hands, was looking for spot, started to complain smilingly about the train being so full and stood in the aisle at the back of the carriage some seats away from her.
She expected someone closer to gentleman in the aisle (lots of younger people on the train) to give him their seat.
No one did.
The train started, and it was clear the man was having a lot of trouble standing up. Then at the next stop there was actually an announcement saying the train was full so please give up your seats to people who needed them.
Still nobody moved.
My wife got up walked to the end of the train and asked the gentleman to go over to her seat. She still couldn…
I've been really enjoying the Freakonomics podcast of late. This episode and the lesson we should take a away from it, was a stark reminder of one of the most important things we should be doing - but often don't - in building products or making any decisions: measuring the impact of absolutely everything we do, including the things that seem obviously good.
I recommend listening to the podcast if you have the time, but here's the summary. Stephen Dubner describes the Cambridge Sommerville Youth Study. The impact of social intervention programs in general is hard to measure and so they seldom are. This was the first attempt at measuring the impact over a long period of time.
It's a great story and there are a few good take-aways, but here's the main one: troubled or at-risk youth that received mentoring (good mentoring!) had worse life outcomes across every dimension than the kids that were left alone. Despite the recipients saying that the mentoring was incredibl…