United Airlines and its checkin kiosks

I have a beef to pick with United and their kiosk check-in development team. For some reason, they have decided that international travelers must scan their passport before allowing to proceed to check in.

A typical transaction goes something like this:

“Please swipe your credit card.”

I swipe my credit card.

“Please choose your language.”

I pick English.

“Please scan your passport.”

Ok great, there is no clue to where the scanner is. Of course its not on the kiosk itself. Its tucked away on the side.

After searching for a few minutes I find it. I put my passport face down and press down. Ok pretty clever to use a press down technique to start a scan, I admit.

I already know my passport will not scan. It is simply not built to be scanned.

The next screen drives me crazy. Either United does not have good interaction designers on board or maybe does not even have them, but their kiosk developers are breaking every rule of good usability.

Once my passport fails to be scanned by the machine, it brings me back to the same screen over and over again.

“Passport could not be scanned. If you would like to try again, press continue and scan again”.

I would expect to see at least one other recourse than the small exit button on the top right corner.

You know the first question the agent asks when directing you to the kiosk? “Do you have a scannable passport?” If only, the kiosk started off like with the same question!

Aaah. Programmers !! Think of alternative situations.

This entry was written by Amit, posted on March 23, 2006 at 12:06 am, filed under Uncategorized. Leave a comment or view the discussion at the permalink.

In search of the perfect standup daily meeting

Following the extreme programming principles, our project holds the daily standup meetings. I have been part of many agile projects, and in some shape or form we hold a daily meeting, where every member gets a chance to appraise the team of where things stand. Seems like a good idea, right? However, somehow I have always had an uneasy feeling about these meetings.

Some people tend to hog these meetings. They start off on a topic that might be relevant or not so relevant, but they hog the time, while rest of the team sits around waiting for this person to finish the never ending rant.

Sometimes the moderator will cut the person off and remind him or her to take it “offline”. In my experience, half of the time, these “offline” meetings never happen. The person is too pissed off that his or her point is not being given the merit it deserves or they run out of steam laboring over a point once and do not care to belabor over it again.

So the meeting chugs along. Who is benefiting from these updates?

If the team is co-located, there is a lot redundancy in these meetings. If the team is not co-located there may be lot of surprises in these meeting with very little time to react or mull over the new information.

Some managers like to use these daily meeting to set the agenda for the day. Seems weird to me. We may call the location “war room”, however, lets face it, it is far from being a battle zone. A battlefield is fluid and constantly shifting, a week long programming assignment is usually far less dramatic.

Christopher Hawkins wrote an excellent piece on rules governing meetings. I particularily like his point of no new information being presented in the meeting. Why are meetings used to present new information. There is not enough time to get meaningful response from every participant on the information.

I have not been in a single meeting where I have not noticed atleast one participant getting bored, distracted or just tuning out. Sometimes people are bold enough to leave the meeting that is not useful to them.

We need a better way to communicate whats going on without a stand up. By the way, no one stands in these meeting. Everyone is really comfortable in their chairs. Standing up seems quite childish and who will enforce such a rule among adults?

It seems simple to me. People who are working together on related things should not have to gather round in standup meeting to figure out what’s going on. If its only for the benefit of management that standup meetings take place, I say don’t wait till next standup to nix them.

As a manager, I need to have my hand on the pulse of the team without the need for a daily brief or update. Now if I was the president and I simply have too much to handle, yes, please provide me with a daily brief.

Meetings are not a necessary evil. They are just evil.

This entry was written by Amit, posted on March 22, 2006 at 11:45 pm, filed under Uncategorized. Leave a comment or view the discussion at the permalink.