Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Please vote for Metacentrix, LLC ~ Best Management Consultant

I rarely ask for favors from the community. This is one of them. Please vote for us on LinkTown/MojoPages! ~

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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

My Experience w/ Virgin America

Now I have done my fair share of traveling for both business and pleasure. There's nothing like a trendy branded airline with comfortable seats, well thought out decor, in-flight wifi, top notch flight attendants, prompt scheduling, and an eye-catching credit card with no annual fee earning frequent flyer miles. I think you all know what airline I am talking about: Virgin America. :)

I have always been a fan since day one even though I didn't become a customer until recently. I also as an entrepreneur know how to really appreciate why Virgin America is a success. However, no business is without growing pains. I am a prime example of a customer that experienced just that. Granted, in all fairness, it's partly due to my own carelessness but what business doesn't have to model around human error? As a technologist, I also understand that some times technical issues can't be avoided from time to time. With that in mind, here's what I called a "nightmare" in an earlier tweet which I think was quite over-exaggerated. I admit I was over-reacting and I apologize if I gave anyone the wrong impression. Nonetheless, I was a bit annoyed.

Anyhow, let's start with some background. So I received a phone call from my cousin one day telling me that she's graduating from her MBA in June and that I would be disowned if I didn't attend her graduation. ;) I was super excited to hear the good news and just within days later, I decided to look for flights on to San Francisco. I also noticed that I had more than enough points for a one way there but not both ways. So I decided to start by purchasing a one way flight from Seattle to SF w/ my elevate points which threw the following error:

So I followed the instructions and called the number listed above. Given Virgin's high energy and friendly culture, to my surprise, and maybe I just had too high expectations, I got the opposite of what I expected. That part was ok though cause after all, who doesn't get a little cranky once in a while sitting at a call center dealing with stupid customers like me. So I happily moved on with describing my issue with the website. The customer service rep was not very receptive at first but I finally fought my way into getting the both of us on the same page.

To illustrate the issue, I am going use some fictitious numbers. First off, I described to the rep what I was trying to do and what error I was receiving to give context to the issue. After some back and forths to clear the facts, the reaction of the customer service rep was, "Oh thats why... you don't have enough points." When this was said, I was looking at my screen seeing that my profile had 9000 points and I even did a refresh to make sure I was getting the latest numbers which it still remained 9000 after the refresh. So I thought to myself, "the flight only costed 5200 points. What is he talking about?" Then the rep continued on and said, "I show that you only have 3800 points." So I thought, "hum, interesting... it looks like they deducted my points for the flight but didn't book my flight." So I communicated that to the rep and he responded by telling me that there's no one from Elevate that's in at that time so he asked me to send a screenshot to an e-mail and someone will get back to me during the normal hours. Ok, fine, I understand. It was 3 or 4am. So agreed and asked the representative if he can hold the seat/flight for me until the issue has been resolved and stayed on the line to let the representative do what he needed to do before we ended the call. After waiting for a little while, he had apparently forgotten my request and asked me multiple times if there's anything else he can do for me and I just kept asking about the holding of the seat/flight. Finally, he said he did it and the flight will be held for 24 hours. By then, I also already sent the e-mail of my screenshot and booked my return flight with my credit card so we ended the call.

By the next evening, I still have not received any forms of communication so I took it upon myself to try again. Well this time, I was able to purchase the flight with my points! Yay, right? So I happily went on with the other work that I had to accomplish for the evening but it didn't end there. At about 11pm/midnight-ish, it dawned on me! I had accidentally purchased another return flight with my points instead of a flight to SFO! So I scrambled through the site looking under "Manage Travel" --> "Change" in hopes to change the flight but I didn't see the booking at all! So I did a bit of research and revisiting through my experiences with the site before and realized that newly booked flights don't show up right away. So I tired changing the return fligtht that I had originally purchased into a flight to SFO instead since I was able to navigate to it and it was gonna let me change it but the quirk... it was going to charge me $75! By that time, I was pretty frustrated and tired so I just thought I would sleep on it and call during regular hours to resolve the issue.

The next day, I called and got the same tone of voice. I think again, I was expecting a little more energy because this time around is not graveyard shift. Then I thought to myself, oh well, as long as they can help me solve my problem, who cares right? So I went on describing my situation and that I would like to change one of my flights to a SEA to SFO flight. I maybe over sensitive but I felt like I was getting no's left and right and that I was going to be charged $75 no matter what. Of course, being me, I kept on thinking of alternatives and asked if we can do certain things a little differently to derive desirable results. After a few back and forths, we decided on cancelling the flight that I just booked with my points but here's the gotcha: "No one at Elevate is in right now so you will have to wait 72 hours before your points are returned to you..." So I thought to myself, one, there seems to be a bit of inefficiency and disconnect between VA & Elevate and 2, oh great, now I will either risk the price raising on me or the flight gets fully booked before I get my points back. Luckily, I am going to LA in July so I just sucked it up and paid for the flight to SFO and decided to save my points for the LA trip.

72 hours later, the flight I purchased with my points finally disappeared and my points are returned back to my profile. I can finally officially declare this adventure over.

I must say, it was a bit discouraging because it was my first time wanting to use my points after having done my time as a Virgin America customer. But I guess this might just be a one-off type of deal or at least I hope. Of course, I have been working in a client facing role for pretty much all of my career so I'll admit that I am a bit of a fanatic when it comes to customer service and I understand that even the best processes can sometimes let certain unexpected incidents slip. So I may have just set the bar too high. With that said, this is still an area that can improve to make Virgin America even more successful than it already is.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

20 "Must Have" Mac Apps

Seems like every geek has done a post like this and although I am a bit late to the game, I thought I might share with you all what I thought was my top 20. So here it is in no particular order of importance:

1. Quicksilver - Free

Do you ever find yourself searching for an app that you don't always use in the Applications folder for too long? Do you feel like your dock is getting cluttered up with too many apps to find and launch easily? More importantly, do you feel like the unnecessary switching of your hand to the mouse from the keyboard is unproductive? Here's your solution! This is always one of the first apps I install after installing OS X. it lets you launch any application you have installed in just a few keystrokes. It's every Mac user's essential companion.

2. Adium - Free

This is a multi-protocol IM client. It's essentially pidgin with a cocoa frontend. It's the best multi-protocol chat client out there with a sexy look to it. It however does not currently support video chat and some of the other nonsense features that I personally never use just yet. For video conferencing, Skype does the trick for me.

3. Tweetie - Free w/ Ad's

Hands down the best Twitter client I have used. It's nice and compact and built with usability in mind. Tweetdeck is probably the only other app that is better for certain users but I find that Tweetdeck seems to be only optimized when it takes up too much space on your monitor.

4. iStat Menus - Free

Keep track of your CPU and RAM usage at a glance!

5. Cyberduck - Free

GUI Based File Transferring Software. FTP, SFTP, and Many more! I love using the command line personally but there are certain tasks that helps to have a GUI to work with.

6. Parallels + MS Office Professional - $99.99 + $499 / $60~if you have a friend that works at MS.

Let's face it. As much as I love Macs and love Linux, MS has a huge place in the market. That and there are just certain areas that MS still dominates in features and performance. When you are collaborating with and/or supporting MS Windows users, you just need to have Windows and MS Office handy. Rebooting doesn't cut it. Virtualization is your answer.

7. Dropbox - Free for up to 2GB of Storage

Want a seamless way to share files with friends and co-workers? Or even just a way to work on the same files between your computers no matter where you go? Dropbox is the ultimate solution. Best of all, it supports Windows, Linux, and Mac.

8. OmniGraffle - $99.95 (Standard)

An award winning diagraming program. This is my bread and butter. I have to be able to communicate with my clients visually.

9. The Gimp - Free

Can't justify the cost of photoshop because you are not a professional graphic designer? This is the perfect alternative to Photoshop.

10. MS Office for Mac - $399 / $50~if you have a friend that works at MS.

I am old school and like my e-mail, calendaring, and contacts all in one window. I can't wait for Outlook for mac to come out. Until then, Entourage and a set of native office programs are essential to my day-to-day work life.

11. Colloquy - Free

A free IRC program. Believe it or not, IRC still has a lot to offer. This is where I get help and advice when I encounter issues that my IM friends can't fix. ;)

12. Skype - Free (Prepaid Long-Distance and Local Calling to Regular Phones w/ Low Rates)

This is how I keep in contact with my disparate teams around the world at the lowest cost possible.

13. TextWrangler - Free

Whenever I am not using VIM, this is what I use to take a quick look at code, edit config files, or make notes with.

14 Navicat Lite - Free

Need a gui to display your DB queries in an organized manner that supports PostgreSQL, MySQL, and Oracle? This is it!

15. Firefox - Free

I have been a Mozilla fan since the beginning and even though 3.5 has been a little slow, my browser usage habits are so tied to Firefox, I find myself still preferring it over faster alternatives such as Safari and Camino. It just feels natural for me to be using Firefox and I think a lot of my friends that might not have as much of an extensive background with Mozilla would agree with me too.

16. SSHFS - Free

This is a utility that allows you to mount a remote file system via SSH. A must have if you work with Linux servers as much as I do. It's also a secure alternative to windows file sharing.

17. TrueCrypt - Free

This utility allows you to create encrypted images to store files that are confidential.

18. Cocoa Packet Analyzer - Free

An alternative packet sniffer to Wireshark for Mac users. Very useful when you are analyzing a network and its traffic.

19. TunnelBlick - Free

GUI utlity for OpenVPN; one of the best VPN solutions I have ever used.

20. Remote Desktop Connection - Free

Need to remotely login to Windows servers? There's a native app for mac! =)

So there you have it! My 20 "must have" apps. It really was hard to narrow down to 20 because there are a lot of other Mac apps that I love and use all the time. Regardless, I had a lot of fun putting this list together. =) Hope this blog entry was useful to you all and I would love to hear your comments.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Fisher Plaza Fire & Disaster Recovery for Web-Based Companies

An interested article by John Cook (@johnhcook) on his venture blog:

How one CTO avoided a Web site disaster after data center fire

The recent fire at the Fisher plaza has caused quite a bit of pain and agony for the IT folks that work for companies hosting their infrastructure at this colo facility and more importantly cost the companies a lot of revenue from being unexpectedly down for extended periods of time. Perhaps, the CEO of Redfin should be applauded for his support of the extra cost the CTO incurs by having redundancy to be prepared for such an uncommon disaster. Then again, they have been burned before which takes a bit of the impressiveness away but still, at least they learned because some will never learn and it was made apparent by this recent fire at Fisher.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Seattle 2.0 Awards

I should have done this post a long time ago but haven't had time due to the new cross bordering project I have been working on as of late. Anyway, Seattle 2.0 Awards was great! Kudos to @calbucci for putting on such a great event! Congrats to @kabir and his team @ Appature on the "Best Boot-strapped Startup" nomination, John Cook at TechFlash on winning the "Best Blog from/about Startup" award, and a huge round of applause to @picnik and its CEO, Jonathan Sposato (whom I finally got to meet) on sweeping up the floor with awards left and right. It's definitely well deserved!

I was also happy to see the evidence of Cheddrmedia gaining quite a bit of visibility in the startups world with the recent launch of, a site powered by their platform. =D You all should check it out... Too funny...

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Ignite Seattle! 6

At the beginning of last week, I promised my biz dev manager that I would start attending more local startup/tech events so we finalized a list of upcoming events that we thought would be interesting and Ignite Seattle 6 ended up being on it. I have been meaning to check out Ignite for many years so with some background knowledge of what it is all about to begin with, I was pretty psyched to finally attend for the first time. It was hosted @ the King Cat theater this time which is supposedly a much bigger venue than where it was hosted before. The organizers must have been glad because the turnout was great! At first most of the titles of tonight's talks didn't really strike me as anything to write home about but to my pleasant surprise, I was pretty engaged at least 80% if the time. I guess I am still a geek at heart huhn? Anyway, here's a good piece of news for you all that thought you missed out on a once a year event: They are going to start doing these quarterly from now on! So it will be sooner than later before you can experience Ignite Seattle too! ;) I am definitely interested in attending again.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Seattle Social Media Tweetup + Meet Chirstine Lu

This is definitely another testimony to @chrispirillo's ability to rally a great turnout. On Friday night, Chris organized a tweetup at Pyrimid Alehouse in SODO for some social media folks local to Seattle. We all had interesting conversations over great beer and also had the pleasure to meet our special guest, @christinelu, founder of China Business Network who happened to be in town with @cfnoble.

It was refreshing for me to re-emerge into the local community in Seattle after having been in Asia for more than a month. I got to meet a lot of likeminded entrepreneurs who gave amazing insight like @caffeinatedSEO and his business partners.

Now that I am back in Seattle for a little while and all the big projects are pretty much over with, I plan to become more active again; both on and offline. Special thanks to @frenzzy, and Carl [who really needs a twitter account... ;)] for coming along with me. It was great times! =)

Speaking of interesting events, Hong Kong Forum is going to be early December this year. This is going to be the first year I am attending. Even though it's so far away still, I am super excited already!