Conference Tips: badges that work

How often happens that, talking with a person during a conference, you take a look to her badge to remember or check the name. And, as consequence of Murphy’s law, the badge is flipped on the wrong side, the one without the name.

Two possible solution to solve this situation: print badge both sides with the same information, name of the attendees included. The drawback is the lost of half of the informative space (used generally for sponsors, conference map or agenda etc). Otherwise, simply connect the badge to the lace in two points instead of one, so the badge won’t flip anymore. It may cost a little bit more, but allow space to print information both sides of the badge and makes it rock-solid.

Thanks to Codemotion for this tip, part of the “Conference Tips” series.

The importance of asking to the team why we do what we do

Months ago I’ve asked to my team the reasons they’re doing what they’re doing in our Developer Relations team. We were reorganising a little bit our internal structure, and knowing the true reasons moving each one is a great way to understand if we’re assigning the right projects to the right people, potential career paths and, if the matches are done in the right way, it helps to attenuate stress and make the team empowered and propositive in the daily work.

I planned to frame the conversation during the usual in-person meetings (1:1) we have: it’s not an argument suitable for a discussion around the coffee machine, as it could go very passional and personal (and generally does) so an environment able to provide the right privacy is fundamental. In addition, these may be the kind of discussions requiring a decent amount of time, half an hour at least, so 5 mins break in the middle of other duties is not enough.

In order to avoid the “out of the blue” effect when asking the question, I first sent an email quoting Simon Sinek’s video discussing the importance of the motivations in what we do, an anticipating that I would have been very happy to have such conversation during one of our next 1:1, in order to discover the real team passions and build or refine future activities, even potential 20% projects, on top of that.

Then I prepared myself. For transparency and equality, I needed to be ready to provide my personal reply to the question, my whys, if asked. Maybe not everyone would have been interested (turn out everyone was!), but in this case doesn’t count if you’re the most junior or the most senior team member: it’s all about us as human, so we’re all equal.

Finally, during the first 1:1 available and without incumbent duties coming, so the atmosphere was relaxed, I started to ask. Ask if it was ok to ask such question. Ask if, to make the conversation more comfortable, I should have first started with my motivations. Asked if there were additional questions about the reason I was asking. Once cleared all the doubts (and the email I’ve sent really helped to set the right tone and expectations of the discussion), people started to tell me their whys.

And it was amazing. And I felt privileged to be part of such conversations, to discover so much about my colleagues.

I wouldn’t say something totally unexpected has been surfaced, at the end we know quite well each other and DevRel team is auto-selective enough that you don’t stay if you aren’t highly motivated, with lot of passions well known and shared. Instead, I was surprised by the accuracy of the particulars, all the little things, often very hard to spot, that added together clarify a lot why it’s so obvious that this person is your colleague, the life paths that have brought her in the team, how much diverse and peculiar we are, even if we share lot of common trains.

And that it doesn’t exist (yet) a school or academic curriculum that brings you to a Developer Relations or Community Manager career path.

Highly suggested as team building activity!

More Community Leadership Summit X (CLSx) events in Europe!

The blooming of European CLSx event in 2016 (Milan, Paris , Rome, London, Madrid) has laid the foundations for one of my 2017 bets: help growing this network, organizing more and more Community Leadership Summit X (CLSx) events across Europe and, why not, the rest of the world.

Why this idea?

There are several reasons, and the most important is I’m not alone believing time has come to make it real.

Since October, in fact, Jono, Alessio and I have been discussing about a plan, and one of the first activity we did was validate it, reaching several other community managers spread all over Europe to get their feedback. Well, they all agreed on the genuinity of the vision, offered concrete support for running a CLSx event in their own city and added some important suggestion to the basic format. I’m happy when people feel empowered by an idea and offer their time to contribute!

Another element supporting the plan was the lack of similar european-wide initiatives to share, discuss and peer-learning about community management topics. Of course, we can be wrong here, so please comment with the experience you’ve: we really want to be collaborative, and not competitive, with other groups already acting in this field.

Also my personal passion plays an important role here: half of my soul is deeply committed to the world of communities, so want to jump on this challenge both as an occasion to improve in this field and to give back.

Strengthened by all this backing, we consolidated the idea of having more and more events in Europe about the art of community management, with a special, but not unique, focus on online and offline (face-to-face) tech communities. Have a preferred target is important, but all the other kinds of communities are welcome: non-tech, open-source or co-working oriented, just to mentioning a few. And, of course, the nature of Community Leadership Summit X events will remain the same: very localized, “for people, made by people”. We’re all volunteers and there are no companies or economic interests behind. Passions and self-improvement drive us in pursuing this vision. And the licence frames very well the boundaries.

How do we want to reach this goal

We have a plan in mind, but it’s a draft plan and so we want to iterate on that. Right now is made by three major steps.

As first move, we’re reaching our connections asking if they would like to facilitate the organization of a CLSx event. We’ve already received positive feedback from cities like Amsterdam, Berlin and London, in addition to previous CLSx event locations in Italy (Rome and Milan), France (Paris) and Spain (Madrid). It would be great to have 10 or more CLSx events happening in European cities in 2017.

Secondly, we want to make the organization of a CLSx event as effortless as possible: an event-in-a-box guide to use as template, global sponsorship agreements to cover the very basic expenses like food, site templates, graphical resources to use for printing t-shirts, roll-up, mentorship on what works and what doesn’t  etc, so event organisers can focus on the most important thing: create the local network, invite people, fire-up the discussion, enjoy while doing all of that.

Third, we want to create a “place” where share, discuss and improve our own knowledge on community management topics: a community of community leaders and passionate. In our mind it should be an online community with an initial focus on Europe, with CLSx events as the occasions to strengthen relationships through face-to-face interactions: we’re social beasts, after all.

Forth… well, let’s start from that, and then iterate ;)

 

Do you like the idea? Do you see missing points? Do you want to propose yourself as facilitator for organising an event in your city? Are you already part of a similar movement? Ping us, we’re eager to receive your feedback.

Earn Alitalia Millemiglia miles – Bennet card

Bennet Alitalia Millemiglia(This post is part of the Alitalia Millemiglia travel hacking series)

Among the partners that allow to convert their loyalty points to Alitalia Millemiglia miles, there is Bennet, an Italian hypermarket chain with more that 6o points across northern Italy. It is possible to convert 1 Bennet point to 1 mile, till end of January 2017 (at least).

Taken alone, it already seems an interesting possibility to me, considering  Carta Bennet Club is activated for free and immediately upon requests, and gives 1 Bennet point for each 0.50 euros spent, after the fist 5 euros. Plus, there are several product that grant additional Bennet points.

Paying the bill using a Carta Alitalia Oro adds up more additional miles. For example, let’s consider a total expense cost of 50 euros: Bennet will credit 90 points (50 euros – 5 initial euros) * 2 points each euro, and the Carta Oro will entitle for additional 62 miles, 50 * 1,25 miles multiplier. A grand total of 152 miles, with 50 euros of shopping. Not so bad.

In addition, Bennet customer care told me that in the past they were special days when 1 Bennet points gave 2 or event 3 miles. Fingers crossed for a next occasion, but in the meantime I keep earning points.

Earn Alitalia Millemiglia miles – choose a credit card

(This post is part of the Alitalia Millemiglia travel hacking series)

It’s not a secret one of the first tools in the travel hacker toolbox is a credit card to earn loyalty points for each purchase made with it. Alitalia has a partnership with American Express to exchange Alitalia miles using AMEX Membership Reward Points. But if you’re not an AMEX customer yet, there are three interesting special cards to consider: Carta Alitalia Verde, Carta Alitalia Oro, Carta Alitalia Platino.

The main, common, advantages are earning bonus miles for card activation, plus miles for each purchase made with the card. Amount of the bonus miles and miles multiplier for purchases change with the level of the card. In additions, they offer access to exclusive Alitalia clubs (Ulisse and Freccia Alata), travel assurances, free class upgrades, bonus tickets and more. Conditions and offers change over time, so it’s important to check the current ones.

But I’ve discovered an interesting difference when requiring the card online, compared to requiring it offline at the dedicated American Express booths at airports: offline activation enables a way bigger welcome bonus. In fact, requiring a Carta Alitalia Oro at the airport entitles to 25000 miles bonus, instead of the 3000 miles for online activation: 3000 contextual to card activation (as for online), plus additional 22000 miles if at least 500 euros are spent during the first 3 months after card activation.

There are two drawbacks, compared to the current online offer (valid till Dec 18th 2016): 60 euros for the card first year fee, while online activation has 0 euros fee for the first year, and no 100 euros Amazon gift card, offered with online activation.

All considered, I’ve decided to activate a Carta Alitalia Oro at the airport (Milano Linate, in my case), spending 60 euros to receive those 25000 miles, rather than activating the card online spending 0 euros and receiving a 100 euros Amazon gift card. It seems a loss, but earning these additional 22000 miles would have been more difficult, and expensive, than that. And with 25000 miles is already possible to request a return ticket for a lot of European destinations.

To summarize, thanks the card I’ve now: 3000 welcome bonus miles, potential additional 22000 miles if I spent 500 euros during the next 3 months (easy, with my current expenses), free travel assurance, a companion ticket if I spend 15000 euros within the year (but this is too much for me), 3x qualifying miles for Exclusive Clubs access, direct access to Alitalia Club Ulisse, that enables 25% extra miles earning on flights booking, priority boarding, extra baggage free of charge, 2 Economic to Business class updates for European and Mediterranean, paid access to SkyTeam lounges and more, extended to all Skyteam partners. Card is connected to my bank account, no need to open a new one.

TripIt, Worldmate, Tripcase, Kayak Trips: my review of travel planner apps

I travel quite a lot, so having a service to track all my reservations, flights, hotels etc is very important for me. Luckly, there are several “travel companion” apps, so I’ve taken a look to some of them. I don’t consider myself a uber-user (yet), so this post tries to review them thru the lens of the features I consider useful for me now:

  • Must-have: the mobile app works offline
  • Must-have: import travel plans painlessly, just forwarding the confirmation email I receive
  • Must-have: generate a calendar feed that could be integrated in my Google Calendar
  • Must-have: edit, delete and add trip segments, even offline
  • Important: a great UX for the basic and most recurrent tasks, a pleasant UI in general
  • Nice-to-have: receive no my mobile device updates on flights gates, delays, luggage exitsm, etc
  • Nice-to-have: sharing travel plans with others not subscribed to the service

TL;DR: After a while with TripIt, I’m now using Kayak Trips, and I’m happy with it.

TripitTripIt

TripIt is an historical player in this field, I’ve used it for a couple of years, but I left the service after several failed imports of travel plans (Trenitalia, Easyjet) and wrong timezones for the imported ones. Recently the mobile app has been revamped, but the issues with importing data persists and the majority of the webapp has the same very old UI. On the other side, thanks to the Pro account, I’ve received punctual notification on flight schedules changes, gates etc even before the displays at the airport showed them, and I’m part of a team with all of my colleagues, so we’re alerted each other if we’re nearby and I can check their travel calendar. Full list of features can be found here.

WorldmateWorldmate

Worldmate was one of the first alternatives I tested. It has rarely failed to import my emails and it was the only service able to parse coach and seat number of train reservations. It met all my requirements in the free version, except the calendar option, available only for premium accounts. It also offers a connection feature with LinkedIn, alerting when crossing paths with your contacts. I was not impressed by the web and mobile UI and it’s impossible to split / merge trips. Another cool feature offered is an API for parsing travel itinerary information from confirmation emails. They were acquired by Carlson Wagonlit family in 2012 and full features list is here.

TripcaseTripcase

Tripcase uses Worldmate API to parse travel itinerary, but from tests I’ve done sending the same confirmation emails to both services, Tripcase adds less detail to the final trip itineraries: for example, train coach and seat are missing. I don’t know if the API returns less info or Tripcase discards some of them. From a UX / UI point of view, it is much better that Worldmate. The only issues I’ve found so far is the creation of separate trips for confirmation emails that refers to same dates and destinations, for example a flight and an hotel, even if a specific option should prevent that. They could be merged later on web app, but it’s annoying. Calendar appointments are created, but only for the trip elements, while I generally prefer to also have an all-day event for the whole length of the trip. One cool feature app offers is reminders for missing hotel reservations in the itinerary, while full list is here.

Kayak TripsKayak Trips

Kayak Trips: Kayak has always succeeded to import confirmation emails for hotel, flights or train I’ve booked in Europe and USA, and it mets all my requirements with satisfaction. Another unique factor to consider is the Kayak business model: Kayak is a travel search company and the app is a commodity to drive more bookings, so there is no premium version and the app could be maintained even if it’s not profitable by itself. Flip side is the total lack of integration with the additional travel services the other reviews apps offer, like LoungeBuddy, Mozio and many more.

Google TripsGoogle Trips

Google Trips: latest comer to the party, the UX/UI of the app is great, everything is create automagically from inbox emails and there is a strong support for offline features, well integrated with other Google properties. Unfortunately, a Gmail account is required and there is no way to manually add/modify a segment of a trip, or choose a different splitting for them.

 

Disclaimer: there are lot of more features these apps have (booking hotels / flights / cars, integration with third party services, tracking of loyalty program points and much more), and the presence or lack of some of them could greatly influence personal choices.

More Telegram bot features using IFTTT

Telegram bot with IFTTT recipesNow that I created a Telegram bot fed by IFTTT, I can add new features using the available channels. A message with the Milan weather condition every morning, for example, or a cool 500px picture during the day to take a break and enjoy the beauty? Possibilities are limited only by IFTTT skills.

The logic is easy: every recipe has a different trigger (the “this” past), and the action is always the same: use the Maker channel to send a POST HTTP call to the Telegram bot, formatting the message with the specific information I want to display. To create the Telegram bot, please look to my previous post.

Weather

Telegram bot weather

The trigger to activate in the Weather channel is “Today’s weather report”, setting the time of the day the report has to be sent. I set 7.00 am because I prepare last minute, but it’s also possible to select “Tomorrow’s weather report” and receive the message the evening for the ones that want to plan what to dress the next day in advance. There are plenty of other information available in the triggers, like sunrise and sunset time, change of conditions / temperature and much more. The city is selected when the channel in connected with the IFTTT account.

The action is the “Make a web request” is the Maker channel, using the following parameters (XXtokenXX and the chat_id have to be changed with the appropriate values):

  • URL: https://api.telegram.org/botXXtokenXX/sendMessage
  • Method: POST
  • Content type: application/json
  • Body: {“chat_id”:”-235327410″, “text”:”Good morning. In Milan {{TodaysCondition}}, max {{HighTempCelsius}} min {{LowTempCelsius}}”}

Cool 500px pictures

Telegram bot with picture

The trigger to activate in the 500px channel is “New Editors’ Choice photo”, selecting one of the available categories, or any.

The action is the “Make a web request” is the Maker channel, using the following parameters:

  • URL: https://api.telegram.org/botXXtokenXX/sendMessage
  • Method: POST
  • Content type: application/json
  • Body: {“chat_id”:”-235327410″, “text”:”Breath and enjoy the beauty: [<<<{{Title}}>>>]({{SourceUrl}})”, “parse_mode”:”markdown”, “disable_web_page_preview”: “false”}

In order to have a preview of the image embedded in the bot message, I used parse_mode set to markdown and i set disable_web_page_preview to false, even if it’s the default setting. Of course the text value is written using Markdown syntax. For more information on the available parameters, the official doc is a good reference. Again, XXtokenXX and the chat_id have to be changed with the appropriate values.