Can You Rely Exclusively on Digital Tickets When Travelling?

A photo taken from an aeroplane looking out the window. Clouds can be seen for miles and the front part of an aeroplane engine can be seen in the lower right

Late on Sunday night a few weeks ago I was sat hunched over my computer. My girlfriend and I were going to be flying out the following morning on holiday and that meant that I was knee-deep in the task of printing out the reams of tickets we would need while we were away: flight boarding passes, hotel reservations, train tickets, event bookings etc. The only useful information on them is often just a QR code or a confirmation ID, but I always worry about forgetting important information and so I tend to just send it all to the printer anyway. The whole process takes ages, wastes paper and ink and generally feels unnecessary.

Although I was already most of the way through the printing, I’d been in the same position so many times in the past that I decided that enough was enough and it was time to switch to the alternative: digital tickets. Almost all of the documents that we needed could be downloaded as a PDF, and even those stubborn ones that demanded a printer could be fooled by printing to PDF as well.

I was quite anxious about trying this out; I’ve always relied on having physical tickets so this was an entirely new experience for me. While I kept copies of the most important print-outs, I decided that I was going to see if I could avoid using them for the whole trip and instead rely wholly on the digital copies on my phone.

Fun fact: I wrote most of this blog post on the two flights back home!

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The Power Of Naivety

A red heart shape that has been sewn onto a white piece of fabric

For Valentine’s Day this year, I wanted to go a bit fancier than my usual shop-bought present, deciding instead that I would handmake a cushion and embroider our names on the front. My grandma taught me to sew many years ago and even though I’d not really used those skills much in the intervening time, I figured that it shouldn’t be too difficult.

Oh how naive of me.

If I’m going to be honest, my original plans were probably about as detailed as:

  1. Buy cushion
  2. Embroider names on the front
  3. Success

As you might imagine, this wasn’t really sufficient planning on my part. By the time I was finished, my original plans had ballooned out to a frankly ridiculous number of individual points that I hadn’t even realised would be relevant at the start. As well as that, I began a couple of weeks before Valentine’s Day, worked on it whenever I had any spare time and still only finished it late in the evening the day before. In all, it probably took me about 15-20 hours of work to go from an initial idea to a finished project (what can I say, I’m apparently incredibly slow at sewing).

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Why Should We Care About Accessibility?

Accessibility is such an important topic, but it doesn’t always get as much attention or focus as it should, often because people don’t realise how much of an impact it really has. As such, I wanted to write this post and cover at least a few of the reasons that accessibility is important and why you should care about it.

I originally wrote this with a mind towards the accessibility of digital content (such as documents, websites and software), but hopefully it proves useful to people looking at accessibility in other contexts too.

In no particular order:

Disabilities are more common than you probably realise

According to Jenny Lay-Flurrie (Microsoft’s Chief Accessibility Officer) there are more than 1 billion people worldwide that have some form of disability. 1 billion! That’s more than three times the current population of the entire United States (approximately 328 million at the time of writing). You can’t afford not to care about accessibility; no matter the industry you work in, you almost definitely have customers or users that have some form of disability and you’re doing them a disservice if you don’t take steps to include them.

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Things I’m Going to Change in 2019

On Friday night I went to the pub with some work colleagues and while we were there, I received a few words of wisdom that inspired me to think about 2019 and how I want to approach it. Self-assessment is very important to me and I felt like posting my plans as a blog post would help me come up with something more concrete, keep me accountable and make it easier for me to review my progress at the end of the year.

As such, in 2019 I want to:

Finish the things that I’ve started

As I write this blog post I currently have 19 others sitting as drafts. While the majority of them are still in their early stages, there are more than a few that are very close to being finished. I have a habit of getting excited about a new idea for a post and dropping my current drafts to work on that instead, even though the hours that I spend on a new blog post could easily be used to finish multiple current drafts (the irony of writing a new post to say this is not lost on me). This year, I’m going to try to focus more on actually completing the things that I start. I’ll finish the software that I’ve started writing, publish the blog posts I’ve already got and generally try to start new things only after I’ve finished the old.

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Future Decoded 2018

Matthew Champion standing behind the Microsoft logo at Future Decoded 2018

A couple of weeks ago, I was at the first conference I’ve ever attended: Microsoft’s Future Decoded. Hosted at ExCeL in London, it was a two day event that looked at where technology is heading and how, in some cases, the future is already here.

Topics

Although there were many different official tracks (with names such as “Empower Employees”, “Grow Culture” and “Transform Products”), the overarching theme of the conference seemed to be artificial intelligence (AI), ethics and accessibility. Curiously, although mixed reality was referenced a few times in the keynotes and talks, it didn’t seem to me like it was a major focus for the event which was odd considering the direction that Microsoft are travelling in with their work on the HoloLens (which, as a side note, I finally got to try in person!).

Matthew Champion wearing a HoloLens. He is reaching into the air with his index finger and thumb pinching in the air.
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