19 August 2014

Dirty Politics: Who’s been damaged?

Almost a week since Nicky Hager dramatically changed the 2014 election campaign with ‘Dirty Politics’, his book is still making headlines, but it’s not clear where the damage resides. Only time – and opinion polls – will reveal if the tide’s going out on John Key, the National Party and the right. However, there’s still potential for the left to sustain damage, depending on how each side handles the story and what details are revealed.

So far, the National Party are feeling the most heat as journalists pick through the book, revelation by revelation. The pressure could come back on the left if the National Party has been able to convince New Zealanders that the book itself is dirty politics (Steven Joyce’s favourite line) or if the source of the hacked emails is disclosed and – crucially – if links can be drawn to left-wing parties.

Key and the right have primed the public not to believe Hager or the media. For many, Hager is the boy who cried wolf. Except Hager has emails detailing the wolf’s existence and villagers keep begrudgingly coming forward to confirm his sightings.

If you follow the debate on social media, it’s obvious hard-core National supporters are outraged by the hatchet job Hager has done on their man, while for those on the left it has just confirmed the nastiness of the right. Their votes aren’t changing. It’s the votes of the less politically-engaged that will be the difference.

Both National and Labour will be holding their breath until the next round of polls, which will gauge if people are changing their votes and who’s benefitting.

Unfortunately for Labour, unless it can sell itself as a viable Government in the coming weeks – something it hasn’t been able to do in the past three years – the main beneficiaries of votes lost by National are going to be NZ First or the Conservatives. National has taken every opportunity to ram home the message that Labour are an incoherent mess. Disaffected National voters will likely want to shift their votes to other parties with a stronger moral compass to send a message, but not necessarily to the left.

There are interesting times ahead, with many opportunities for missteps as the book unravels the careers of politicians on both sides of the house. The next polls will just show which way the wind is blowing, not the extent of the damage, which by the end of the campaign could be extensive.

20140818-beached whales cartoon - 2

7 August 2014

The perils of rote replies on Twitter

Social media is different to other mediums because it’s social – meaning: spontaneous and personal. Rote replies and automatic tweets break that unwritten rule. The result is tweets that are spammy and insincere.

Take the example below that turned up in my Twitter feed the other day. It’s from back in April, but it’s still hilarious.

Embedded image permalink

To be fair to Telstra, one of Australia’s largest telecommunications companies, they obviously receive thousands of queries and often about the same issues, so a few rote replies are to be expected (my sympathies to the people who have to reply). And to Telstra’s credit, the company does seem to have a sense of humour (including possibly the reply above):

Still, it’s worth noting that the rote replies were picked up on. All that’s needed could be changing a few words to personalise the reply tweet or perhaps offering an explanation as to why all the questions seem to be getting the same answer. A few words could be all that’s needed to make a customer happy.

5 August 2014

Is the London Pass worth it?

Should I buy a London Pass or is it a waste of money? That’s the question many visitors ask.

The London Pass gives you access to some of London’s top paid attractions… for a price. In short: the pass is worth it, but only if you put in the effort to get the most out of it. I bought a six day pass and explored London with a friend. Here’s what we found.

The London Pass is worth it if…

The pass covers attractions you want to do. It’s worth checking out the list on the official website before you buy. Popular sights include the Tower of London, London Zoo and Hampton Court.

The attractions you want to do are pricey. If you do a handful of the expensive sights (such as those above) you’ll quickly make up the cost of the pass.

You want to skip the queue at popular attractions. The pass gives you fast-track entrance at seven attractions. We found this particularly useful at the Tower of London and Westminster Abbey.

You don’t mind mainly doing paid attractions. Getting the most out of the pass requires you to spend most of your time looking at paid sights, which may mean missing out free museums and galleries that interest you.

The London Pass isn’t worth it if…

The attractions you want to do are free. If your burning ambition is only to see the British Museum, National Gallery or any of London’s other free attractions, then you obviously don’t need the pass.

There’s nothing on the pass that interests you. There’s likely to be something due to the diverse range of attractions the pass covers. But if there isn’t anything, why bother?

The benefits the pass gives you are low value. For many of the free galleries and museums the pass will only get you an audio guide (cost: £3). However, because you’ll spend at least half-a-day exploring these sights, you’re wasting time you could have spent at expensive paid attractions. Bottom line: using the pass on low value attractions makes it less likely you’ll cover the cost of the pass.

You don’t want to plan an itinerary. If you want the kind of holiday where you can spend hours relaxing in a cafe and not thinking too hard - as opposed to planning like demon and running around the city and jumping on and off the tube, then the pass probably isn’t for you.

What we did

I bought a six day London Pass for £97.20 (a 10% discount off the usual price of £108.00). We saw enough to cover the cost of the pass on the third day. Here’s what we saw over the six days...

Day 1 Cost
Westminster Abbey
Banqueting House
Queen's Gallery
Jewel Tower
Day 2
Churchill War Rooms
Tower of London
Tower Bridge Exhibition
Day 3
London Zoo
Kensington Palace
Wellington Arch
Day 4
London Bridge Experience
The Monument
Day 5
Hampton Court
Day 6
Windsor Castle

In the end, I saw £188.48’s worth of stuff - a saving of £91.28.

A few things to note:

  • We spent most of the six days doing only London Pass stuff. I’d seen most of London’s free sights before, so I didn’t feel I was missing out. But if it’s your first time to London and/or you have limited time, you may miss out on some great free galleries and museums.
  • Out-of-the-way attractions such as Windsor Castle and Hampton Court take a whole day to travel to and explore. If you’re using a one or three day pass, you might not cover the cost of the pass if you do these sights, as you won’t get to see anything else. If you’re on a short pass (1-3 days), you’ll want to focus on the sights in central London to get the most from the pass.
  • I wrung more value out of the pass by visiting obscure stuff that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise, such as the Jewel Tower and Wellington Arch. These places were curious to visit, but I can’t say they added much to my overall experience of London.
  • My friend only used his pass for five days and didn’t see the ‘extra’ stuff I did and he still saw £152’s worth of attractions.
  • The six day pass makes it easier to cover the cost of the pass - you only have to see £18 worth of attractions a day to break even (roughly 1-2 attractions a day). Whereas the 1 day pass is a more challenging proposition - you’ll be running around London packing in 2-4 sights and there’s more of a chance you won’t cover the cost of the pass. On our busiest day (day 2), we saw £44.90 worth of attractions - still £5 shy of the amount you’d need to break even.
Pass type Cost of pass Amount per day
1 Day Adult Pass
2 Day Adult Pass
3 Day Adult Pass
6 Day Adult Pass
  • We didn’t push ourselves too hard (i.e. we started at 10.30 - 11 am most days) and we could have done more stuff. On two of the days we spent half a day doing non-pass stuff. It’s possible to fit in more attractions, if you’re organised. It also shows that you can fit in free stuff, if you don’t mind sacrificing time you could have spent at paid attractions.
  • I was running out of things to see by the end of the pass. Realistically, there were only 2-3 other attractions left that interested me by the end. As noted earlier, it’s worth looking at what’s covered to make sure you won’t run out of stuff to see if you are using it for three or six days.
  • Notably, St Paul’s Cathedral is no longer on the pass. Other attractions may not be worth your time (e.g. the London Bridge Experience - it wasn’t my cup of tea).

How to get the most out of your London Pass

The longer passes can give more value - The two, three and six day passes present value. You will find the one day pass hard to cover the cost of.

The London Pass + travel option isn’t worth it - You’re better off just getting the pass on its own and picking up an Oyster card and loading a travel card on it for zones 1 and 2. It’ll work out cheaper.

Chunk your sightseeing - free stuff vs paid stuff - For example, if you’ve got a week in London, you could use the pass for three days and spend the other four days doing free stuff.

Plan, plan, plan - It’s the secret to getting the most out of the pass. You’ll need to think about what you want to see and the order in which to see it.

Focus on one area at a time - the London Pass comes with a handy guidebook with a map, which shows you where the pass attractions are located. Travelling long distances between places chews up your time. If you focus on seeing the sites you want to visit in a particular area, that will help you maximise the pass.

Get the pass at a discount - If you visit the London Pass website via the Heathrow Connect page you can get 10% off the price (hint: if you’ve already visited the official pass website and you can’t get the discount, clear your cookies and try again).