:::renaissance chambara:::

Posts on quality, life, culture, the media, news & tech with a twist & a slice of Limey. I moved my blog to http://renaissancehambara.jp in December 2006, go there for the latest content.

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

 
Right to Bear Arms

Be very afraid link to the Something Awful forum where Roland Tower has made a flame thrower from everyday parts available from a B&Q. The only thing stopping being as good as military one is that it uses too light a fuel and does not have a heavier sticky base (though a quick trip to the kitchen or returning to B&Q would do the trick).

About five minutes thinking about alternative materials and you have a dummy's guide to hardcore weaponry.

Create Social Bookmark Links
 
The Shiznitz on Social Networking

Fantastic overview on the overhyped technology trend of the moment social networking. Don't get me wrong I am a member of some of them, its just that the net is not paved with gold and there are only a finite number of opportunities. By the time you get around to organise a high-level conference about them or Wired do an eight-page spread to explore the issues it's over.

Ged Carroll's guide to the new-new thing:

Info-imaging: digital is the new film, but there still hasn't been a truly easy way to manipulate and store pictures online that is as easy as a photo album, why? Also people like Fuji, Kodak etc are used to having continuing revenue from film sales, how do they adapt for the 21st century when the market for cameras that are good enough for you and I saturates in the next few years, whats the sticky app. How can business take advantage of this technological change in a risk-free, cost effective manner and still take home the benjamins

Communities for broadband: Question why was AOL so successful? Not because of its content, nor its direct marketing technique learned from the Luftwaffe. It was two things ease-of-use and communities. With broadband network providers are obsessing about content, in reality they don't have too much of a clue they are using a fast failure model to try and find out what works. I know because I promoted a survey done at the end of 2000 by Capgemini with Ernst & Young that reached out to about 100 CEOs in telecoms and media. The survey concluded that everyone knew that broadband was needed but not the why. If we look at what has driven net adoption so far is communication and being a part of a community. Email was the killer app. The question to be answered is how can a community be enhanced and made more engaging to sell broadband services and differentate the next AOL from just another pipe-merchant. VoIP won't do it because its a commodity product and need to be 'open' in order to allow it to become useful through gaining ubiquity.

I'll leave it to David Hornik to put the hype in prospective with a summary of a Churchill Club event Social Networking Who Cares?

"Welcome blah blah blah relationship capital blah blah blah social contracts blah blah blah media businesses blah blah blah identify the rabid fans of the iPod blah blah blah utility media blah blah blah this is the future of the web blah blah blah RSS blah blah blah Spam blah blah blah killer app blah blah blah social networking is blogging dumbed down for the masses blah blah blah tribecaster blah blah blah widget blah blah blah what is the connection between social networks and blogs blah blah blah the most efficient media platform ever blah blah blah read-write, not read-only blah blah blah all software is about people blah blah blah put this stuff in context blah blah blah monetizing relationships blah blah blah a new dimension to the web blah blah blah I met my wife on Match.com blah blah blah wiki-based community blah blah blah collective action, common good ... blah blah blah I've been monetizing my social relationships since my bar mitzvah blah blah blah blah blah it's group voice blah blah blah social context blah blah blah the entire web is a social network blah blah blah join me in thanking tonight's moderators blah blah blah goodnight."



Create Social Bookmark Links

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

 
V to the A

On Saturday, I continued my sporadic tour of London's cultural highpoints: Fabric, Smith of Smithfields, The End, Flying Records, Phonica, The Science Museum and now the Victoria & Albert Museum.

The museum is very disorientating despite the map that they provide you with on the way in. In fact the map was an offence against design to my co-explorer Steve, a design agency owner who came along. The exhibits on Japan were very interesting and made Europe look like a bunch of savages. The Victorian silverware looked crass and tasteless, the plunder of robber barons from an empire that spanned a third of the world (sort of like Kenneth Noye on a grand scale).

There were lots of activity areas and it should get a high rating for being child friendly. It was way cool and both Steve and myself took some time out for learning activities. The café wasn't as swish as I had thought that it would be, however it is still very good. My expectations had been distorted by the 'V&A café with museum attached' descriptions of it in the media. (Their 1 1/2 cup pot of coffee is actually good for two cups).

In addition, they had The Other Flower Show art exhibition and Tracy Emin's work in particular had a very dark sense of humour in it with a ouija board and knife in the centre of a children's wendy house.

One of the things I found out was that it was Architecture Week, judging by their materials and handouts both RIBA and the Arts Council had invested heavily in it. However beyond mentions in the design press about activity in Clerkenwell to celebrate the event we had not seen any press coverage. If you were involved in Architecture Week and want to get more publicity give me a call :-))

The V&A area suffered from a dearth of fast food suppliers so Steve and myself had to decamp by foot to Leicester Square in order to support a heinous global corporation that tears down the rainforest and provides gainful employment to sociology graduates in the fast-food industry.

Create Social Bookmark Links
 
Viral Craic-er

Southwark Council reinvents Frogger with an anti-drug abuse message here courtesy of my colleague Lucy

Monday, June 28, 2004

 
Gates Courts Blogger

Bill Gates wrote to me regarding the latest thinking by Microsoft (ok so its a Microsoft marketing ploy to make me think that Chairman Bill cares even for heretics like me) and some of their partners to curb spam. The mail is interesting, however I have a few concerns:
- the industry initative lacked networking manufacturers like Nokia, Juniper or Extreme Networks
- no computing powerhouses like Sun Microsystems, Oracle, IBM, Apple
- there was no reference to non-windows PC users (Mac, Unix, Linux, Symbian smartphones, PalmOS etc)
- there is no independent experts on the panel like Phil Zimmerman


From: billgates at chairman.microsoft.com
Subject: Preserving and Enhancing the Benefits of Email - A Progress Report
Date: 28 June 2004 21:47:34 BST
To: gedcarroll at mac.com


During the past year, Microsoft has taken a number of important steps to help curb the epidemic of junk email, which is a major headache for computer users worldwide. We've made significant progress, including blocking more than 95 per cent of all incoming junk email - an average of 3 billion messages a day - on Hotmail. But more work remains to be done. We're committed to finding additional ways to counter this costly nuisance.

Over the next 12 months, we will begin to introduce several additional innovative technologies and processes that should further reduce the volume of junk email reaching customers' inboxes. Because you've subscribed to receive executive emails from us, I'd like to update you on what we're doing in this area. On the Web at www.microsoft.com/execmail, I've posted an in-depth explanation of Microsoft's technology vision and strategy for ending the junk email epidemic as a major problem. I hope you'll take a few minutes to read it.

Thank you.

Bill Gates

 
Apple Puts a Tiger In Its Tank

Steve Jobs live keynote presentation at Apple WWDC laid out by MacObserver here.

For those of you too young to remember the put a tiger in your tank reference try here and here. My old man used to have an Esso tiger soft toy (which were common in the 1960's and had it attached to the parcel shelf having wired its eyes with christmas light bulbs connected up to the brake lights and indicators on his Ford Anglia in order to get them to light up). In these days before fire retardant fabrics and safety standards on toys it remains a miracle to me that he did not die from the smoke of an electrically ignited faux tiger fire.

 
Wise Words For PROs

I have abridged Lord Chadlington's recent speech (June 15, 2004) to the Guild of Public Relations Practioners. In his speech Chadlington outlined the following rules:

- Everything is possible. Everything good and everything bad!
Most things are uncontrollable – particularly in our business. Events will always upset the best - laid plans. In that context, rule one, is to be positive. That does not mean you have to be a joke-cracking comic when the world is collapsing around you. Nor do you have to be Polyanna! It means that you must face bad news, full frontal: face reality as it is. Do not hide. The solution to problems is not pretending they are not there. The answer often lies in the analysis of the problem itself. Dissect it. Do not shy away. Be positive. Above all else, be positive by grasping and taking responsibility. Do not allow yourself to be sidelined. Make yourself and your skills the driver that makes things happen by being accountable and responsible

- Never give up.
Ours is a very difficult profession. We tend to be – despite the public image – remarkably sensitive, creative people. And were it not so – then we would be no good at our jobs! The result is that we are more hurt by the unpredictability of events, by the buffeting of clients and journalists, than we care to admit. Being resilient, robust, bouncing back – these are all the essentials of success

- Read. Yes read – and I do not mean the papers! For an industry that wishes to be regarded with esteem, our practitioners often seem very ill informed. If we aspire to be more than what we are, then we must stay ahead of what is going on in the world, in industry, in the arts, in politics, in literature. An evening reading Trollope is certainly a more constructive way of advancing your understanding of human nature than almost anything else

- Think. Reading and thinking go together. I have never met a PR professional who thinks too much! Learning to think is the most difficult part of education. Clients do not want the same solutions you gave to the last client – except the name has been changed. They want you to solve their particular problems. Think. Close the door for a few hours and think. Blackberries, emails, mobile phones and the like are the enemies of this process. What did Russell say? “ When all others options have failed, man is thrown back to the painful necessity of thought”

- Be much more questioning.Very often we are so keen to hear the good news: so encouraged that our client has good financial results to put out: so delighted by the client relationship we are developing – that we just do not want to upset the apple cart. Interrogate the clients. Argue with them. Make sure that they are running businesses in a way that enhance your reputations as advocates. What is the Washington quote? “Associate yourself with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation, for ‘tis better to be alone than in bad company”.

- Never mix business and pleasure. It is much more difficult to be objective, ask difficult questions, be independent, if your clients step over that line into friendship. Neither can you judge the performance of a colleague if that line between civility and friendship is crossed – and it is even more difficult if your families know each other socially as well! I agree with most of the rules, his never do business with friends statement I think needs to be more flexible, some of my best friends are former colleagues and they are the kind of people that I would trust with my PR programme. I would modify it to be cognisant of the effect your friendship may have on business and be professional about it.

- Pay well. Get the best people on board. Have clients pay well too. If your clients pay you top dollar then you can give them the best people you have and you have the time to think about their problems. The best work I have ever done is where the client has been generous in his fees. I have made money and the client has either saved it – or made it – many times over!

- Honesty is vital. Not just about the big things but the little things too. Best practice is so important. Every tiny deviation from being whiter than white undermines your credibility - not because you are found out - but because you are more likely to bend the rules next time

- Always manage expectations. Exceeding expectations by the tiniest margin is viewed as a great success. Failing by the tiniest smidgeon is always – what it is – failure! What is Maurice Saatchi’s famous equation? Satisfaction = performance – expectation.

- It is the small things that matter: the research you do for a meeting, the care you take, even the way you dress – all these things build up a cumulative effect and determine how your client or your boss view your performance.

I would add the following:

- Banish the word never, absolute blinkered thinking doesn't have any place in PR. Keep things in prospective
- Contingency plan - at least think about what ifs and try to reduce risk of catastrophic failure
- Never leave home without business cards, every social or business meeting is a prospect
- Make like a union - get organised. Most people have a circle of contacts including work of about 150 people. With PR its is much wider (I'm up to 3,500+), together with juggling diaries, keeping track of prospects, doing client work and managing a multi-client work balance thing. My mentor Kirsty swore by lists and Excel spreadsheet workplans. I am a great believer in the Palm PDA, iCalender, iSync, critical path analysis and the use of project managment software (I recommend Intellisync Project Desktop). Archive business cards as they are a great visual cue to jog the memory even when you have gone electronic
- If you have more bad days than good days in a three month period, fix the situation, if you can't change the people around you, change the people around you by resigning and go to a better role

Sunday, June 27, 2004

 
Don't Call Us We'll Call You

New regulations come into effect on the 25th June 2004 in the UK that will allow businesses to opt out of receiving unsolicited sales calls by registering with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS).

- Registration takes 28 days to take effect. From the 25th June it will be an offence to make an unsolicited cold call to any number on the TPS list.

- In the case of sub-contracted cold calling, the legal liability for ensuring no calls are made to numbers listed lies with the Client.

- Another legal requirement under the legislation is that all businesses must hold a "do not call" list of telephone numbers of people who have contacted you directly and asked that you do not cold call them, even though they may not have registered with the TPS. They are legally required to hold this list and we will need a copy of this "do not call" list.

- At present, approximately 20 per cent of the companies called do not put sales calls through, either blocking calls or routing to voicemail.

- DMA press release (Word document)
- TPS website

Saturday, June 26, 2004

 
Lollabamboozled

US music festival Lollapalooza has a similar standing in the UK to Glastonbury or the Mean Fiddler events. It is best known to UK audiences for appearing in at least one Simpsons episode (where Cypress Hill jam with a symphony orchestra). Due the reaganomic policies of the Bush administration it will not be going ahead this year.

The organisers wrote on their website "A MESSAGE FROM PERRY
To all my Fellow Artisans, Activists, and Feverish Supporters,

It is with heart gripped despair that I inform you of Lollapalooza's disbandment for the summer of 2004. To say that you terribly miss something that never was born is somewhat odd, yet in this case, it is quite accurate.

I hope you can accept my apologies for not providing you with the summer that you had your hearts set on. I tried very hard to keep us on course; heading straight into the most ferocious musical storm in history. We were not able to continue; we were taking on huge financial losses.

And still, I want you to know that I fought for our lives into the final hour.

Please know that I value your talents and look forward to meeting you again - a little later on to re-discover ourselves as friends. If it makes you feel any better, I am in the same boat as most of you; "Only loaded with talent." But with talent like ours, they can't hold us down for long.

Upon reflection, I conclude there is a story here. It is the story of a musical community under the influence. No, silly, it's not drugs. This is an influence far more damaging and threatening, as in: "They are threatening to sue us for damages." My prayer is that we live to fight another day and walk together at the victory parade.

We hoped for comfort but we've never felt too safe. And in these hard times, we've had to navigate through. Unexhausted; is our virtue,

Peretz

PS. I am still looking for a shining moment or two for us this summer. I hope you will receive me when I call.


LOLLAPALOOZA, 2004 CANCELS ALL DATES

"You can imagine the dismay I share at this moment with the artists and musicians who were looking forward to the tour. Lollapalooza could no longer see fit to continue this year. Our plight is a true indication of the general health of the touring industry and it is across musical genres. Unexhausted is our virtue. We are taking Lollapalooza back and plan on rebuilding and recreating the festival in surroundings more conducive to the cultural experience we've become known for."
- Perry Farrell"

Friday, June 25, 2004

 
Moore Film Dials 911

A posting on Interesting-People.org. US adverts for Moore's movie Fahrenheit 9/11 could be stopped from July 30 if the Federal Election Commission (FEC) accepts the legal advice of its lawyers.

At the same time, a Republican-allied 527 soft-money group is preparing to file a complaint against Moores film with the FEC for violating campaign-finance law.

The FEC's have been advised that political documentary filmmakers may not air television or radio ads referring to federal candidates within 30 days of a primary election or 60 days of a general election.

The opinion is generated under the new McCain-Feingold campaign-finance law, which prohibits corporate-funded ads that identify a federal candidate before a primary or general election.

This could also affect promotion of a number of other upcoming political documentaries and films, such as Uncovered: The Whole Truth About the Iraq War, which opens in August, The Corporation, about democratic institutions being subsumed by the corporate agenda, or
Silver City, a recently finished film by John Sayles that criticizes the Bush administration, The Hunting of the President, which investigates whether Bill Clinton was the victim of a vast conspiracy, could be subject to regulations if it mentions Bush or members of Congress in its ads.

Since the FEC considers the Republican presidential convention scheduled to begin Aug. 30 a national political primary in which Bush is a candidate, Moore and other politically oriented filmmakers could not air any ad mentioning Bush after July 30.


 
Big Issue Orbital Obituary

I picked up the latest issue of the Big Issue and they have an interview with Orbital on their last ever album and gig. Its funny, its amusing, its also the passing of an era. However, the brothers have indicated that they will be working on different projects in the future.

There is also a review of The Return , which I saw last night courtesy of a free ticket from the nice people at Popbitch good rite-of-passage movie for the art house brigade.

And finally, a rare interview with Joel Coen of the Coen Brothers film making dynasty about The Ladykillers.

Njoi! :-)

Thursday, June 24, 2004

 
Tech Sector Not Coming Out To Play

We now have a generation who are happy to type their own business letters, manage their own diary, develop their own scenario planning and accept IT as an essential part of a business as electricity, heating and stationery.

IT no longer matters, its a utility.

Value isn't being driven into the business by automation and business process engineering like 20 years previously, projects are still failing 70 per cent of the time and for most companies IT is not providing a competitive edge vis-a-vis their competitors. So companies are looking to cut their bills in line with standard procurement procedures:
- buy only what you need
- at the cheapest price (there are many ways to define this such as total cost of ownership)
- get it done overseas if its cheaper

Because of this enterprise IT companies are struggling to achieve high organic growth figures and they're rejecting the old ways of doing things. One of the old ways to bite the dust is the Comdex 'Fall' exhibition in Las Vegas. For a week Vegas became the IT mecca.

Expect a downturn in the sectors involved in trade show give-aways such as mousemats,
t-shirt printing and coffee mugs.

 
Glass Shards

I was loaned a DVD copy of Shattered Glass by my workmate Jonny last week. This film tells the story of Stephen Glass a disgraced journalist who wrote at the New Republic magazine. Glass managed to have over two dozen made up or badly researched articles appear in one of America's most reputable magazines despite a rigorous editorial policy.

The story got me thinking about how dishonesty would play out in blogging, given its rise as a grass roots way to publication.

I posted on this at AlwaysOn (registration required). As an aside the increasing power of blogs as a media has been recognised in political circles with bloggers been given press credentials for the forthcoming Democrat Party Convention, more details here.

Oh yeah, the film is good and features Chloe Sevigny who had previous appeared in the uber-preppie American Psycho.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

 
More Meet For the Social Networking Grinder

I received an email today from the development director of a new social and business networking site called Co-unite based in Altrincham, a town in the Cheshire 'stockbroker' belt between Chester and Stockport. They had apparently culled my name from existing sites that I has subscribed to.

In the mail I was offered "We will provide you with a free 12-month subscription and would just ask for you to visit the site on a regular basis after the launch, invite some of your business or social contacts along and provide us with some monthly feedback on the site performance. We can ensure you that you will be impressed with the features and functionality, and will greatly benefit from this membership."

Little bit perturbed by the free 12-month subscription statement that implies it may get expensive afterwards unlike LinkedIn, Orkut or AlwaysOn Ziabatsu.

Some of their own words about Co-unite "This exciting new site takes a global approach to networking using a complex contact management application that identifies your connection to other Networkers. We believe it will be the most comprehensive networking site ever launched with the industry's most advanced communication tools including Voice over IP." So the project is buzzword compliant for any vulture capitalist with some pennies burning a hole in their pocket.

The sites launch follows the demise of some of the UK's first generation of networking sites: BuddyNetwork and Pollen, so we'll see how they go.

 
Police Not Relying On British Summer To Deter Ravers

An old clubbing pal of mine from Birkenhead Si forwarded on this interesting article in the Western Morning News. According to the article police are preparing to use the wide ranging powers of the Anti Social Behaviour Act 2003 to clamp down on unauthorised open-air gatherings, in conjunction with provisions already made by sections 63 - 67 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. With its definition of music as an emission of a succession of repetitive beats, thus allowing unscheduled opera performances but not young peoples music.

While I can understand people's concerns over noise I am more concerned about the right to associate, freedom of expression (by speech, music or visual media) and the two standards allowed in the law making 'ravers' second-class citizens.

And politicians wonder why so many voters are apathetic?

May it have something to do with:

- the persistent erosion of voters rights?
- a lack of clear differentiation between many of the social policies of both major political parties?
- legislation that no longer represents the social mores of much of the electorate?
- a collectively small amount of life experience amongst professional politicians, the significant majority of which are trained lawyers?
- a cynical political process that means that politicians go after softer targets rather than dealing with the big policing issues in the UK, such as organised crime, rise in violent crime, white collar and corporate crime?

Si also generously included a link to lots of information on free parties here, just remember its free as in speech; the parties do cost money to put on.

RAVE ON!

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

 
Counterculture Boutique

I've had a number of links sent to me that were too good not to share with you all. A veritable boutique of counterculture:

- Donkey Bong
JoeCartoon clogged up many networks in the late 90's with his un-PC and puerile flash animations, creating characters like the Cheech & Chong 'Stoned Fly' and Gerbill. The most memorable animations like the frog in the blender and gerbil in the microwave allowed office workers to unleash the passive sadism that lies beneath us all and put the phrase Who's ya Daddy? into popular English usage. His work has defined what a viral campaign is. He is back with another dollop of surreal weirdness and ultraviolence. More on it here.

- Graff Jewelry
No not Graff - the most fabulous jewels in the world, but graffiti enabled by the reverse setting on a diamond ring by Tobias Wong. Get caught making use of your ring to make your mark on the world by tagging car and train windows, luscious pearlescent paint work on a TVR or your boss' computer screen. You can see Tobias' diamond project here.

- American Public Money Spent on Vanity Corporate Film On Adult Entertainment industry
OK, we are currently pitching for a UK-based adult entertainment orientated television channel and web site, this this website designed to complement a PBS Frontline documentary on the adult entertainment industry was useful for research into the business . Seriously though, looking at this, there are some scary people out there, interesting facts - a starlet in the industry has an average career lifespan of just 12 months. Sombre, disturbing and yet compelling reading here. Glamourous like Boogie Nights it ain't.

- Jump Up & Get Down Massive Scene!
Email text from Supercharged Records: "Click on the link below to hear an exclusive preview of all the tracks from the forthcoming Freestylers 'Raw As F**k' album!

Turn audio off on the front page and click on 'album info' and then 'preview album'

http://www.thefreestylers.com/


We would also like to take this opportunity to say thank you to all of you how have purchased Push Up. Thank you!

The album is out in the UK on the 5th July, contact you local record store to pre-order a copy!"

Monday, June 21, 2004

 
Hudson Institute Economic Update

This was originally posted to the email list for interesting-people.org.

IRWIN M. STELZER 21 June 2004


When markets talk, politicians would do well to listen. The oil markets are doing more than mere talking -- they are shouting for the attention of policymakers who seem determined not to listen.

First, we have the recent run-up in crude oil prices, which fluctuate around $40 per barrel. That rise was in part due to the fabulous growth of the U.S. and Chinese economies, which sent demand for oil soaring. But a further driver is OPEC's manipulation of the market, creating a situation in which rising demand cannot elicit the increased supplies that would flow in a competitive market.

Lesson number one for policymakers: it is no longer prudent to ignore the OPEC cartel, or to rely on it for mercy. Trust busters have had time to worry about less important price conspiracies -- the commissions charged for selling old master paintings is less likely to affect the economy than is a conspiracy to fix oil prices -- but have shied away from attacking the OPEC cartel. Now would seem to be the time for the voice of the Antitrust Division to be heard above that of the State Department, ever-eager to avoid a diplomatic row with the house of Saud.

The markets are also saying something about the state of the gasoline market. The margin between crude oil prices and gasoline prices has doubled in the United States, driving refining profits up several hundred percent. Yet, refining capacity has not increased. Oil industry executives with whom I have spoken say that environmental and other permitting restrictions make it virtually impossible to build new refineries. Lesson number two for policymakers: restrictions that were appropriate when crude oil was selling for $10 per barrel and gasoline for $1 per gallon are not economically sensible at current price levels. Revise them to allow more refineries to be built.

These are important messages from the market. But not as important as the persistence of the so-called risk premium of between $5 and $10 per barrel that seems to be built into crude oil prices. Part of that premium is a response to the continued disruption of supplies from important producers. Terrorists in Iraq periodically sabotage that nation's pipelines. Unrest and violence in Nigeria, Africa's largest producer, make that country an unreliable source of oil. Islamic terrorism casts doubt about the reliability of supplies from Kazakhstan.

Add self-inflicted wounds by important producers. Russia, which rivals Saudi Arabia as the world's largest producer, Vladimir Putin and his old KGB buddies have frightened foreign investors by jailing the country's richest oil baron, Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Venezuela's Castro-loving president, Hugo Chávez, has replaced the nation's skilled oil industry managers with political appointees, causing a loss of 500,000 barrels per day of production from that important supplier of the low-sulfur oil most suitable for use in U.S. refineries. Iran's mullahs have stifled the foreign investment that Iran's oil industry so desperately needs.

But even these multiple threats to a steady flow of oil pale by comparison with developments in Saudi Arabia. The Kingdom sits on 25% of the world's known reserves, but that figure understates its importance. The Saudis can tap their reserves for over 80 years without slowing output. And it is well known that the Saudis haven't really attempted to explore for new reservoirs because they already know precisely where some 260 billion barrels are located. "You don't plant potatoes when you have a cellar full of spuds," a grizzled denizen of America's "oil patch" once told me. Not only are the Saudis sitting on the largest known reserves, and on the cheapest, most easily discovered as-yet "unknown reserves," they are also the only country in a position to increase production quickly should some other supplier be knocked out of action.

But Saudi Arabia is no longer the stable rock in a turbulent Middle East sea. The terrorists funded by the Saudis have turned on their benefactors, and are killing foreigners to cause a flight of oil-industry and other trained personnel. They are winning because they seem immune to capture, because many top Saudis insist that it is the Zionists, rather than Al Qaeda, that are causing the mayhem, and because hundreds of thousands of unemployed youths see no future for them so long as the royal family siphons off the nation's wealth to support its opulent lifestyle.

Whatever the reason, it is far from certain that the corrupt geriatrics who run the country will be able to head off the threat to the Saudi industry's ability to produce a steady flow of oil. True, the production facilities are well protected, but by troops of uncertain loyalty. And pipelines are difficult to protect, as are port facilities.

Final lesson for policymakers: prepare for the day when bin Laden and associates are in a position to topple the Saudi regime and withhold supplies of oil, causing a major economic trauma in industrialized countries and a humanitarian catastrophe in the undeveloped world. That means continuing to build strategic reserves, but much more. Alternative sources of energy for transportation uses cannot be available in the relevant time frame, if ever; places such as Alaska take a long while to develop, and anyhow don't have enough oil to matter; renewables such as solar and wind power are not replacements for gasoline; conservation can be useful when prices rise gradually, giving consumers time to adjust to higher prices, but not when there is a price explosion.

I was asked many years ago at a gathering of government and industry experts to lay out an energy policy for America, to cope with a supply interruption. Two words: "aircraft carriers." That remains true today. Iraq is not a war for oil. The next U.S. intervention in the Middle East may well be.


A version of this Update appeared in The Sunday Times (London)

Irwin Stelzer is a Senior Fellow and Director of Economic Policy Studies for Hudson Institute. He is also the U.S. economist and political columnist for The Sunday Times (London) and The Courier Mail (Australia), a columnist for The New York Post, and an honorary fellow of the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies for Wolfson College at Oxford University. He is the founder and former president of National Economic Research Associates and a consultant to several U.S. and United Kingdom industries on a variety of commercial and policy issues. He has a doctorate in economics from Cornell University and has taught at institutions such as Cornell, the University of Connecticut, New York University, and Nuffield College, Oxford.

 
George W Bush Election Campaign Site

Not....

 
Unskilled and Unaware of It?

Bob Cringely's column for PBS.org, the online version of America's undervalued public broadcasting service usually provides an unusually clear window into tech industry issues that affect us all.

This week Cringely is talking about a court case between Microsoft and Burst Networks about alleged sharp practice and intellectual property theft by Microsoft (glass houses and stones seem to spring to mind).

What was of more interest however was a link to an American Psychological Association publication: Journal of Personality and Social Psychology - Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One's Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments by Justin Kruger and David Dunning Department of Psychology at Cornell University

For some strange reason reminded me of someone I knew and worked alongside, that had previously worked at Brodeur A Plus and in house at Cisco Systems, Inc.. ;-)


Sunday, June 20, 2004

 
Oh Sh!t

Interesting article from last Friday's Reuters tells itself as a story really. This combined with a squeeze in the oil market is not good.

 
Soccer Free Drink

In an unashamed cash-in on the Euro 2004 frenzy currently overtaking Ing-er-land, the Prince of Wales pub on the corner of Great Queen Street and Drury Lane WC2 is publicising itself as being a soccer free drinking establishment. Not even clothes shops, usually a haven for women have been spared the onslaught of football. The Prince of Wales has set their stall out as a female friendly zone.

From what I remember the do a good interpretation on British pub food at a reasonable price as well.


 
Vice Party Guide

Not Cynthia Payne, but edgy style magazine Vice have an article this month on how to throw a sick-ass party. Terence McKenna and Paris Hilton eat your heart out! Full details here. Vice is kind of a Wallpaper* for the demented and debauched. The have some exclusive messed up viral video clips to complement the magazine here.

Saturday, June 19, 2004

 
Plaxo Is the New Google?

Plaxo is a useful addition to the arsenal of the knowledge worker. We go through lives developing thousands of connections but probably only keep in regular contact with a couple of hundred. With Plaxo you complete an account and update it if you move jobs, that way your looser network can keep up to date if they are members of Plaxo too.

Pros
- Cheap, free software, you only pay for support. That also means limited growth

Cons
- Only works with Outlook, so not great for people orientated businesses like the creative industries, how about conduits for Lotus Notes, Entourage and Apple iSync?
- Privacy concerns, where there's data there's risk and businesses are increasingly using online services to run their businesses; it makes sense for consumers to use similar services to run Me, Inc. Privacy restrictions makes it harder for Plaxo to monetise customer data held
- Is reliant on a critical mass of users; Plaxo only updates less than 9 per cent of my contacts and its user base does not seem to be expanding at the rate of Friendster or LinkedIn


Anyway, make up your own mind by watching an interview on CBS Marketwatch with the founders

Friday, June 18, 2004

 
Airtight Pranksters Back with another Viral Clip

Club promoters Tribal Gathering have released another viral video clip to promote their Airtight night of bangin' breaks at Sankey's Soap, Manchester here. The event is tonight and the Stanton Warriors are headlining.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

 
Ur goin ome in a St Jons ambulnc

Industry analyst CurrentAnalysis have launched a Euro 2004 themed advisory report entitled Exploiting Revenues from Football and Other Sporting Events. The upshot of the report is that in order for mobile operators to capitalise on sports coverage rights they need to look to build a community spirit via their mobile portals, for instance by mobile logs and instant messaging. Expect SMS football chants and abuse coming to a phone near you soon.

Its interesting that the report cites T-Mobile as an example but not three (who have the rights video highlights to premier division football in the UK). Web veterans who remember when AOL was a successful business, that it built itself on communities, some of them of an adult nature. With this in mind the CurrentAnalysis seems like sensible advice; the size of a handset display and legibility will be a key limitation/challenge to get over.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

 
Hold onto your old cell phone...

New Nokia phones should be due out in the next six months or so and they look half decent. Nokia software in an LG/Samsung style case has got to be a surefire winner. Read more at Gizmodo (mainly because they have lots of pretty pictures).

Nokia has doubleddown since hitting turbulence in its plans for world wireless domination. Part of this was attributed to the fact that it had no foldable phones on the market. To remedy the situation they have come up with three handsets for poor, well-off and rich people. The stinking rich still have to put up with a Vertu 'chocolate bar' handset instead.

They have also announced a Bluetooth keyboard that at first glance looks like a Think Outside design.

Wonks Guide To Corrupting Media Innocents

OK, I lied, my ex-colleague Stephen Waddington has written a down-to-earth paper on blogging and its implications for the PR industry. His advice on PRing to bloggers seems to be similar to trying to influence a Usenet group CAREFULLY!

Give the article a quick read, its worth it. The main thing they missed out is the use of employees or interest group members personal blogs to raise a search engine position. This has been used in recent Googlebombs attacking George Bush.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

 
Do Japanese Dream of Electronic Sheep

In a society famous for its neon cities, long office hours, horrendous commutes, indulgence in even more methamphetamine abuse than an Australian roadtrain driver and cramming programmes for infant schoolchildren you may expect sleeping to be a problem.

You'd be right.

Its also big business, Matsushita (the mega-corp behind Panasonic, Technics and JVC) will be launching later this year a 'sleeping room package that consists of a plasma screen TV, a tricked-out bed and ambient sound recordings. This is expected to sell for about 20,000 GBP.

In the UK we have Big Brother...

Monday, June 14, 2004

 
Wrote for Luck

"I wrote for luck... they sent me you" or more accurately promoters Get Loaded (named after the seminal baggy anthem Primal Scream track Loaded)sent me an email outlining a day of mayhem and madness for Northern acid house casualties like me on Clapham Common.

The line up includes the usual kind of pretentious guitar bands that appear on Xfm, The Happy Mondays, Domino Bones (Bez's new band) and Hacienda DJ's Graeme Park and Mike Pickering (though no Dave Haslam, 808 State or Nipper).

I have heard that the Happy Mondays can now play, which will make a pleasant change from when I saw them at Liverpool Poly student union in 1990. I was there and they were a mess, but fun all the same. The support band Northside were far better, but never got remixed by Paul Oakenfold who was the kingmaker of the music industry at the time.

I'm there for the back to '89 Hac revelry

Not much details here

Sunday August 22, 2004 12h00 - 22h00.

 
Gobsmacked by 'amazing' feat of spin

I read a classic piece of spin in The Business, Microsoft races to stop bank account hackers by Tony Glover. Tony who has been shortlisted in a category for Business Journalist of the Year wrote "Technicians at the US software giant Microsoft are working flat out to prevent a new security threat that this week could give criminals access to computer systems used worldwide by banks and governments."

The general threat that Tony outlined called phishing has been covered for quite a while by national newspapers, something that wasn't made clear in the article. In fact eBay, HBOS and Barclays customers have all been exposed to phishing attacks. The article was an excellent piece of PR work (my hat goes off to the members of the Microsoft press team) that failed to point out:

- Phishing has been going on for quite a while now, though the vulnerability in Microsoft Internet Explorer is new. It is one of many security vulnerabilities in the product and phishing as a security risk is well understood
- Microsoft was trying to plug yet another security gap in their software that facilitates phishing? . Despite repeated promises to get tough security, Microsoft have failed to do so
- Using an alternative browser like Opera can help prevent the risk of phishing (though nothing in IT systems can be labeled foolproof)
- It is yet another good argument against software bundling like Microsoft (and increasingly Apple) have been doing and is an excellent riposte to critics of the EU competition commissions case against Microsoft. Bundling of software restricts the ability of competition to spur innovation and improvements in both quality and service

Free Internet calls move a step closer on page six goes on to talk breathlessly about a new feature in Microsoft Office that provides Internet calls. Its not that big a deal, I know of people who used Skype and before it Net2Phone and other over the net software phones. In fact Stephen Waddington, managing director of geeky PR firm Rainier was quoted in a newspaper case study talking about his firms uses of voice over the 'net for international conference calls a few years ago.

In addition, many instant messenger programmes such as Yahoo! Instant Messenger, AIM and iChat offer audio and video calls between users. Another fallacy in technology circles is the concept of 'free', you'd think that technology marketers would be mature enough to realise that nothing ever comes for free, even 'free' pirated MP3s or DiVX movie files via a P2P network is partly financed by banner advertisements, spyware and adware in the P2P software itself. Freeware is often produced for altruistic reasons, even if it is to build a community of users or make ones mark with an elegant solution to a problem. In the case of 'free internet calls' it will help increase sales of broadband connections, where calls leave the domain of a connection between IP addresses over PCs some sort of 'interconnection charge' will be due. Its not new, its history repeating.

Sunday, June 13, 2004

 
Back to the business

Over the past few years (from about the third quarter of 2000 onwards), I have been going to meetings with cash-strapped start-up companies with me-too products looking for PR to work sales objectives and marketing communications programmes for the price of a McDonalds Happy Meal.

On Thursday evening, I went to a more refreshing meeting for a potential new start-up (any more than that I cannot tell you because I have signed an non-disclosure agreement). The operation was obviously boot-strapped together, however the first added ingredients I noticed was that there was a real sense of enthusiasm and excitement about the project. This is in stark contrast to the meetings that I have with many start-up companies who are desparate to avoid the VC 'dead zone' of low growth or even an incurable burn rate.

After I had got over the enthusiasm, I noticed that they had managed to assemble a strong talented team; something sorely missing in many of the other meetings that I had been to as talent seemed to have migrated to safer larger firms or had left the rat race to have a better quality of life.

Finally, I noticed enthusiastic funders, both from financial institutions and private individuals, and no I don't mean enthusiasm in the rapid dot.com type way; but people buying into a compelling offering. It was obvious from the discussion and questions asked that they had thought a lot about the project. Something that is missing from the UK funding scene at the best of times

I left the meeting thinking thank fc:uk for that!

Saturday, June 12, 2004

 
Needle on the Wax

Over the past few weeks I have ignored shopping for new vinyl as I have managed my house move. To correct this I have a few recommendations available from Flying Records at the moment:

- Chez Damier - Spiritual Warefare v.1 Trackmode competent well produced mellow house with mellow R&B lyrics, good but no cigar

- Double U - Secret Love Sonar Kollectiv - great deep track with Moni Love type sassy New York vocal samples over a tribal beat that would have felt right at home in the Sound Factory

- J Roc & Steinski - Ain't no thing / Say ho Stones Throw - not a new track but an excellent re-release. Cut-and-paste production pioneer Steinski complemented with old school block party lyrics. No Bentleys, no Lex coupés, no bling, just dope lyrics and amazing production


I slaved away in the listening booth so that you didn't have to!

Friday, June 11, 2004

 
A Few Links For You

- A guide for Americans on the ethics of football (soccer) matches. (Number one, the match is not divided into quarters like a pizza but two halves).

- Suck it up and weep geeks, IT is a commodity that doesn't make that much of a difference, despite Microsoft's agile business guff

- Financial services industry protects society's morals and keeps up steady jihad against web-based filth peddlers. Or maybe like the Bank of Ireland CEO Mike Soden, they are reveling in the Victorian value of hypocrisy

 
Death of the UK Dance Music Industry?

Many record labels have closed down, particularly those owned by the majors like Strictly Rhythm and Credence. Cream runs festivals and restaurants rather than clubs and looks to Latin America and Eastern Europe for growth, Home is looking to be let out as retail space and the giant screen on the side of the building sits there in darkness

- Young people are listening to rock now, yes they are but they also have varied taste - which is why dance music festivals are doing well

- People want live music, the amount of live music venues in the UK dropped way below what it should have done and it is good to see it come back

- People want R&B, R&B has always been popular

- The dance music scene has stagnated, much of it has and UK record labels have been guilty of churning out more rubbish than most. The mash-up is a classic sign of creative bankruptcy in the industry and Hoxton's tastes do not play well thoughout the rest of the UK. I cannot remember the last record I bought from a UK label, I suspect it was probably this time last year. I have however, kept buying imported records from the US and Europe

- US labels like Nervous, Guidance or even going back to Trax Records and DJ International, survived in a hostile home market by selling abroad, why can't the UK labels

-US labels on the west coast are surviving an onslaught on to their scene by police using draconian crack house laws to shut the parties down and send organisers to jail for ten years, they are still making good music and selling records worldwide successfully

- Young people are drinking and not doing drugs: that's why cocaine seizures are up, MDMA is plentiful and cheap

There are labels that are thriving: Defected is licensing American content from the likes of Miguel Migs. While there is much of the input like Junior Jack that is not my cup of tea you have to hand it Simon Dunmore that he is managing to walk the line between quality and commercial success for his label

AATW - all around the world. A label based in Blackburn, Lancs that realised what Pete Waterman discovered twenty years ago. You can run a record label on single sales. Like Pete Waterman the records are well produced tat that know their target market really well. They are down market and the listeners are disparaged as 'Northern Pill Monkeys' by London based record executives, and their acts are criticised as 'a plumber with a tired lap dancer' but they are getting out there and buying the singles.

I personally don't believe that you have to provide customers with a 'crap' product, that a well crafted one will sell, but you have to know your marketplace. Many of the tastemakers within the industry have lost sight of that and need to move on.

One person that seems to have it right (all be it on a small scale) is my friend Nick Lawrence's label Altered Vibes that has gone from strength to strength by not compromising on quality and developing its artists. Something that is hard to do when the majors like EMI are dropping 30 per cent of their rostered artists in one fell swoop and putting less and less each year into development.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

 
Tear it Down and Put it Back Together Again?

Teardown.com is a special kind of business consultancy. They take apart gadgets, work out how they work, a component count, a complete list of materials, cost out how much they cost to make and critique the product design. A sort of cut-price reverse engineering. You can buy their reports singlely or subscribe to their service. A quick warning, its not cheap to buy gadgets take them apart, have the time to research costs and the know-how to understand what you are seeing.

One of the most interesting things they have done is looked at mobile phones from throughout the world. The results have been very interesting.

The latest 3 G phones on sale in Europe are more complex than those sold in Japan. They have double the amount of parts in them, they cost more to make and are still underperforming handsets that work on existing mobile phone networks. Full details of this research can be found here (warning: a cubicle full of techy jargon a-hoy).

NEC, an experienced 3G phone manufacturer came in for particular criticism. Their phone had four times as many components as an equivalent present day phone and twice as many as the equivalent Nokia 3G phone. A case of Japanese not-knowing-how? As a three customer it is not particularly satifying to know that my lemon of an NEC e606 mobile phone is heavier and more sophisticated than it needs to be! Still my contract runs out on August 28 and I already started counting the days.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

 
Johnny Come Lately

Posting at this ungodly hour because I cannot get to sleep, due to stomach trouble which has plagued me two nights on the run. Apple finally gets ready to join an already crowded market in Europe for online music. Napster launched well in advance and the rumours are that the record companies held Apple up to allow the competition to catch up. They know all about monopolies like the RIAA and only want one that works for them. How else can they support a mismanaged and ill-ran business successfully?

The invitation-only launch event for iTunes Music Service in the UK is scheduled to take place at Old Billingsgate Market in London, England on June 15, 2004 at 11:00AM. Offering plenty of material for invited wags to comment on the fishy deals that went on to bring the service to Europe, or that Apple's launch had all the excitement of a dead fish, the pricing stuck in the throat like bones in a breakfast kipper etc...

Steve has already let the cat out of the bag by admitting that iTMS Europe was going to be launched at D All Things Digitial conference run by Dow Jones Conferences and chaired by Walter Mossberg. He launched the Airport Express product there and said that Apple would be launching an easier way to use your iPod in the car before the end of the year.

He scotched rumors of a PDA, smartphone or communicator device.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

 
Seidenberg's Folly

What is a folly?

A folly is the ruins of a great accomplishment that never gets finished. The English landscape is dotted with disused and crumbling monuments. Many of the follies were made by industrialists who spent the wealth generated by textiles mills, shipyards and heavy industries. A more modern day version of this would be the expensive shower curtains purchased by L. Dennis Kozlowski during the recent Tyco scandal in the U.S.

Who is Ivan Seidenberg?

Ivan Seidenberg is head of Verizon, a U.S. telecoms company based in New Jersey, they jointly own one of the U.S.'s largest mobile phone operators with Vodafone and are provide landlines to Americans living on the eastern seaboard. They are a direct descendant of the Bell Telephone Co. a former telecoms monopoly rather like BT prior to privatisation. Verizon was one of the baby Bells made by the break-up of the previous company. It was originally called Bell Atlantic but has grown beyond its roots by acquisition and joint venture.

What's the SP?

In January, at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Seidenberg laid out a plan to spend two billion dollars digging up and replacing the copper cables that lie between the customers house and the telephone exchange, replacing it with strands of glass called optical fibre.

This is interesting because:

- Verizon until now has been very focused on creating shareholder value, broadly that means working the business in such a way that they keep paying a dividend and the share price keeps going up. In order to do that you need to avoid 'bet the farm' type moves, or anything that may unsettle institutional shareholders. One of my frustrations working as a PR consultant agency-side with Bell Atlantic mobile was trying to get my spokespeople to say anything daring, visionary or forward-thinking. We struggled to send out news,even issuing press releases about mobile phones donated to battered wives shelters in New Jersey

- Verizon, historically has made more of a mess in providing value-added services over broadband and wireless services than other carriers like Deutsche Telekom or BT, there is no indication of how Verizon is likely to be able to make additional value out of the investment. Capgemini did a survey of 100 CEOs in the telecoms, media and technology sectors in 2000, which I helped to promote. One of the summary conclusions that came out of it was that everybody knew they wanted broadband, but they did not know what it would be used for, or how they were going to make money out of value-added services. I still believe that to be the case, I have seen nothing that has convinced me otherwise

- Online and digital entertainment is very much up in the air, no one is sure how the market is going to pan out

- Content providers will rob you blind, Apple recently said all the 99 cents a track from iTunes Music Service went on credit card transaction costs and record company royalty payments, How will there be room for someone like Verizon at the table?

- Selling fibre to consumers would disrupt the market for business data communications, driving prices down and causing a corporate bloodbath unlike anything we have seen in modern times. It could annihilate companies like WorldCom who are in the final stages of bankruptcy protection and Comcast who sell broadband DSL services. This very disruptive process while in theory of some benefit to consumers, could still be loaded with many anti-trust issues

- The economics of putting fibre into the ground are very complex. Putting fibre in the ground is no more difficult than putting in cable. Optical fibre has its own challenges, water must not be allowed anywhere near the fibre, otherwise it will get between its plastic skin and the glass causing a kink that greatly reduces its ability to carry a signal, Despite the best efforts of the likes of Corning this process happens by osmosis, because of this optical fibre is very likely to decay to uselessness in less than ten years; potentially a much shorter lifespan than the copper cable it replaces

- Generally the denser the population the cheaper it is to wire them up, you don't have to go miles from one house to another. Verizon covers some of the densest population on the planet and the high rise living of Manhattanites presents its own engineering problems with added expense

- The biggest barrier to putting fibre into the home has been the cost of the electronics at either end of the cable, these have come down in cost, but not as fast as the cost of computing power or electronic storage. This would still be substantially dearer than a cable box, broadband satellite receiver or DSL router

- Providing consumers access to huge amounts of bandwidth means that you need to ensure that there are no bottlenecks in the core of the network. Verizon like most carriers are still carrying the billions of dollars already spent in the core of their network as high value assets. Will this have to be scrapped and made over to allow for the new fibre world? How would this affect their balance sheet?

- Verizon like many carriers relies on declining numbers of traditional voice calls to finance new services including this ambitious plan, how would it finance it and how would this affect shareholders?

- In order for Verizon to even make their money back on the fibre installation they need the regulators cut them some slack on forcing them to rent the lines to alternative carriers at cost. A practice currently in place to encourage competition in telephone and broadband services

If Verizon are successful, it may encourage other telcos to do the same thing, they may not be so lucky....

Seidenberg and the False Prophet

Seidenberg's bet reminds me of George Gilder a strange mix of techno sage and right-wing evangelist that America is good at putting out. He foresaw a golden age for the information economy brought about by photonics and charged many business executives a whole pile of money for a newsletter about companies that he felt was at the vanguard of the revolution.

George's vision hasn't come to pass, yet Seidenberg's plan sounds like something straight from the Gilder playbook including the lack of profit imperative.

Monday, June 07, 2004

 
Return of my Watch

Its been almost three months but my old Submariner has been serviced by Rolex in London. The watch is immaculate and I see no reason in ever buying a new one.

The service and a new brezel cost almost 200GBP, but the quality of the work done to make it look literally as if it had just come off the factory line is worth it.

I understand now, how they can afford to have offices that would not be out of place in a Bond movie as the arch-villian's sitting room.

If you are interested in getting a secondhand Rolex, I would recommend the Vintage Watch Company who have rare models including the Turn-o-graph - a forerunner of the Submariner dive watch and the Thunderbird.


Sunday, June 06, 2004

 
Yes, yes, y'all; to the beat y'all

Put on your Adidas First track suit, dust down your pair of Superstars, fix your Kangol and pop some d-cells in that monster Sharp boombox you got in the attic. Have we got an electric bugaloo-tastic posting for you. First off check out this Transformer breakdance Flash animation - the soundtrack is back to the 80's block rockin' electro. Thrill at the robots uprock and floor work, gasp as they change into a ghettoblaster (that any Cazal wearing homie would have been proud of) and back again.

Beasties back on another microphone rampage

The Beastie Boys return with their new album To The Five Boroughs and a first single Ch-Check it Out - a wholesome slice of fresh b-boy goodness for y'all. Cold slammin'. Great single - classic material with funk, beats, lyrics and infectious rhymes. Their website has a DiVX encoded video (Mac OS X users need to go to VideoLAN.org to get a suitable freeware player), e-cards to spread the gospel, lyrics to sing along and quarter of an hour interview with all three of them in the studio (Real Player format video)

Definitely one for the birthday list!

Saturday, June 05, 2004

 
Tablet PCs are Crap - its official

From the 'I told you so' school of journalism. A while ago on AlwaysOn Network I wrote about the limited appeal of Tablet PCs and many disagreed with me. Now The Register have posted comments from an Acer spokesperson talking about the fact that the concept is years ahead of acceptance in the marketplace (that's saving face speak for commercial disaster). Acer is trying to bring this to fruition by trying to cull the cost of a TabletPC right down

The business case for the tablet PC will be even harder prove when devices like OQO come out and more of the PDA market moves towards smartphones (something I think is more to do with telecoms operators subsidising handsets rather than the wisdom of an all-in-one device - but thats another discussion all together).

Friday, June 04, 2004

 
Dating the Hi-Tech Way

The New York Times ran an article in its fashion section about how Wonks (thats people like Rob Lowe and Co. in the West Wing for all our non US readers) meet prospective patners to strategise wtih and admire the diamond patterns on each others Pringle cardigans and aspire to be real Eurotrash. Why these people should be allowed to breed is beyond me, but they are now taking advantage of the ubiquitous nature of RIM Blackberries (email pagers) in Washington to flirt and organise dates. Some funny bits in the article about ill-thought out drunken emails sent via the Blackberry. Makes the sex-starved staffers of Bush's neo-puritan regime sound more like Jimmy Swaggart than Billy Graham.

Reminds me of when I worked on the Palm PR account, one of the gimmicks we had was a spoof 'Gaydar' application for Valentines day.

Why doesn't invent some useful dating technology instead to get you over when the conversation becomes awkward, stilted or a bigger effort than bench pressing a truck axle?

 
Web Used for Lust rather than Man's Betterment Shocker

From the useless research department. A US Today story came to the shocking conclusion that web porn attracts far more surfers than search. The research was conducted by Californian company Hitwise (or more likely their uncreative PR minions).

Thursday, June 03, 2004

 
Trouble comes in 3s

After the hastily denied speculation in the city that Hutchison was going to pull out of the UK mobile market by closing down 3 Totaltelecom magazine has published research figures from Capgemini in its leader article this month that indicate almost three quarters of 3 customers will leave when their contract is up. The full article can be read here (subscription is required).

I am not surprised. While 3 has addressed the issue of appalling handsets with new models from Nokia and LG, it still lacks:
- a killer application, a reason to chose 3 over its competitors
- an open IP gateway to allow people to pick up email and surf the web
- a WAP gateway to allow people to get information on the go
- decent network performance (though this is improving)
- the ability to transfer calls from cell to cell (the calls often cut out when you are speeding along in a car or train)
- compelling content, using a free trial I found no decent ringtones and a poor selection of wallpapers for the phone
- Decent customer service. When I emailed 3 to highlight my concerns abou the service I received a reply to say that I could not compare the service to 2G rivals as this was new technology. Bottom line is I want a mobile phone that works, how they do it is their problem

I have posted on AlwaysOn about this subject (registration required to view)

 
European Elections: Party Political Broadcasts Just Got Interesting

Ex porn-star and Czech MEP candiate Dolly Buster posted this campaign video on her site. It will be interesting to know if she is successful.

 
Clash Lyrics Unmask Big Brother State Apparatus

Interesting article on The Register. Apparently some Clash lyrics sent to a tribute band singer who had forgot his lines triggered the state security apparatus into action. Experts claim that it is proof that GCHQ monitor all SMS and voice traffic in the UK (and perhaps further afield as well).

A case of "I fought the law and the law won"?

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

 
I haven't got a clue (and neither has Sony)

Sony announced yesterday that it was pulling out of the PDA marketplace by stopping making the Clie range. There has been much analysis already of this on all the usual suspect sites online.

The good news is that they are managing the process in such a way that existing customers won't get shafted. They deserve a HUGE amount of kudos for this, I wouldn't expect that kind of attitude from Palm, Dell or Apple.

Most of the Sony gear that I do like now like their MDR 7506 and 7509 headphones are professional gear that is hard to get hold of, I am saddened that the business isn't everything that it could be.

Having in the past been involved with Palm and Sony as consultant and a customer I just wanted to share some observations and unanswered questions that had been brewing about their portable devices for a while:

- Why did the Clie range never support the Mac community? Their overly designed devices were ideally targeted at these non conformist computer users. Palm and Handspring supported them, whereas Sony made their product as Mac unfriendly as an iPaq

- Why has Sony bought into to PalmSource and Symbian?

- Why has it taken them so long to get their act together on iPod type devices and services when they were the first people to have a Palm PDA that could play MP3s

- Why is the new Vaio iPod wannabe so ugly and complicated looking?

- Why is there no joined up thinking going on using content to leverage platforms? Do you think that Microsoft would have sat on their hands for this long with the kind of diversity of resources that Sony Corp could knit together?

- Why did they expect people to buy a 600USD device? This is a known dead price point in tech marketing circles, almost the price of a no make laptop and well over double the price of many competitor devices

- Why were Clies so slow to adopt wireless?

- How long are they going to allow Playstation to carry the rest of the business?

- Will SonyEricsson phones benefit from the Clie product design team?


Tuesday, June 01, 2004

 
Redneck comfort food and the letter i is for?

It has been a trialling week so far. I spent much of the bank holiday entertaining my parents, packing my stuff little by little, disassembling flat pack furniture and completing yet more paperwork for my lawyers to progress my move into London.

I called my friend Julez who was having a 'terrible Tuesday' after a large weekend. One of our friends had starred in an amateur dramatic production of Stags & Hens and the post-concert revelry was starting to take its toll. In case you're interested the only thing amateur about the performance was the money that actors and set designers made. West end eat your heart out.

Anyway both of us decided to decamp to Bodeans on the corner of D'Arblay Street and Poland Street (opposite the Phonica record shop). Bodeans is a weird place, a kind of anti foodie ethic. The cooking is pure American redneck - lurid red hot dogs, hickory sauce covered ribs, fries with a pepperika, sugar and salt coating and coca-cola in a proper soda fountain glass.

It is unashamedly a meat eaters paradise artwork around the walls remind you of the animals that go into your hot dog or where your succulent ribs came from.

American collegiate sports play on big screens and people leave you alone to eat this redneck comfort food. Over a hot cup of coffee and jumbo hot dogs we set the world to rights.

On the wider world front, things are pretty weird:
- Saudi Arabia seems to have reached a pre-revolutionary phase (if you don't get what I mean grab a DVD copy of The Battle of Algiers) driving oil prices ever higher. The papers claim that oil has never been that high but they are not making any allowances that inflation would have had on the 1973 oil prices would be in 2004 US dollars...
- On the other hand, the San Jose Mercury News reports that micro-chip sales are up to the highest point since 1990. The more chips sold, the more stuff made, the more trade that is happening, the more life in the economy. Allegedly its all good
- The European elections are upon us and xenophobic isolationists have been given credence by Michael Howard acknowledging the UK Independence Party as a competitive threat to the Conservative Party in the UK
- Top UK festival Glastonbury is headlined by acts designed to appeal to the over 40's including Paul McCartney and Morrisey. What the hell will happen to youthful rebellion when its the crumblies who are kicking up a storm? Whose on next year the Rolling Stones, Status Quo and Aerosmith?
- Apple has embraced another Microsoft industry standard - crap security updates and computer crashing code changes

On a final note I wanted to point you to this great article in the Village Voice that talks about the way Apple's iPod poster campaign has become a lightning rod for the zeitgest of New Yorkers with a marker pen. Here at Carroll Towers our best contributions were - i stands for:

- 'Intellectual property (not mine)'
- inner ear infection (from sharing headphones)
- inconsolable (after being mugged for the tell-tale white ear phones)
- 'I think, therefore I am' (just not when I am listening to music)

Before you all write in, I am the proud owner of a mark one iPod and the 700 or so tracks on it is more than enough to allow me to ignore your protestations.

Archives

03/2004   04/2004   05/2004   06/2004   07/2004   08/2004   09/2004   10/2004   11/2004   12/2004   01/2005   02/2005   03/2005   04/2005   05/2005   06/2005   07/2005   08/2005   09/2005   10/2005   11/2005   12/2005   01/2006   02/2006   03/2006   04/2006   05/2006   06/2006   07/2006   08/2006   09/2006   10/2006   11/2006   12/2006  


Welcome, thanks for visiting and a bit about this blog (:::renaissance chambara::: all in lower case just like UNIX)
Got something to bitch about? Trying to legal the author or want to send scary fan mail? Click here for more details
Want to leave a comment? Feel free, but please take account of the guidelines
The blogroll (there's some missing that Bloglines can't read, if you're not in sort your feeds out)
Subscribe via RSS to :::: renaissance chambara ::::
The grooves that drive :::: renaissance chambara :::: (see what's on our iTunes)
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.5 License.

Blogger rox nuffsaid.