Monday, February 28, 2005

Jargon Watch

KAGOY - (kids are getting old younger) a phenomena observed by toy industry experts. Where a few years ago children of eight years-old were willing to use their imagination and play with action figures, now the action figures would be aimed at three-to-five year olds. Toys for older children have to battle against the Internet, multi-channel television and games consoles. In addition, toys for younger children have to get 'smarter' including basic voice recognition for instance, in order to hold their imaginations. Courtesy of the FT.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Raping Their Future

This posting started off after I read this Media Hack column by Adam Penenberg for Wired on the growing irrelevance of the Wall Street Journal. The gist of the column is that taste makers like blogs are not recommending the WJS to their peers, since they would only be able to read a linked article if they were a subscriber. Consequently, there was a conditioning behaviour that was developing resulting in the WSJ becoming irrelevant. My first reaction was that the article lacked the full picture. Popularity does not necessarily equate to relevance. Take the ultimate online subscription media, a Bloomberg terminal, or even a high brow magazine like the New Republic. Both of these media have an impact that way way beyond their thousands of subscribers. Then it occured to me that it was like as if they banned you from talking about them. For the WSJ, you could easily insert the Financial Times or The Economist instead.

What really annoys me about the FT more than the Wall Street Journal is where they will publish content only in the online or offline edition and they point you to it. Its like saying, you bought your paper, but we're still going to try and squeeze you even more. Its mean spirited marketing that even Dow Jones hasn't stooped to yet...

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Platform Art and Renaissance

Platform Art and Renaissance

At Gloucester Road there is a series of self portraits by a photographer who has desguised himself in each picture. It is part of London Underground's Platform Art series.

I boought the tenth anniversary reissue of the original Renaissance mix album by Sasha and John Digweed. Renaissance is hailed by many clubbers as being revolutionary. I thought I would comment on some of the innovations:

- Renaissance was the birth of progressive house: no it wasn't you can hear a natural progression between early Renaissance and Sasha's sets before the club was formed. Renaissance was built on the back of the reputation that Sasha had earned at Shelly's in Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent. Progressive house had been put out for a fair while by artists, most
notably the Italian acts Sueno Latino and Last Rhythm. Fabi Paras had championed the sound in London.

- Renaissance changed the visual language of clubbing: kind of. Renaissance got its name from borrowing fromrenaissance paintings, which were deconstructed and repurposed, however from the early days of house, many club flyers and imagery was borrowed from the cheesier 'catholic' religious art.

- Renaissance was a life changing experience: It depends where your head was at. Renaissance was a good club, they managed to get all the ingredients right: the security, the staff, the clubbers, the venue, the ambience, the music and the DJs. People had a great time, but then
in club culture during the early 1990s there was a lot of great times to be had every weekend all over the country.

- Renaissance revived clubbing: Don't believe the hype. Renaissance caught the top of the clubbing wave. It was one of a number of clubs that issued in a glitzy waye: straight lads wearning Versace shirts and leather trousers. Another trend to benefit was the mixed gay straight clubs like Vague in Leeds. The reasons why this came about was as much to do with getting a licence as baggy clothes for dancing meant wholesale drug use and possible dealer rumbles. Mincing around the club in clothes you would be afraid to sweat in was supposed to prevent it, it didn't it just heralded the arrival of wholesale cocaine use. It replaced the egalitarian nature of house and rave with snobbishness.

My recollections of Renaissance

It was towards the end of 1992, a friend of mine had got a gig on a Friday night at the Venue 44 in Mansfield playing what would now be termed drum and bass. I knew him as we used to play house sets together. He had met a couple in some ski resort where he had gone to play for a couple of months. The couple were involved in putting club flyers in shops and bars throughout the Midlands and the North of England. When he came back, he got in touch with the couple and they got him the gig.

I turned up to a half empty night decked out in decorations. After I made some enquiries, I got into Renaissance for free a few weeks later. I remember having a nightmare parking the Austin Metro I had at the time and stiff legs from the two-hour drive that did not welcome the stairs I had to climb to the front door. The building looked anonymous and whitewashed on the outside.

The main dance floor had the DJ booth well above it and there was a chill out area between the front door and the barn like dance floor with bench seating and some sort of trellices. Most of the lads going there looked like rugby league players and the girls like night wear models. The club had a buzz, but it was not the raw electric feel of Shellys, The Hacienda or the Quadrant Park.

Selling gonzo to Islington

The Evening Standard media page in Wednesday's paper (February 23, 2005) explained to its readers in the meejah sector what gonzo journalism actually meant: surely a case of selling snow to the eskimos? The works of the fast living writer were allready well-known in recreation chemically-minded Islington.

Thompson's gonzo legacy

What exactly is 'gonzo' or outlaw journalism, invented by Hunter S. Thompson, the great American writer, who committed suicide on Sunday at the age of 67? There are few things you can say for certain, other than that it was a product of the 1960s and describes a form of writing where the reporter becomes a central character in the story.

Gonzo is based on William Faulkner's dictum that "fiction is often the best fact'. The gonzo reporter lives what he writes.

Gonzo journalism is now everywhere. The film-maker Michael Moore used the technique in Fahrenheit 9/11 as dis Morgan Spurlock in his documentary Super Size Me. Robert Fisk's coverage in The Independent of the killing of Rafik Hariri, former prime minister of Lebanon, by car bomb, in Beirut last week, was a good example. As Mr Fisk's flat is only a few hundred years (sic) away from the site of the explosion, he was able to give an account that recorded his own emotions as he ran towards the black smoke.

"Hariri, I kept repeating. I had sat with him many times..." And so on.

Writing personal webistes or blogs is a further extension of the technique. It is a self-indulgent, even narcissistic, but it is also vivid. And, at its best, it can catch readers up in a story beter than any other style: that is Thompson's real legacy.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Jargon Watch

Motorolan - an employee of Motorola. Apparently goes back to a more innocent time when the sci-fi genre was populated by B-movies like Plan 9 From Outter Space, IBM employees used to have a company song book and abortions were a back-street affair.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Do not pass go

The Economist has an interesting article about the pitfalls of modern 'smart passports' filled with biometric data.

They highlighted a number of deficiencies:
  • The data on the passports is unencrypted
  • Passports can be read remotely with cheap easy to acquire equipment, making it easier for terrorists to target Americans
  • Tests have shown that a significant number of passports do not work with readers
  • Biometric data creates a significant amount of false negative tests, creating a larger requirement for further screening

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Insiders guide

Usually when people from the UK go to New York, it is for a shopping fest that resembles the behaviour of red skins in a John Wayne movie. However the New York Times guide to New York, you now have the opportunity to pursue more cultural pursuits and still blitz the shopping.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Treo-ing times

With mixed feelings I decided to replace my PalmOne PDA / Nokia phone combination with an all-in-one device. I had to get something that would synch its data with my Mac and a work PC. I decided to go for a Treo 600. The Treo 600 has recently been superceded as the top dawg in the PalmOne range by the Treo 650, but I wanted a device that had enough history behind it to get the bugs ironed out.

PalmOne devices are notorious for having memory related issues that required a service patch post product launch from the RAM issues in the Palm Vx, to the SD/MMC card issues for Tungsten devices. I didn't mind leaping in with both feet before because if my Palm died I still had the phone and vice versa, but this is having all-your-eggs-in-one-basket time.


The Treo used a different connector to my Tungsten T3 which made my cradles for work and home redundant. PalmOne were cheapskates by throwing in only a synch cable and charger like a entry point PDA rather than a proper cradle. Handily for UK mobile users the device automatically configures itself to use your carriers GPRS service, saving much grief.

In itself is nicer to hold and has better sound quality than I had hoped. As for the camera, its not that good, but then I was more worried about mobile email and having all my contacts together. I had to invest in a new mail application because the one on board the device only looked after POP3 accounts. IMAP4 is a newer and more useful standard that many consumers such as myself are turning to. (You can read more about it here). Thanks to Google and Mitch Kapor's blog I found a first-rate mail client from New Zealand software company Snapper Fish. SMS texting is made easy via a IM style chat interface that keeps track of SMS conversation threads, very handy for impromptu social calendar planning holding together texts about when and where you would meet.

In common with all touch-screen devices it is worthwhile investing in a cover, I have gone for this shape hugging silicone number and screen protectors.

The look and feel of the device is early Tungsten, not as pleasant as the T3 I had previously, but this is made up for by the seamless integration with phone and PDA components, rather than the Bluetooth-linked shuffle that I had to do before.

I also use MobiPocket as an e-book reader on the tube and MetrO to help me plan my way around London's public transport system.

No Graffiti - PalmOne devices key advantage was ease-of-use and key to that was the simple handwriting system that users could use for inputting data and controlling the device. They were sued by Xerox, who initially won, licensed Jot (now called Graffiti 2): and crippled it from a usability point of view. Xerox eventually had their case thrown out, but PalmOne has not reinstated the 'legendary easy-to-use' Graffiti. In the Treo's there is no Graffiti pad at all. Instead there is a thumb keyboard, being a seasoned Palm user, I was proficient in Graffiti (when working on the Palm pan European PR account I frequently had to give demonstrations to journalists and other influencers), could get by with the crippled version but have found the thumb keyboard a bit of a retro step. For newbie Palm users it should be fine, its about as hard as a Crackberry.

Using Orange (UK peepz only) - if you are using Orange as your cellular provider you may find the following information of use. All outgoing email from an Orange phone has to go from an Orange SMTP server, they won't allow you to link to an external one. The address is smtp.orange.net .

There is no user name or password required. They have a helpdesk for data users you can get by dialling 156 from your handset and follow the machine instructions to get put through to the correct team.

In conclusion - I have managed to list some negative points, but that is only because I have known and used the Palm platform for a long time like an old friend. I would recommend the Treo from my own experience. If you want to invest in a Treo 650, give them a bit of time to get it right and for the cellular provider handset subsidies to kick in.

Monday, February 21, 2005

The 800-pound dragon

The New York Times has a great review of China Inc. by Ted C. Fishman which highlights the growing economic might of China. Some interesting facts and figures featured in the review of the book include:
  • From 1982 through 2002, the United States economy grew at an annual rate of 3.3 percent. China's economy grew at an annual rate of 9.5 percent,
  • In 2003 China bought 7 percent of the world's oil, a quarter of its aluminum and steel, almost a third of its iron ore and coal, and 40 percent of its cement.
  • China makes 40 percent of all furniture sold in the United States
  • China has 3,000 Christmas-decoration factories which exported more than $900 million tree trimmings and plastic Santas in the first 10 months of 2003.
  • China still only makes one-twentieth of everything produced in the world
  • China can rely on a vast low-wage army, working for an average of 40 cents an hour, that can turn out consumer goods of every description
  • American and Japanese companies spend $1 billion to $2 billion to develop a new car
  • New super-cities like Shenzhen, a fishing town of 70,000 20 years ago that now has 7 million people, making it larger than Los Angeles or Paris, swelled by migrants from the countryside looking for a better life in the city
  • Up to 300 million Chinese have migrated from the country to the city over the past 20 years
  • The Asian Brown Cloud, a wind-borne industrial smog that originates on China's east coast, can be seen in California as it rides the jet stream
  • China has seven of the world's ten most polluted cities

The book also provides some insights into the differences between the rise of China and Japan. Unlike Japan, China is driven by local enterprises rather than the central analysis and planning carried out by Japanese Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) [now known as the Ministry of Economy Trade and Industry] to find key markets to conquer. There is a certain irony in the socialist state using the brutal darwinism of the marketplace in a way that Adam Smith would have appreciated.

Current reading at Chez Renaissance Chambara:

Sunday, February 20, 2005

DSL Shootout

ADSL Guide has a comparison facility on their site that allows you to compare the performance of different ISPs. I decided to compare AOL, BT Broadband, Demon Tiscali, Wanadoo and my own ISP Freedom2Surf, you can see the results here.

The runts of the litter appeared to be AOL, Tiscali and Wanadoo. BT came about midway up the field and Demon snapped at the heels of Freedom2Surf.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Yet another PR salary survey

According to Media Appointments the PR recruitment market started off with a bang in 2005! As a reflection of this buoyant market, many of their clients are continuing to hire at all levels and across all sectors: technology, consumer, lifestyle, corporate, B2B, consumer tech and healthcare.

Average Salary Scale 2005 (for your information)

Managing Director £75000 +
Board Director £65000 +
Associate Director £45,000 - £65,000
Account Director £37,000 - £45,000
Senior Account Manager £32,000 - £37,000
Account Manager £26,000 - £32,000
Senior Account Exec. £22,000 - £26,000
Account Executive £18,000 - £22,000
Graduate Trainee £15,000 - £18,000

Friday, February 18, 2005

Top 100 best gadget list ever

Mobile PC magazine has drawn up a very US-centric list of the top-100 gadgets of all time. You can find the lsit here

I decided to vet the list and put in comments for or against as necessary:

1/ Apple PowerBook 100 - this set the design for a range of laptops that still are design icons of mobile computing, look carefully at the clipart and stock photos used in many business brochures.

4/ Motorola StarTac - yes this was a style icon, but was everybody seems to forget was that the connections in the hinge used to go before the warranty expired, the aerial snapped off in your pocket and they looked like Quasimodo with the bulbous 'long-life' batteries you had to put on them to get semi-decent talk time.

7/ US Robotics Pilot 1000 - despite a naming dispute with Pilot pens, many people still call PDAs Palm Pilots, the impact of the 1000 is the reason why. The Newton kicked the door to digital data on-the-go in, but it was US Robotics/Palm that ran through it

12/ Apple iPod - nice idea, shame about the dead batteries and the easy scratch case. My iPod sits dormant in the back of my kitchen draw as much use as a 200GBP paperweight

18/ Motorola 8000 cell phone - the first cell phone I used was a Motorola and came in a ballistic nylon luggable satchel weighing about as much as a small car battery. Then I got hold of an 8000, it was brilliant you could hold in your hand, tuck it under your chin whilst driving and it was so robust

19/ IBM Thinkpad 701c - I had an Apple PowerBook 165c in college and a Swedish guy on my course had one of these Thinkpads. Despite the fact that it ran Windows, the keyboard and the nipple were cool as fcuk. IBM got rid of this key layout and nobody copied it, so I suspect that it had reliability issues. The list managed to miss off Think Outside's Stowaway foldable keyboard for the Palm which was a QWERTY revolution

21/ Cartier Santos watch - the first wrist watch. Without this the watch could not have become the style icon it is today as we would still be wearing waist coats and carrying pocket watches

31/ Trek thumb drive - so you want to walk off with a bunch of files thanks to devices like the Trek thumb drive employee intellectual property theft has never been easier

39/ Apple Newton - set the standard in handwriting recognition and functions and PDAs that others followed the Newton was just a little too early. Despite bad media reports, the intrinsic quality of the devices means that 11 years later there is still a thriving underground community catering for the Newton. Unfortunately Apple has cast all the intellectual property aside and let it go fallow.

46/ Speak and Spell - bleeding edge for the time, many voice synthesis products have yet to equal the robotic tones of the speak and spell. Unfortunately UK lemon manufacturer Austin Rover tried to incorporate Speak and Spell like intelligence into their Maestro car, winding up the unfortunate customers to breaking point

50/ Whilst my Etch-a-Sketch kept me entertained as a kid, I can never remember drawing anything that did look anything other than a complete Jackson Pollock

52/ Sony CFS-5000 ghetto-blaster. Whilst the ghetto blaster was an icon of the late 1970s and 1980s, it was the big-ass silver and chrome models by the likes of Sharp that were the most desirable. This Sony model is just plain lame.

68/ Nokia 6100 series. An iconic mobile phone that felt great in the hand, had a great menu system and was designed with love. (If you popped off the removable face the plastic moulding protecting the ear piece had an artfully cut grinning face cut into to it like the stencilised image of an Eastern European puppet.) This was the killer 'candy bar' shaped phone, however I was surprised the Nokia 2110 didn't make the list.

89/ Rubiks cube - a puzzle for dweebs and misfits that briefly swept the world in the 1980s and spawned countless imitations. It also taught 80s designers that black would go with the most garish of colours.

98/ The pez dispenser - this is the sweet dispenser that launched eBay. The auction site was originally developed to allow a guys girlfriend to trade Pez dispensers. Its very American, I guess it must make up for the fact that they don't have heritage like 'old Europe'.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Banking on blogs and other musings

Boutique bankers Think Equity Partners LLC now have their own blog, not as interesting or articulate as the likes of Andy Kessler it looks like a reasonably well concealed attempt to talk up the market. I am sure the content will improve as time moves on. Thanks to Ian Wood for putting me on to Lifehacker, a light but interesting read and open about its relationship with Sony.

According to the US Army, it is convinced that its free to download game America's Army is a more effective way of delivering its messages to potential recruits than advertising. Where it really gets interesting is in the math, America's Army costs about six million USD a year, in contrast its advertising budget runs into hundreds of millions. That's an ROI that PR couldn't match. More from the New York Times Circuits section.

Finally, Microsoft is having to recall the power cables on over 14 million Xbox consoles due to the real risk of a fire. Seven people have received burns, 30 customers have reported fire damage and 23 have reported smoke damage or localised damage to flooring or entertainment systems. The recall affects over 70 per cent of Xbox consoles in the wild. More details from SiliconValley.com.


Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Music and Gadgets

First off with music, my friend and producer Uri Levanon has a relatively new blog here that seems to straddle both music and technology, you can find it here.

3GSM is rapidly turning into a gadget fest that Comdex or CeBIT would be worthy of. The amount of mobile devices and services offered by carriers and vendors shows a new found confidence within the technology sector. Push to talk over cellular (PoC), a Nextel-type walkie-talkie service seemed to be the flavour-de-jour. With some notable exceptions, from examination of press photographs the product design of many of these products is still pretty shoddy. You can outsource your manufacturing to Asia, but spend some of the savings on some good design people!

Philips described their 655 as 'being ideal for self portraits' with its built in mirror. I expect to see it being used by 'media types' in many Soho clubs as an impromptu surface to cut a line of charlie on. Talk about niche marketing and targeting trend setters.

If you want to catch up with what has been happening at 3GSM try Mobile Burn, Tech Digest or Gizmodo on for size.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Jargon Watch

Gazunder - according to the BBC Online gazundering is offering a home owner a lower value at the very last minute of the than originally promised, leaving the seller with three choices:
  • Taking the lower offer
  • Walking away
  • Getting medieval on their ass

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Censorship by the bullet and the bomb

According to the New York Times, the use of the bullet and the bomb to neuter journalists in the Iraqi war resurfaced. Eason Jordan resigned over remarks made at Davos to the effect that some elements of both sides targeted journalists and were responsible for some of the 48 or so journalist deaths.

In one such precision accident, Aljazeera lost key members of its Bagdad bureau. This followed a thinly veiled threat by US military spokespeople that they would send a bomb down on any broadcast satellite uplinks in Bagdad.

Jordon amended his comment, but forfeit his job anyway.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Mobile TV nation joins tech rocketship

Over at his blog, my friend Ian Wood is talking up multicasting technology as being one of the future drivers for mobile technology after conversations that he has had in the course of his work with Nokia and Crown Castle. This idea of media everywhere has also come up in briefings I have had regarding one of my new clients Motorola who have talked in the likes of The Economist of a vision were media content flows from one device to another as the user changes their environment. From the television to your phone, the in-car entertainment system and your PowerBook on your office desk.

Current Analysis' Emma Mohr-McClune has described how carriers including Vodafone, 3 and O2 have already been trialling 3.5G mobile technologies in her report Building a business case for HSDPA, despite taking their time to roll out 3G services.

According to Bob Cringely's column for PBS.org some 25 billion USD of uninvested money is due to be handed back by venture capitalists to their investors in the next year to 18 months. If the funds are handed back the VCs have to also refund their two per cent annual managment fee, that equates to some three billion USD in lost fees. Bob reasons that they will invest in dogs and no hopers rather than do that. A massive injection into the mobile space may create the kind of bubble that is just what the doctor ordered for many technology companies.


Thursday, February 10, 2005

Big Mobile meets Big Food

In what has now passed into geek folklore a young Steve Jobs recruited PepsiCo CEO John Sculley to go out to Silicon Valley and run Apple Computer with words to the effect of "Do you want to make a dent in the universe, or do you want to sell fizzy-sugared water all your life?"

Unfortunately for Apple Sculley accepted Jobs' invitation, move forward some 20 years and Nokia, the king of the mobile device providers signed a deal with Coca-Cola, becoming a digital pimp for the Big Food group peddling fizzy-sugared water to the masses, rather than trying to make dent in the universe. From what I have read on Nokia's website, the company's Local Marketing Solution provides a nightmarish Minority Report-style advertising campaign direct to your smartphone via Bluetooth.

NOKIA PRESS RELEASE February 10, 2005

Nokia and Coca-Cola Showcase the new Nokia Local Marketing Solution

3GSM Conference visitors in Cannes, France discover the newest ways of mobile marketing

Nokia and Coca-Cola will take a major step in mobile marketing as the companies together demonstrate the Nokia Local Marketing Solution at the 3GSM Conference 2005 in Cannes. With this new solution these two companies will provide local information of seminars as well as other service offerings during the conference directly to visitors' Nokia Series 60 phones. Visitors to the 3GSM Conference will receive direct service shortcuts to their smart phones when passing by the Bluetooth Service Points at Nokia stands and other selected venues in the conference area.

The Nokia Local Marketing Solution is a new mobile marketing solution that brings services to customers' smart phones via Bluetooth. "All the information and service shortcuts delivered through the Nokia Local Marketing Solution are based on consumer permission, preferences, and location. This is truly a user-friendly solution. The user discovers direct shortcuts to mobile services through only a few clicks," said Sakari Kotola, Director, Nokia Ventures Organization.

"We build on an established relationship with Nokia in the field of mobile marketing and we want to be among the first in taking the Nokia Local Marketing Solution in use. We will demonstrate the Nokia Local Marketing Solution at Cannes by providing conference visitors Coca-Cola wallpapers, mobile coupons, video clips and other mobile content," said Chris Burggraeve, Division Marketing Director, Coca-Cola GmbH, Berlin.

The Nokia Local Marketing Solution consists of three elements: Nokia Local Info client software for the Nokia Series 60 devices, Nokia Service Point LMP 10 and Nokia Service Manager LMM 10 system. Service Points include several Bluetooth modules and a GPRS module, situated in selected service advertisement locations, for example in a store or in the fair stand. The solution is easy to manage, as a user database is not needed. The Service Manager system is centralized, and connected to Service Points via a GPRS network.

The Nokia Local Marketing Solution will be demonstrated at the 3GSM Conference 2005 in Cannes, France. The Nokia Local Info client software runs in Nokia Series 60 terminals starting from Nokia 6600 and can be downloaded during the conference from Nokia's 3GSM web-site www.nokia.com/3gsm or by sending text message "NLMS" to number +358407799890. In the conference, the Local Info client can also be downloaded in Nokia main stand (A9, Hall 1) and Nokia Hospitality Lounge (Hall 2, level 5).

About Nokia
Nokia is a world leader in mobile communications, driving the growth and sustainability of the broader mobility industry. Nokia connects people to each other and the information that matters to them with easy-to-use and innovative products like mobile phones, devices and solutions for imaging, games, media and businesses. Nokia provides equipment, solutions and services for network operators and corporations.


About Coca-Cola
The Coca-Cola Company is the world's largest beverage company. Along with Coca-Cola, recognized as the world's best-known brand, the Company markets four of the world's top five soft drink brands, including diet Coke, Fanta and Sprite, and a wide range of other beverages, including diet and light soft drinks, waters, juices and juice drinks, teas, coffees and sports drinks. Through the world's largest distribution system, consumers in more than 200 countries enjoy the Company's beverages at a rate exceeding 1 billion servings each day. In 2003 the German Team created the biggest mobile marketing initiative at that time, with the Fanta Flaschenpost, a Bundle promotion with 7 leading brands participating and 160 million individual codes on equally many packs.


Media Enquiries:

Nokia
Nokia Ventures Organization
Communications
Tel. +358 7180 36117

Nokia
Communications
Tel. +358 7180 34900

Nokia Local Marketing Solution

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Operation Iraqi Fiorina

If you read the online business media or tech websites you will have seen that the board of Hewlett-Packard ousted Carly Fiorina from her position as CEO with immediate effect. Much of the coverage will review the fact that HP merged with Compaq against the best efforts of many board members and has consistently underperformed.

What they haven't focused on was the damage that Carly did to the HP culture, or as they call it the HP Way.

Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard can rightly claimed to have founded Silicon Valley in a garage on Addison Street Palo Alto and became heroes to countless geeks with an idea and some spare space in their home including Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak who founded Apple in a garage decades later.

In addition Hewlett and Packard fostered a unique company culture that influenced how the whole of Silicon Valley wanted to run their business, this even more than the company's technical achievements was responsible for the growth of the technology sector into the 1980s. HP represented the dream of a company that was not just fun to work for and treated its employees well, but which was built upon a foundation of loyalty, trust and community service. These values together with the hippy counterculture and hacker ethic was what built Apple, Atari, Yahoo, Google and a host of other technology companies.

In his 2002 Salon.com article Losing the HP Way, Silicon Valley native Jeff Goodell outlined how Carly wrapped herself in the HP flag whilst attacking everything that it stood for. Now the media is talking about a demerger of the business.

Monday, February 07, 2005

What a load of WiMax!

Thanks to the Interesting People email list for flaging this article called World Domination Postponed in The Economist.

Key points:
  • Whilst many companies claim that they offer WiMax kit, you can't buy it. There are no devices certified by the WiMax Forum, the guiding industry body. (Though I have heard of it being used for ad-hoc military networks)
  • WiMax kit will only start appearing at the end of the year at the earliest
  • Early WiMax access devices (which must be fixed to the outside of a building) will cost around $500; I can see there being a busy trade in stolen devices
  • Intel reckons that the market for ubiquitous WiMax devices could be worth some 50 billion USD per annum globally



Shaw Brothers Extravaganza

On Saturday night I spend the whole night at the Curzon cinema in Soho watching four of the more unusual films from the Shaw Brothers back catalogue. Though Shaw is known in the west for kung-fu flicks, it actually had a wide ranging output. I got to see:
  • Super Infra Man - a Jet Jaguar/Power Ranger type super hero battling demons from beneath the earth's crust
  • The Mighty Peking Man - King Kong in Hong Kong complete with a blonde She Ra type character
  • The Oily Maniac - a Hammer horror type tale of supernatural revenge killings
  • Monkey Goes West - a retelling of part of The Journey West, a famous Chinese folk story about the adventures of travellers from China looking for scrolls belonging to Lord Buddha, best known in the West from the the Japanese TV series Monkey

Shaw Studio owned by Shaw Brothers (HK) Limited is the best known Chinese language film studio and has a back catalogue of almost a 1,000 films prior to stopping film making in 1987. It was founded by Sir Run Run Shaw and his brother Runme as South Sea Film in 1930. Celestial Pictures, a film satellite channel owns the rights to the back catalogue and have been issuing it on DVD. Thought Shaw is best known for kung fu flicks and acted as a training school for the likes of John Woo. Shaw are the largest cinema distributors in Singapore and have been heavily involved in building a new film studio in Hong Kong.

The Shaw Brothers allnighter was organised as part of the Sci-Fi-London film festival.


Sunday, February 06, 2005

Crystal Ball Gazing

In the Koran, there is a passage that goes something along the lines of "the man who predicts the future lies, even when he is proved right". Obviously this is not a passage much read by many technology pundits. Thanks to the Irish Emmigrant Professional Ireland email newsletter for pointing out Deloitte Research's trend predictions for the technology media and telecommunications (TMT) sectors over 2005 and beyond. You can download PDF brochures giving the top line picture in boardroom friendly language from here, nothing too surprising but useful none the less.
Vinyl Addiction

First of all an American site that has an amazing selection of jazz and rock vinyl: Accoustic Sounds even has classic LPs repressed up to play on 45 rpm for extra audio quality.

Recent records doing heavy rotation include

Old School
  • Acid Traxx EP (S12) - SimplyVinyl have teamed up with legendary Chicago house label to put four classic acid house tunes on one platter. It features Phuture - Acid Trax, Mr Fingers - Washing Machine, Phuture - Got The Bug and Pierre's Fantasy Club - Dream Girl. Worthwhile having because the original Trax pressings were so awfully made with recycled vinyl and god only knows what else
  • Looney Tunes - Just as long as I got you (XL Recordings) - Musto and Bones classic rave record with a vocal hook from Love Commitee's disco classic of the same name on Salsoul records. If you play house with a sprinkling of breaks and pick your moment you can still get away with this one

Fresh for 2k5
  • Wink - 516 Acid (Ovum) - ok so it has been out a little while it just took me a bit of time to get it! Get the 12 with the Steve Bug remix and Josh Wink's original mix on; the other 12 is a bit moody.
  • KTB - Robag Wruhme (Sonar Kollectiv) - letting the vinyl do the talking
  • Headz feat. Azeem - Wait4U (Stereo) - great Spanish house cut from a consistently good label
  • Gypsy - Gypsy don't let the drugs get you (UMM) - complete tosh from UMM, except for the Robbie Rivera mix
  • BJ - Last night (no label) - modernised (retempoised and beefed up beats) Michael Jackson Billie Jean instrumental underneath Indeep's Last night a DJ saved my life. Worth having for the dub
  • Hoxton Whores - Voodoo Ray (Hoxton Whores) - Modernising remix of A Guy Called Gerald's Voodoo Ray. A Guy called Gerald probably doesn't get any money from this, but then according to Gerald, Peter at Rham Records shafted him when this was originally released, so there is a certain symmetry to it all. Don't let that put you off buying this great record
  • Swirl Peepz pres. Lotta Fun (Odds and Ends Music) - Great house groover, deep like philosophy
  • The Dope Twins featuring Community Recordings and Seafoam (Dope) - Good grooves fits nicely in a west-coast style set
  • Marc Moulin - Silver, who stole the groove? (Blue Note Records) - yes a proper jazz record. Get it for the DJ Groove Warrior mix on the flipside
  • Vibeelect - Do what you know (Compu Sol) - great deep house from Austria
  • Shur-I-Kan - Waypoints EP (Freerange) - two great producers on the record Brett Johnson and Larry 'Mr Fingers' Heard, even if it was crap you'd still have to buy it
  • Woody Braun & Allonymous - Finding words ain't easy (Most) - buy it for the Captain Comatose cut your dreads mix
  • Johnny Fiasco - South of the border EP (Agave Records) - usual high quality production from Fiasco one of the stalwarts of west-coast house music
  • Market House vs Natural Rhythm feat Leah Reppart (Detour) - go for the Thomas White remix on the flip for great house








Saturday, February 05, 2005

2046

I managed to obtain a Hong Kong issued DVD of 2046, rather than going to see it at the cinema, I watched it three times before writing this review. 2046 is a visually complex and beautiful story; as a high concept imagine Brief Encounter and Alfie meets Bladerunner on acid with art direction by Terry Gilliam. The first thing about the film is that you can feel the visual quality of it from the get-go. The plot leaves more questions than answers with recursive themes throughout the plot weaving between the plot of a novel the life of the novelist and including the number two zero four six being a room number, a destination and a year.

The plot starts in the future were trains transverse the globe, some of the time to a destination 2046 where people go to escape loss, hide secrets or try and rectify mistakes and then moves the start of the journey to tell a story of several unrequieted loves in 1960s Singapore and Hong Kong and the damaged object of his desire. In the midst of social chaos, the hero Chow Mo Wan writes a science fiction story about 2046, a place where people go to seek their loved one or times lost. The number 2046, comes from the number of a room in a Hong Kong boarding house.

Chow is empty and damaged rather like Michael Caine's Alfie, but is smoother in a film-noir kind of way. The soundtrack is amazing and really heightens the whole cinematic experience.


The film shows the uninitated that Chinese cinema is much more than wire-work, Peking Opera acrobatics, bad dubbing, Shaolin monks and Kung fu.

The film is a multinational effort, Chinese actors with European photography and a classical and loungecore musical score.
Culture and Cuisine

First of all, in case you may not have noticed the Happy Mondays and The Farm are playing Brixton Academy on March 25 & 26, 2005. I'll be there, if you know what's good for you, you'll try and be there too. More information here.

Years ago when I first started working in PR I worked for an American agency, we started to work a ridiculous amount of hours as the telecoms/Internet/dot.com wave took off fuelled by Joe Six-Pack's pension fund contributions. As the money flowed in and US ex-pats were shipped over to meet our manpower requirements we got given fresh bagels from the bagel shop down the street, Starbucks freshly ground coffee in the office cafetiere and a 'soda' fridge. A couple of us being Northern, did not wimp out on the diet Coke in the soda fridge, but caned copious amounts of Red Bull.

When Red Bull was in short supply we lashed into American imported diet Mountain Dew. Mountain Dew is a highly caffeinated fizzy pop, favoured by students cramming for exams and techies pulling a double-shift or doing a coding marathon. It would only be a slight exaggeration to say that some of the technical innovations and much of the code written in Silicon Valley owed a huge debt to Mountain Dew and Jolt Cola.

I was very happy when I found about the American Soda Company based near Oldham and found that they not only stocked diet Mountain Dew, but also root beer. Root beer is like the US version of Marmite, you either like it or hate it. I like it and always gone for coffee instead of cola or minute maid faux OJ since McDonald's stopped serving root beer in the UK a number of years ago. In addition to drinks, they also stock selected candy items, most notably Wrigley's Big Red cinnamon-flavoured gum which is fantastic.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Campaign for Good Gossip - campaign for real beauty obituary

Campaign for Good Gossip - campaign for real beauty obituary

Image courtesy of Holy Moly

Following on the heels of the campaign for real beauty comes the campaign for real gossip by Holy Moly, showing just how ripe for subversion the Dove campaign was. Shoot the advertising firm and PR fools that came up with it!

O Selenium, Selenium! wherefore art thou Selenium?

The Irish Examiner has an interesting article on how deficiencies in the soil of essential minerals impact on the whole of the commercial food chain and ultimately on human health as well. The article focuses on how a selenium deficency in grassland across Ireland, Europe, New Zealand and China is being combatted.
HIV Snake Oil

The lead article in The Business newspaper (January 30/31, 2005) outlined how drugs that were found to be ineffective or downright dangerous were knowingly used to treat HIV sufferers including late pregnancy mothers just prior to delivery and their newborn children.

Nevirapine or Viramune (R) as it is known commercially, is produced by Boehringer Ingelheim was found that cases of liver damage were more commion with neviraprine, especially in women, than with other anti-HIV drugs - key research trial report published in The Lancet supporting the use of neviraprine may have under-reported severe adverse events among the trial subjects, including at least 14 deaths - a damning paper trail was found to show that NIH chiefs downplayed reporting the problems, fearing the potential impact on the drive to extend the use of nevirapine. In particular Fauci and Dr Edmund Tramont, head of the Division of AIDS were concerned not to jeopardise a 500m USD mother and child HIV initiative for Africa, announced a few weeks later by President Bush, specifically to support the nevirapine roll-out.

AZT, sold commercially as Retrovir(R) or Retrovis(R) developed by GlaxoSmithKline the first AIDS wonder drug had similar performance issues, UK and French government researchers found that more patients died who were given AZT early, compared to a control group who received it later on. AZT survived, being given to patients in much smaller doses as part of a pharmaceutical treatment cocktail.

Is this all the big pharmaceutical companies fault? No part of the responsibility must fall to the regulatory bodies that protect citizens in the developed world yet repeatedly fall down on the job; more than half the medications approved by the US Federal Drugs Administration were found to be risky enough to cause hospitalisation, severe disability of a permanent basis or even death. Its got worse, George Bush set out to block cases against pharmaceutical companies involving FDA-approved drugs as a matter of government policy. Given that America is a democracy, US citizens have the level of protection they deserve. What chance do developing countries have? AIDS eats away at their working population, they are up to their necks in foreign debt, poverty and other social ills. In addition they are lent on by numerous extra government bodies such as the IMF to implement policies or else?


Thursday, February 03, 2005

New Fangled Interweb Guide for Laggards

PR colossus Hill & Knowlton have posted a guide to web logs, podcasts and RSS on their website. First of all the old biblical saying of pointing out the stick in the eye of others, but ignoring the plank in their own sprang to mind: H&K have not updated some of their own webpages for what looks like four years, in particular the page pertaining to the technology practice.

There is a great phrase in the brief about blogging When the likes of the FT and Forbes talk about it (blogging) and the outspoken vice-chairman of GM starts doing it, you know it must be big business. Hmm, I remember when the agency I worked at launched General Motors e-strategy with a web cast: round about the time the Internet bubble peaked, right before the pop! and if a phenomena is being talked about in Forbes and the FT on a regular basis then I would say an organisation have already missed the boat on taking advantage of the trend in question, if you want competitive advantage look for the next things coming along and focus on doing them well instead.

I can see fund managers waiting for the next H&K 'new-new-thing' brief coming out and using it as a flag to start selling stock in that technology area as it had become overcooked.

Bring out your dead

In the posting Bottom Line Basics Spin Bunny has highlighted a damning report on the state of the PR industry.

Part of the answers lie in the Plimsoll Model itself:
  • The Plimsoll Model is made from a set of weighted criteria pulled from historic data. I do not know the secret sauce of the weighting, but can assume that it could have some bearing
  • The model looks at change occurring over three years for some of the data which may make sense of a traditional manufacturing orientated company but not for an 'asset light' enterprise like a PR agency or Enron. In addition many client relationships are more transient than other industries, three years is oft quoted as the average lifetime for a client relationship
  • Working capital is looked at as part of the model with with following formula (current assets - long term debt / current liabilities). An agency usually has few if any current assets again skewing the model
  • The model looks as the cover for trade creditors, this would be particularly important for a manufacturing company because of their reliance on raw materials and components, it does not fit well with service industries in general because supplies do not make up so much of the cost of the end product

Part of the answer lies in the PR agency model outlined by Spin Bunny
  • Letting people go faster than clients can be expensive where they have been with the company during a sustained economic upturn, so subtantial redundancy packages are required at the wrong moment in the business model
  • Acquiring fresh meat for the PR grinder is no longer cheap with recruitment agency fees and a shortage of staff at account manager level in many sectors. This has a major impact especially since junior staff are generally more profitable than senior ones
  • Overservicing clients can be responsible for investment and sales being misalligned, a major no-no on the Plimsoll Model

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants Redux

For a while now, there has been a lot of weight in the marketing community about the different ways in which younger generations consume information and use technology. Allegedly they like to surf incomprehensible websites, love gadgets, have their own language, listen to the radio, watch the TV and surf at the same time. Older generations, having not grown up with interactive media and the internet were considered to be immigrants, less skilled than the younger digital natives. A good primer for this generational theory is Marc Prensky's essay which can be found here (PDF).

I have my doubts about this theory because of empirical evidence and research:

  • It is well proven that people consume information and learn in different ways, that difference is the reason why I have good verbal and reasoning skills but can't draw for toffee. Digital natives assumes that younger generations all have one learning style, a theory not borne out in research
  • I have a friend who is a typical soccer Dad, he uses an iPod and all the usual gadgets that a large professional salary can bring. He has a son who prefers a minidisc player because of the ability to change discs, his son prefers the real world change rather than the iPod scroll wheel
  • Research from Nielsen Norman highlighted the fact that many young people have just as poor a technology skills as older generations before them in their report Teenagers on the Web: Usability Guidelines for Creating Compelling Websites for Teens they found that teenagers do not like some of the fancy sites built for them by web designers preferring a cleaner easy-to-use approach like most other people. Interactivity is good but not if it takes a long time to load or is difficult to use. In addition Nielsen Norman found similar patterns of behaviour with children in an earlier study
  • In an apparently digital world, analogue is making a comeback, vinyl record sales are increasing, digital watches have never been so unpopular. Only where digital provides a comprehensive advantage in usability such as DVD over video does digital win out.


Jargon Watch

Traffic consultant - taxi driver. Unbelievable a consultant who actually works for a living and I guess it also explains why taxi journeys are so expensive. Thanks to AVN Insider reader Emo for the tip.

Switcher - a Windows PC user who is fed up with viruses, spyware and system crashes and decides to try a Mac (at least according to Apple and the Kansas City Infozine)

Mum Truck - a large 4WD vehicle used by mothers in urban areas to transport their children short distances. Supposed to be derogatory, but I quite like the sound of it! (source Collins Life Dictionary online)

J├Ąger Bomb - American students rocket fuel of choice J├Ągermeister (a herbal liqueur) with energy drink Red Bull: human catnip for jarheads and jocks

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Very 1984....

I originally got this US Today article from the Interesting People email list ran by Dave Farber. Modern Americans are ignoring the wisdom of the founding fathers, in particular Thomas Jefferson - author of the declaration of independence "To preserve the freedom of the human mind then and freedom of the press, every spirit should be ready to devote itself to martyrdom; for as long as we may think as we will, and speak as we think, the condition of man will proceed in improvement." The article makes scary and thought provoking reading , rather like pre-war Germany:

U.S. students say press freedoms go too far
By Greg Toppo, USA TODAY

One in three U.S. high school students say the press ought to be more restricted, and even more say the government should approve newspaper stories before readers see them, according to a survey being released today.

The survey of 112,003 students finds that 36% believe newspapers should get "government approval" of stories before publishing; 51% say they should be able to publish freely; 13% have no opinion.

Asked whether the press enjoys "too much freedom," not enough or about the right amount, 32% say "too much," and 37% say it has the right amount. Ten percent say it has too little.

The survey of First Amendment rights was commissioned by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and conducted last spring by the University of Connecticut. It also questioned 327 principals and 7,889 teachers.

The findings aren't surprising to Jack Dvorak, director of the High School Journalism Institute at Indiana University in Bloomington. "Even professional journalists are often unaware of a lot of the freedoms that might be associated with the First Amendment," he says.

The survey "confirms what a lot of people who are interested in this area have known for a long time," he says: Kids aren't learning enough about the First Amendment in history, civics or English classes. It also tracks closely with recent findings of adults' attitudes.

"It's part of our Constitution, so this should be part of a formal education," says Dvorak, who has worked with student journalists since 1968.

Although a large majority of students surveyed say musicians and others should be allowed to express "unpopular opinions," 74% say people shouldn't be able to burn or deface an American flag as a political statement; 75% mistakenly believe it is illegal.

The U.S. Supreme Court in 1989 ruled that burning or defacing a flag is protected free speech. Congress has debated flag-burning amendments regularly since then; none has passed both the House and Senate.

Derek Springer, a first-year student at Ivy Tech State College in Muncie, Ind., credits his journalism adviser at Muncie Central High School with teaching students about the First Amendment, which guarantees freedom of speech, press and religion.

Last year, Springer led a group of student journalists who exposed payments a local basketball coach made to players for such things as attending practices and blocking shots. The newspaper also questioned requirements that students register their cars with the school to get parking passes.

Because they studied the First Amendment, he says, "we know that we can publish our opinion, and that we might be scrutinized, but we know we didn't do anything wrong."
So you want to work in PR?

Great web blog called Pimpmyjob that tells true-life stories from the frontline of the 'communications' industry filling in the information the IPR website, your careers advisor and the college lecturers neglected to mention. Pimpmyjob features tales of redundancy, unappreciated talent and inhumane working conditions but unfortunately does not name-and-shame people :-( To paraphrase Snoop Dogg, I knows some people, who knows some people, who shafted some people.