Monday, June 27, 2005

CSR Showstopper

Its easy having worked in the media to lose touch with what happens in society. When I read in the FT on Saturday about Greggs the Bakers' school breakfast clubs I was impressed and disturbed at the same time.

Firstly the disturbed bit, I went to school in a hardship hit area where many kids queued to get free school meals, I managed to avoid it myself as my Dad managed to keep working. The recession hit 80s I thought were long gone, its a lot easier to work now. The breakfast clubs reminded me that the child poverty one associated with my parents day and before despite family credit and new deal schemes designed to alleviate real poverty. It seemed like something one would have expected when there were the dark satanic mills and dank industrial landscapes portrayed in LS Lowry paintings and sketches where working-class people toiled on the edge of existence and children were at risk of catching rickets and got their shoes from a 'boot club'.

I was impressed
by the way Greggs have taken positive steps to help communities deal with this by funding the food and equipment like toasters and having their own staff train volunteers who cater for the breakfast clubs. Breakfasts improve punctuality and help the children concentrate on their morning lessons, since many of them would not have eaten until lunch time. The campaign seems to be a text-book case of corporate and social responsibility activity. Apparently the scheme costs them in the region of 250,000GBP per annum and puts to shame the Big Food companies who have far more resources at their disposal and are in desperate need of far more goodwill.

What do you think?

Sunday, June 26, 2005

The Rod For Sony's Own Back

Sony is busy trying to close down the UK and European grey market for Japanese market version Sony PSPs. Grey market devices are an ingrained part of gaming culture, the real hardcore fans want to have the latest and best, in the same way that movie fans will buy region free DVD players to watch the latest US and Asian DVD releases. One could assume that Sony rattling the cages of grey importers was just a way of keeping the PSP buzz going through to the much delayed European launch. However according to gaming fans interviewed in Saturday's FT its as much as about not getting a substandard gaming experience. Japanese model PSPs are alleged to be able to play games from any region and to have a brighter and clearer LCD screen than those planned for European customers. Instead of a buzz, Sony has managed to leave a bitter taste in the mouths of many of the influencers it would look to evangelise the PSP in Europe.

What do you think?
Jargon Watch

I haven't seen this sort of feeding frenzy since PR agencies started throwing a wobbly about how to get their fingers into the corporate website design pie with online press rooms and the like.

efluentials - a word owned and used by Burson Marsteller to describe bloggers, people who subscribe and contribute to email newsletters, bulletin boards etc. Kudos to grizzily journalist David Tebbutt

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Dearly Beloved we have gathered here.....

Jon Marsh, front man of The Beloved has put many of their old demo tracks and unreleased mixes online as MP3 files. There is also a news section that keeps you up to date with what The Beloved are now up to.

Particularly worthwhile is the demo version of Time After Time and the Radio 1 mix of The Sun Rising.

The Sun Rising is probably the closest to perfection that a pop song has ever become...
Jargon Watch

Mommy consultant - Not an advisor to the idle rich telling them how to look after their children between nannies. Instead it is the name given by some Silicon Valley inhabitants to experienced female PR consultants who have chosen to go freelance and balance PR with having children. Partly a result of market where is a surfeit of people with five plus years experience. Kudos to SiliconValleyWatcher.

Friday, June 24, 2005

The Michael Jackson Posting

Like the Fatty Arbuckle and OJ Simpson trials before it, the celebrity trial of Michael Jackson seems to have divided opinions despite the not guilty verdict. The most outspoken view I have heard is this diss from NY underground MC Necro based on Billie Jean. I don't agree with the sentiment but respect the rap delivery.

What do you think?

Monday, June 20, 2005

Just brilliant

This originally came off Response Source; an email list that connects journalists on tight deadlines with PR agency folks who have clients to sell.


JOURNALIST: sally flood (freelancer)
DEADLINE: 20-June-2005 at 18:00 (GMT)
COUNTRY: United Kingdom

Urgent message to the PR called REbecca who called me this afternoon
the CW business continuity feature...


While i'm very much enjoying listening to you and your colleagues
away about your holiday plans, I have work to do and sort of need my

ps - good luck getting the time off in august.



-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-End of query-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

Sunday, June 19, 2005

On heavy rotation

Not really on rotation at the moment as the decks and set up is in disarray until the last of the shelving goes into the garage / utility room. Many of my recent purchases have been stocking up on old gaps in my collection and getting fresh pressings of old favourites.

However here is the new stuff:
  • Tayo meets Acid Rockers Uptown - Rockers Delight (Fat) - Dubbed out acid break madness
  • Westbam and Nena - Old School Baby (Low Spirit) - German legend DJ Westbam had this track featured on a Fabric mix album and the reviews went ballistic. It isn't bleeding edge stuff, but it hits the spot
  • Martinez - Shadowboxing (Automatique) - The kind of quality deep house you would expect from an artist that has had their records released in the past on Guidance
  • Jordan Fields - Re-edit series (Loft 66) - Quality re-edit EP with something for everyone on the 12
  • Sistema - colores en capsules EP - (Factor City) - Spanish house music that is good enough to take on the best of the US.
  • mr bfennd - rock the roses (white label) - Outkast vocal over The Clash. Works really well
  • The Fort Knox Five - Radio Free DC (Fort Knox) - The A-Skillz and Krafty Kuts mix is what it is
  • Various - Summer 2005 sampler (Brique Rouge) - Buy it for the Alexkid track Flute which will not be released
  • Henrik Schwartz - Jeff (Zepplin) - German deep house, interesting JuJu Christian track on the flip
  • Del Costa & Pedro Goya - 37 (Classic) - Percussive house cracker, very 80's sleeve though
  • DJ Pierre - This is house (Essence) - talking house record, builds and rocks nicely
  • Simon Nedeczky - Tribal Sunshine (white label) - single sided percussive house track, very Ibiza
  • DJ Vitamin D - That Latin Track (Estereo) - Balaerics in the house
  • Jerry Ropero & Denis the Menace feat. Jaqueline - Coracao (Nero) - Get it for the Axwell mix
  • Francois K - Mindspeak remixes (Wave) - Its similarity to Jamie Principle's Baby Wants to Ride hooked me in

The Crazy '99

The Crazy '99
Originally uploaded by renaissancechambara.
Picture courtesy of Jener Miranda from the 2005 class year book of Paul Revere Charter Middle School in Los Angeles.

I got an email from an old colleague of mine Jener Miranda. Jener and I used to work together at a then very successful PR agency called The Weber Group Europe on 'traditional' enterprise software type technology clients and newer 'boom' clients in what where then bubble areas like mobile software, e-commerce, web services and alternative telcos. Jener moved back to the US and eventually left the public relations agency game for a more fulfilling career inspiring and educating kids. As you can see from this years class year book photo, he's a firm disciplinarian. Jener's email and recent articles that I have been reading threw me back to those times in 1999 when we worked together.

There are a number of factors that are piling on the pressure to repeat the past. VC firms are being more adventurous with their funding, mainly because if they don't spend the money soon they will have to give it all back and won't be able to charge management fees. Hundreds of millions of dollars are at stake. This means that they are incentivised to invest it in something.... if they are desperate enough anything.

The VCs bargaining position is not helped by the fact that many of the most promising investment opportunities do not need them, having been bootstrapped together rather like Jim Clark's Netscape. VCs that previously specialised in traditional areas such as enterprise software tools, photonics, wireless technologies and telecoms are looking to get into consumer web ideas.

There is too much money chasing too little investment opportunities (for example the hype surrounding the Party Poker floatation and the amount of wannabes launching in its wake. (I know of two at least that friends of mine have been approached to work on that are Party Pokeresque vehicles funded by investment bankers and hedge funds who smell blood in the water.)

Social networking has already seen a boom and the first casualties occurred last year like Buddy Network and Pollen in the UK alone.

Much of the technological areas that were hot when I cut my PR teeth are hot again: PC-to-PC and PC-to-phone communications, shopping comparison sites and online calendars to name but a few.

- When the company becomes the product. During the last boom many of the start-ups goals were to have a swift exit strategy and the business may have been set up with an investor in mind (usually Cisco or Microsoft). With this mindset the management move from building a viable business with real sales revenue, to being focused on one sale: being bought by someone else
- The use of accounting measures with key numbers missing becomes de riguer: repeat after me EBITDA positive is not necessarily a profitable business
- Common sense and the laws of economics no longer matter (allegedly). I still have Wired magazine's encyclopedia of new economy reprint with the Rockwell painting cover somewhere. My defining story was when I met one of the management team of an incubator fund. We had so much work on at the time we used to vet new clients. At the end of the meeting I asked him what made his differentiated his outfit from competitors to which he replied that he was really surprised I had asked the question. They were too busy to think about and were focused instead on moving at internet speed
- Ideas that focus on the technology, not on people. Online banking works because people can easily see the numbers of their statement in front of them rather than having a boring litany read them from a call centre in Bangalore. Ordering a pizza by WAP doesn't, you already have a phone in your hand, just call up Dominoes instead

The first signs are that this is already happening.

I met a merchant banker who said that the collective memory of institutional investors and experts went back about eight years. We are over the eight-year threshold since the madness of the Netscape IPO first took hold.

Are we due another net bubble? Let me know your thoughts.......

Sunday, June 12, 2005

The Mac Is Dead, Long Live The New Mac

Picture courtesy of Apple Computer Inc.

Last Saturday evening, my trusty iBook G3, gave up the ghost in spectacular fashion, I needed a replacement machine sharpish to do work from home. This meant that the usual online shopping expedition was off the cards.
A trip over to my friend Steve on Sunday morning established that I hadn't been doing anything stupid and that the hard drive was dead. The drive could not be resurrected with DiskWarrior.

Its now Sunday afternoon, what do I do? Sack off going to see Sin City and head on down to the Apple Store in Regent Street.
'I want the cheapest system that I can get running'
'No I do not want a warranty'
'I do not want a more expensive machine'
'Yes I do want additional memory fitted today'
'No I do not want a warranty, or overpriced technical support'
'No I do not want an overpriced Apple display'

Then off to Tottenham Court Road to pick up a monitor, where it is virtually impossible to find a shop that stocked them, eventually Maplins came good.

In the meantime, Apple removes the 256 MB DIMM from the memory slot and upgrades it to a 512MB DIMM

I cart it all back to the ranch:
- The mac mini has Panther on board, so I need to upgrade the
Operating System as well as uploading my applications.
- Fortunately I had my mail on an IMAP account so it was all held server side and my .mac account re-dumped my diary, to do list and address book down on to the new machine.

10:35pm on Sunday night finally sorted, just the work to take care ofthen...
Viral Craicer

I may be the only straight man in the UK who thinks that Rachel Stevens isn't the cats meow. She's nice, but doesn't float my boat. However this viral done in Flash gets my vote for the most positive use of suggestion and double entendre. Kudos to young Jonathan.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

A tale of two microchips

OK, I was wrong. My rationale focused too much on Intel's present difficulties and techology. Apple is moving to Intel processors, the rationale behind it is being endlessly debated in the media but there was some interesting strands that I wanted to pull out:

  • At the present time the PowerPC is a great architecture, none of this is about the chip design, but about investment in chip manufacture. Jobs in his keynote focused on the suppliers product roadmaps and computational performance versus energy consumed (and dissipated). Intel is looking to make powerful efficient microprocessors in the future, suitable for mobile applications. IBM wants to become a one-stop shop for ASIC design and manufacture
  • The Power architecture will continue in some of the world's best servers and mainframes, vindicating its microchip heart. But then you don't need to have a mainframe sitting on your lap while you read your email on a commuter train
  • IBM stopped development of Apple's processors because the business was unprofitable
  • Sony tried to sell Apple on their Cell processor and failed. Jobs is supposed to have not liked the architecture. Moving the OS over to a new concept like Cell would have been a bet the farm move that would have given him little room to move. Sony would have liked to have Apple on board to increase capacity in their own chip fabrication plants

Essentially what all these points boil down to is this: the process of making micro-chips is becoming more and more expensive. This is reason why the electronics industry has seen the rise of the 'fabless' chip company over the past ten years. Once you have the engineers, designing a chip is relatively inexpensive with the rise of powerful, cheap off-the-shelf computer workstations with specialist software. For ASIC designs, some of the software is available as a free download. However, pushing the bounds of physics to get more components on a smaller piece of silicon to work properly requires a huge amount of money. The ability to manufacture microchips is becoming ever more concentrated in the hands of fewer players. Apple never represented more than 3 per cent of IBM's chip fabrication capacity according to reports I have seen online, so it was a no-brainer for them to lose Apple and focus on larger volume players like games consoles.

Interesting questions:
  • Why has Sun's SPARC architecture or Fujitsu's flavour of it not come up in discussions. Sun would benefit from having an addtional customer for the SPARC architecture and the RISC to RISC move would have been well received in the Mac community?
  • When can we expect to see the first PC rejecting a chip architecture and moving to FPGAs instead? This is already happening in specialist electronics that do complicated computations in areas such as video processing.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Design classic in the marking

Omega has had a well-deserved reputation for making some of the world's best timepieces and is the flagship brand of the Swatch group. Its co-axial movement introduced a few years ago was a major step forward in mechanical watch design. Now Omega has developed a watch worthy of the movement. The Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean is a great looking watch with a timeless design like the Omega Speedmaster Pro. I am very tempted.....

Saturday, June 04, 2005

PR Stunts and Virals of Note

Country Music Television (CMT) announced that it has appointed a vice president CMT Dukes of Hazzard Institute. He gets paid 100k USD to sit at home and watch the Dukes of Hazzard in a PR stunt that was brilliantly designed to garner coverage. The role attracted applications from 1,900 candidates throughout the US. The nationwide search included recruitment ads in national magazines and newspapers and online job postings at Web sites.

Job description:

• watching The Dukes of Hazzard every weeknight on CMT.
• knowing the words to The Dukes of Hazzard theme song, "Good Ol' Boys," written and performed on the series by the legendary Waylon Jennings.
• serving as media expert on The Dukes of Hazzard for the CMT Dukes of Hazzard Institute: participating in TV, radio and newspaper interviews to share his expertise and passion for The Dukes of Hazzard on CMT.
• writing The Dukes of Hazzard Institute online blog for
• being passionate about The Dukes of Hazzard on CMT.
• making appearances at special events such as CMT DukesFest 2005

Burger King has decided to use the power of the dark side to peddle its fast food. The restaurant chain has teamed up with Lucasfilms to create an animal, mineral or vegetable based viral. Pit your wits against Lord Vader at Sithsense

Friday, June 03, 2005

Godfather of Gaming Holds Court

Always On reports on the wisdom imparted by Nolan Bushnell. Nolan founded Atari, and gave some of Silicon Valley's finest their big break. Key outtakes below:

  • Computer gaming is isolating. 90 per cent of board games are bought by women to help bring their families together, whilst solitaire is the most popular computer game.
  • The gaming business has shrunk. "The actual game business has dropped—in a physical sense—since 1976. Back then, 40 percent of the population played games. Now less than 15 percent of the population plays games. Whole sections of the market have been turned off by the violent and epic nature of modern games.
  • Photorealism does NOT equal good game play.
  • Sequel-itis. "I'm worried about the world devolving too quickly to sequels. The thing that drives entertainment forever is newness."
  • Console gaming: "It's Microsoft's to lose." [Commenting on the expected release of Microsoft's Xbox 360 by Thanksgiving, months ahead of the Playstation 3.] "Xbox's timing is very good. It's Microsoft's to lose at this point. Sony's making a late entrance. Despite interesting technology, they will struggle a bit."
  • Cell phones: not for serious game play. "Larger screens will be the de facto choice for people who are serious about game playing. You'll see trinkets on cell phones, but they'll be less important." One exception: "A new series of games will evolve where the cell phones' relationship to physical space will be important. People will come together to play games in proximity. The person who can create that will bring tremendous viral marketing."
  • Education is a huge, untapped gaming market.