Thursday, June 29, 2006

Major Malfunction


I got tired of my Palm playing up decided to move away from the platform as their quality control has gone out the window. I picked up a Nokia E61. Nokia have crafted together a nice looking no-nonsense Treo competitor and its priced competitively as well from what I see on the interweb.

In terms of product design Nokia have made a damn sexy piece of kit, most of the shell is metal (I am guessing aluminum or an alloy), with a nice big screen and the nicest responding keys that I have felt on a handheld device.

Where things start to go wrong is the software. The Nokia E61 cannot take much more than 1,000 contacts - that's right its a business phone and yet when I synched over 5,000 contacts into it I started to get memory full messages.

I spoke to Nokia support and they claim that its a firmware issue and they are working on writing an update but they don't know when it will be fixed. . In order to get the update I will need to have my phone reflashed at a Nokia Service Point.

I know its unbelievable, so I will run this past you again: the Nokia E61 has a known fault that will directly affect business users because it will not hold as many contacts as a chavtastic Palm Zire PDA. It has sailed into production and they are only now thinking about fixing it.

And in order to further inconvenience their long-suffering customer base the firmware update when it becomes available can only be installed at a Nokia Service Point, leaving the customer without their phone. Nice, this makes the device about as much use as a liberal arts intern in a PR agency.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Link of the day

The University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth has a good report providing advice from established bloggers. Gen up on this before you go wild with the PowerPoint talking all that jive about direct communications with your prospects and existing customers. Kudos to the former Pirate cabin boy at Jonny 'the ladiez choice' Rosemont over on the Bitemarks blog of his present employer.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Goowy Gosh


My new role has a pretty locked down IT policy so I can't use a Messenger application like Adium to keep in touch with contacts on various different IM networks.

So in my search to find a web equivalent I came across Goowy which provides a 'desktop' on the web. It has a messaging client that can handle AOL, ICQ, MSN/.net/Windows Live and Yahoo! Messenger.

The email client will consolidate POP3 accounts but doesn't handle IMAP, at least not yet. Whilst there are alternatives like Meebo, Goowy provides the slickest service and best user experience (click on the picture to have a better look at the screen shot).

Ok, now for the big question, how will these people make money? Could they be the meta portal that Marc Canter has been saying that web 2.0 services need, which would be financed via contextual advertising a la Google and Yahoo!?

It's not about the winning, its the taking part that counts


Thanks to Lawrence :-)

Monday, June 26, 2006

Social Networking and Sidekick deflation


Over at Jupitermedia CEO Alan Meckler talks about the death of social networking, as he is now starting to become numb to the concept. Alan obviously has more staying power than many of the rest of us.

I don't think that social networking as a concept is dead, I think that it will become an invisible technology like electricity, you know when its missing but don't notice any longer when its there submerged as part of the hygiene functionality of other web services.

The concept of another email provider or photo sharing service doesn't fill me with excitement but demand for these services continue to grow and yet you will only hear about them when the service goes pear-shaped like the Yahoo! Mail worm debacle recently.


The San Jose Mercury News VC section asks
can the Sidekick finally hit the big time?

I reckon no, the product has been too long and too close to T-Mobile for any of the other carriers to want to issue it in the US or Europe.
In addition I suspect that it is about to become the Macintosh of the phone world as Windows Mobile commoditises the smart phone industry and Nokia reasserts itself in the more sophisticated European mobile marketplace.

What Sidekick needs is a content provider like AOL or Yahoo! to act as a middle man/reseller channel and aggregate users across carrier, but that's as likely to happen as Tom Cruise renouncing Scientology.


Finally as the city fathers of San Jose build apartment blocks and cultural attractions to attract young people to live there, they need a new marketing campaign, my suggestion: San Jose - It doesn't suck.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Jargon Watch


wadds.jpg
Originally uploaded by adamgilhespy.
Militant consumers - highly organised disciplined consumers who are brand and marketing immune. They make best use of the near perfect market information available online to get the best price on items and are strident in an un-British manner demanding a refund on sub-standard customer experiences. Kudos to my old guv'nor Stephen Waddington over at Rainier

Codeslinger wanted


One of my friends is looking for a freelance programmer who can sweep into a central London-based project like the man with no name sweeps into a lawless town in a spaghetti western.

Instead of being a super-sharp shooter and quick on the draw, you will need to be conversant in Microsoft Active Server Pages and SQL Server.

Ok so no AJAX, no Ruby, no Enterprise DB and no MySQL required and before you ask yes I know that it may suck and there are much more powerful tools out there, but I'm not paying the money so don't bother complaining to me.

If you're interested you can contact her
here.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Technology brands


I used to think that technology and brand marketing were two separate disciplines, at least the way that I had seen them practiced in the past.

So I found the
Forrester Research report The 2005 Technology Brand Scorecard of interest. Forrester has run this benchmarking survey for a number of years and compared to 2003 most device manufacturers saw their trust level fall. Only two brand rose: Apple and TiVo.

Apple however hasn't had it all its own way, iPod users tended not to recognise themselves as Apple Computer users, so Apple would be wise to emphasis the tie between the two devices. Apple also needs to reach out to less affluent families and persuade them that purchasing an Apple is good value. (This shouldn't be too hard with devices like the Mac Mini and MacBook).


Forrester Research measured their scorecard on three parameters:


1. Brand trust. We ask consumers to indicate how much they trust each brand on a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 means "distrust a lot" and 5 means "trust a lot." All brands are trusted by their users more than they are distrusted, scoring well over the midpoint of 3: Scores for PC and CE manufacturers range from a low of 3.9 for Microsoft to a high of 4.6 for Bose. To calculate a brand trust score, we also factor in the change in brand trust since 2003.

2. Brand potential. The number of households that plan to use a brand — but aren't regular users today — are a brand's aspiring or potential users. This untapped market includes new customers, consumers who don't use the brand at all today, and casual customers, consumers who don't consider themselves regular users today. Aspiring users range from a low of 3.2 million households for Microsoft to a high of 17.5 million households for Bose. To calculate a brand potential score, we also deduct the "at-risk" customers, consumers who give the brand a trust score of 1 or 2 and are at risk of defection.

3. Brand adoption. Forrester asks whether a household uses a brand "regularly," yielding adoption levels that range from a high of 50.8 million households for Microsoft to a low of 3.8 million households for TiVo. To calculate a brand adoption score, we also factor in the change in the number of regular users between 2003 and 2005.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Delinquent Habits - Return Of The Tres


Many people have now know the works of the Delinquent Habits from the recent Nike adverts but they've been kicking phat joints for the past decade or so.

They have a big live following in Switzerland and Austria where hip-hop fans like their breaks and skills rather than plodding rhymes, stale production and comatose beats. Fresh is the word. This joints going out the OG himself Mr Chieu Cao.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Adidas Originals boutique

I love this clever piece of window dressing. The cathode ray tubes and innards have been removed from some vintage televisions and replaced with gels of imagery from this years Adidas Originals collection and backlit with a fluorescent tube inside the cabinet.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Nape


Nape
Originally uploaded by renaissancechambara.
A Bathing Ape's trainers were inspired by Nike's Air Force One designs.

Now Nike has returned the complement co-opting Bape's use of bright candy colour pastels and patent leather type finishes in its summer limited editions for sneaker freakers.

Seen at Size? in Covent Garden.

Sunday Miscellany


Stephen sent over this great link from Philips which explains the benefits of their new body hygiene shaver, best appreciated with the volume turned to 11. Meanwhile Wired have a reasonable top-level summary of the happenings at O'Reilly Media's Where 2.0 conference.

And finally the Japanese telecoms sector is trying to catch up with the Chinese lead on Linux in mobile phones with the announcement of a
new talking shop/ collaboration.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Reuters let's their hair down


In response to reader requests for more coverage of the FIFA World Cup , Reuters Oddly Enough Blog posted this posting and pictorial highlight.

Since Ireland hadn't qualified I wasn't interested in the competition, but now I'll be supporting Sweden: just to see how they'll celebrate if the cup goes back to Stockholm. :-))

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Monday, June 12, 2006

Shocker Shockley


I remember in 1996 reading Robert X Cringely's Accidential Empires and finding out some of the colour behind Silicon Valley which made it more interesting than just a group of nerds beavering away directly above an unstable earthquake fault that could swallow them up like Godzilla on the march through Tokyo.

One person Cringely did not fill in the colour on was William Shockley. Without Shockley there would not have been any Silicon Valley in Northern California and it would have been called Germanium Valley.

Shockley invented the transistor, but was such a repulsive personality that eight of his best employees left his company Shockley Seminconductor Laboratory to set up Fairchild Semiconductor and then later on Intel.


Anyway, you can find out more in a book that has been launched called Broken Genius; one for the beach this summer I think.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Getting ready for lift-off?


Yahoo! Answers was one of the last projects that I worked on when I was inhouse, I will hold my hand up and admit that I was a hawk in terms of the product being a 'killer application' mainly because it failed my own 'test' of how is this relevant to my online life?

The prototypes that I saw internally reminded me of the self service customer solutions offered by the likes of RightNow Technologies and Transversal and the support forums provided by Apple for users.
In some ways I was wrong (and I am happy to be wrong in this case).

Windows Live QnA doesn't seem to have gone anywhere, Lycos IQ: though superior in terms of design and features doesn't seem to have got that much traction so far.

According to Hitwise (via SearchEngineWatch), Yahoo! Answers is now the third most popular reference site online, however its 2.94 per cent market share is puny in comparision to the 16.76 per cent marketshare of Wikipedia which has a Googlesque sector dominance.


Steve Rubel has talked about Yahoo! Answers on his MicroPersuasion blog Marketers will Answer to Yahoo! and sees the opportunity for sponsored sections, which kind of squares the circle in the way that I viewed the product.

It offers yet another opportunity for direct interaction with consumers and a channel for cummunications, but not a full-on dialogue.


Where it gets interesting is when you look at the Google Trends data on the service, most of the search enquiries for Yahoo! Answers seems to be coming out of India, rather than the US or Europe. This will alter the services attraction for advertisers in terms of the net worth of the consumer and whether they can capitalise on the clicks through presence in the marketplace.
In addition, where similar services have been provided in the US before, they haven't made much of an impact.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Wal-Mart Strengthens Brand Owners Hand


According to Reuters (Fendi sues Wal-Mart over fake handbags) luxury brand Fendi (owned by LVMH) has gone legal on Wal-Mart for selling fake goods in its stores.

The allegations if proven true open a can of worms for the Edelman team who work at spinning to keep Chairman Sam's republic from further reputation damage:
  • Wal-Mart is known for beating the cost down on goods, is there no end that the Bentonville Bandits will go to?
  • How much counterfeit goods have they been selling?
  • What about the breech of faith with customers who purchased the bags as the genuine article?
This will add grist ot the mill of brand owners fighting grey market imports and maintaining market differentiated pricings. This could disadvantage the case of etailers and non-licenced retailers everywhere.

The case also allows Wal-Mart detractors to discuss the companies market power abuses including:

Troll runs end game around games industry

Intellectual property rights are the neutron bombs of modern business. Major companies hold patents and horse trade licences in order to gain an advantage over rivals.

Patent trolls are companies that use patents to squeeze licence fees out of other companies. According to Ars Technica Nintendo has exhibited some troll-like behaviour with is successful patent for instant messaging in a game environment.

Where does this leave Xbox Live, Sony or games like World of Warcraft and America's Army? Nintendo has concentrated on playability and ceded battles on the millions of polygons that its consoles can render; however it now looks as if that focus may yet pay dividends.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Either taking liberties, or a sign of things to come


AOL has started putting advertisements on its customers paid-for email. Its like you putting a letter in the post box and the Royal Mail opening the envelope and putting in a flyer for a double glazing firm.

I would feel violated if Apple that to me with the email account for this blog.


Understandably, AOL's diminishing customer base feels righteously peeved off that this latest indignity.

I think that its a sign that AOL is looking to reinvent itself by moving into the portal market a la Yahoo! and Google as its dial-up business continues its slow death spiral and the AOL disk becomes a cultural relic like the Sears Roebuck catalogue before it. And while the business logic behind it may be perfectly sound, AOL have left both their customer service staff and PR team with a more immediate problem.

Lastly is the longer term issue, over the past five years AOL's brand has been on the wane, if the company wants to reinvent itself it needs to protect the brand from further erosion of goodwill, instead ads in email has just become another brick in the wall.

There is now a confidence within the web game that web advertising revenues are here to stay, the collapse of five years ago is now a distant memory, when online dating saved the bacon of of some of the web media titans.


Meanwhile over in Europe the Discuss campaign now starts to make sense as a bit of corporate brand awareness. According to unconfirmed news reports it looks like AOL UK may be up for sale.

(Kudos to SearchEngineJournal).

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Holy smokes, somebody actually reads press releases


Media maverick Charles Arthur's spurning of PRs as a source of stories along with their dreaded press releases has put him out on the limb as a knowledge worker according to US research outfit Outsell HotTopics: 2006 User Update - How Information Providers Can Keep Pace With User Demands For Time-Saving Solutions.

Search engines were found to be of no use to knowledge workers a despiritingly high 30 per cent of the time. (Kudos to
EETimes.com).


Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Blogging as marketing placebo, RSS as spam


There is an interesting article over on Charlotte Li's blog where she discusses how hard it is to put a value on PR and web blogs.

In a rare admission, Charlotte says that she shouldn't have talked about her blog providing at least a million dollars value, since there wasn't any quantative data points to back this up the claim (not that would normally stop an analyst with an eye on media exposure ;-)).

Over at the Bite PR blog, Reuters correspondent Eric Auchard talks about how RSS is worse than email for data overload, something that has been borne out by conversations I've had with UK journalists recently whilst conducting a media audit.

Monday, June 05, 2006

World Cup Lessons


World Cup
Originally uploaded by renaissancechambara.
I walked past the Odeon in Shaftesbury Avenue and they are advertising the fact that they well be showing World Cup matches in live digital high-definition video.

At first I thought that it was a gimmick, kind of like bringing back news reels, but the more that I thought about it, the more I released that it showed the limits of the online world.

Watching a common event in a group setting will add so much to the enjoyment of the match, probably even more than on a small screen down the local pub.

Its an experience that would be very hard to replicate on the web, despite the talk of communities and social software, the cinema will come closer to emulating the terrace experience.
The very benefits of the web, being able to receive customised content becomes its weakness as servers and networks struggle to cope with a common demand.

We've already seen this, when September 11, and July 7 struck people usually heard of this via the TV or the radio as the web slowed to a crawl. I heard of what went down during July 7, when I got an instant message from the PR agency that I had working for me at Yahoo!.

The team at Bite had the television on in their office and IM'ed me; IM being a newer form of communication with different ports for different brands (MSN, AOL, Yahoo!, Skype, Jabber etc) did not slow down in the same way that reading web pages or email did, which I guess was a benefit of multiple competing standards with no clear winner.

Meanwhile the Yahoo! UK editorial team and engineering rebuilt the home page to make it load easier and provide our users with up to date information.
By finding the things that bring us together, the old media can thrive and prosper alongside the new.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Jargon Watch


Zing
Originally uploaded by renaissancechambara.
Zing - A 'new' social phenomena that Samsung is trying to build around using the Z5; a poor imitation of the iPod Nano. Zing means to listen to music on your Samsung MP3 player and putting your head in another place instead of the dull normality of your life.

Unfortunately they are using tube ads to build this new social phenomena, there doesn't seem to be a spokesperson as a proof-point of the ground swell and given the popularity of the iPod it would be hard to back Zing up with credible research to build into a media story. So its a bit of a PR dogs dinner.

It may seem like a funky idea in downtown-Seoul, but its not going to wash on the Central line with its sea of white earbuds, instead it has the connotations of a cleaning product and has no appeal on the z-list of MP3 players. Dial Z for loser.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Oprah Time and the elemental truths


Over my lifetime I have had a number of moments when I felt like I saw things with crystalline clarity: one time was when I was in the library doing a job search in the papers (this is pre-Monster.com kids).

I suddenly came to the conclusion that even if I got a job that I would be in the same cycle soon again and I needed to get out of the blue-collar roles, even if it meant leaving vast tracts of my life behind.


The next one was in April 2000, the internet business had gone mental, the PR agency I was employed in was in mid-flow of the dot.com boom and all the mini-bubbles that went alongside it like the Java boom, the Linux boom, the broadband boom, the web business marketplace boom, the mobile web boom and rise of the PDA.

In fact, about the only thing that we didn't promote was micro-scooters, though we did employ a German freelancer who commuted in from Brighton and rode one everywhere he had to go around London.

Anyway, things got so busy that we had to interview clients and decide whether we wanted to work for them. I met a gentleman from an incubator fund and quickly decided that they were start-up roadkill, but I couldn't work out why this man who was obviously a lot more clever than me was involved in the enterprise.

I asked him what made his companies offering different, to which replied "Ged, I am surprised that you asked that, we are trying to move at internet-speed, so aren't thinking about things like that." I had a sudden jolt of crystalline vision and saw how horribly it was all going to end and that my pension fund wasn't worth squat. The elemental truth in this moment is that common sense trumps eloquent words and intellect every time.

Which brings me on to 8vo On the outside by Mark Holt and Hamish Muir. Steve bought this for me as a Christmas present and up until my apparent non-redundancy and move back to agency life I hadn't really had a chance to read the book in full.

The book charts the rise and fall of the design agency 8vo, their work and puts into context their pivotal role in modern UK graphic design.

The book is a collaborative work written by 8vo, former employees, former clients and industry observers. It is part history lesson focusing on design and the business of design, part a tale of technological change and part catalogue.

The way the book is written it is almost as if it is therapy for Hamish Muir and Mark Holt, I found it in turns fascinating and uncomfortable as they progressed through their work and found some elemental truths in their approach to design.

Much of their style of work has been co-opted by their modern day peers, so it is no longer remarkable, however what their peers lack is a good understanding of their approach to work.

Iain Tait over at Crackunit had a link to an interesting interview with Eric Reiss who learned the same elemental truths as 8vo, but via a different road: in his case Vinterberg and Von Tier's Dogme 95 rules for film making.

  • Anything that exists only to satisfy the internal politics of the site owner must be eliminated.
  • Anything that exists only to satisfy the ego of the designer must be eliminated.
  • Anything that is irrelevant within the context of the page must be eliminated.
  • Any feature or technique that reduces the visitor's ability to navigate freely must be reworked or eliminated.
  • Any interactive object that forces the visitor to guess its meaning must be reworked or eliminated.
  • No software, apart from the browser itself, must be required to get the site to work correctly.
  • Content must be readable first, printable second, downloadable third.
  • Usability must never be sacrificed for the sake of a style guide.
  • No visitor must be forced to register or surrender personal data unless the site owner is unable to provide a service or complete a transaction without it.
  • Break any of these rules sooner than do anything outright barbarous.

Oh one completely useless piece of information that I found out today, the ZIP in ZIP code stands for Zone Improvement Program.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Web link of the day


jacksonpollock
Originally uploaded by renaissancechambara.
jacksonpollock.org allows you to make art without a mess and doesn't require talent unlike art.com's artpad.

It even picks the colours for you, just one click and it changes to a complementary colour, see the picture for my masterpiece.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Retail Therapy and the antedote


Maharishi have their summer sample sale, details on the picture. However if you are through with all this consumerism try Neil Boorman's blog the Bonfire of the Brands which discusses our love-in / addiction to brands. (Kudos to Iain at Crackunit.com)