Friday, July 28, 2006

Taking a break from blogging

Originally uploaded by renaissancechambara.

I am taking a break from blogging for a few days but will be back at it on Tuesday in the meantime I can recommend Bob Cringely's weekly column which this week talks about YouTube, its licence changes, intellectual property rights and the whole phenomena of YouMedia.

Three interesting parts to it:

- YouTube doesn't believe in the warm fuzziness of web 2.0 companies i.e: Google's don't be evil mantra. But then Flickr has had its Nipplegate as well, so no surprises

- YouTube is going to make money by pillaging and repurposing other peoples content to their hearts content, how will affect the social forces that have driven YouMedia? For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction: the mass media begat media literate consumers that eventually became innoculated from conventional advertising. Also is there a market for them to charge PR companies for the privilege of not having their viral videos subverted, relicenced and remixed with competitor messages?

- YouMedia is the emperors new clothes, there is evidence that it works, but the companies at the forefront of it often don't really get it. They talk a good game on PowerPoint but that doesn't really mean squat. Something that I have suspected for a long time, but Bob got a frank admission from some 30-something executives from a large unnamed media company. There again this kind of makes sense, the hippy movement could only really be understood in retrospect.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Trip down to the local

Originally uploaded by renaissancechambara.
Congratulations to my former colleagues especially Axl & team for finally getting this puppy out the door. Find it at

Jargon watch

Originally uploaded by renaissancechambara.
Calling in rich - When the partner of a business has enough money and doesn't want to work any more they are said to call in rich.

It can be very difficult if the business hasn't succession-planned for the departure.

Generally it refers to the founders of technology companies, but I have known a partner in a hedge fund to do this.

Kudos to A VC.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

I am about to use profane language

To many PR people time tracking is as offensive as any swear word, thankfully the interweb has once again came to the rescue. Courtesy of LifeHacker comes a downloadable paper sheet for those of you that like to mark their tracking and then put it in electronically. (I don't get the sense of it, but there you go).

For freelancers or budding the Martin Sorrell's of this world, you could do worse than look at Toggl an online time tracking solution built on wholesome web 2.0 goodness.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Online value

Bob Cringely's article got me thinking about a number of questions.

- If a story is less likely to be read because of the nature of online media versus print media, how should this be factored into credibility and reputation (like opportunities to see numbers do currently for print and broadcast)?

- Does the nature and intensity of engagement between media and reader change for online outlets, and if so how does it impact on the relative benefit of PR?

- How can PRs take advantage of the slowed down media agenda online?

- Is there economic case for PRs to move from media influencers to creating their own media, given the diminished power of online media (large and small)?
Let me know any thoughts that you have on the subject.

Link of the day

Bob Cringely at has an interesting article: They wrap fish, don't they about the limitations of consuming news online versus in a newspaper.

Key points:

Most of the news published on an online site is less visible and harder to find than a paper

Internet news also tends to be serial. The New York Times, for example, has an average of 25 stories each day in its business section and every one of those stories can be read online. But only a handful are presented as headlines in the Times web edition. So unless you are very diligent about ferreting it out, at least 75 percent of the Times' business content is invisible and unread online.

Internet news is sloooow

We rely, instead, on aggregators, mainly newspapers, which are again aggregated by outfits like Google News. The result is that some information gets to the web long after it gets into print.

News lives longer online in a slower and ponderous way than in print because a newspaper has a useful life of only one day.

Newspapers, because they are printed daily, have a lifespan of one day. And because they generally have several stories on each page, we have the opportunity to SCAN the news in parallel. These are two huge advantages of print journalism over its electronic counterpart. In newspapers, news gets out of the way at the end of each day, leaving room for more news. On the Internet, we're still talking about that safe landing of the Space Shuttle Discovery 48 hours after it happened. Okay, they're down, get on with it. So people who get their news from the Internet may know a lot about Britney Spears' attitude toward child car seats, but they don't know about many other things because of all that Britney news cluttering the ether.

Friday, July 21, 2006

MemeWatch: Five social media tools bloggers can't do without

This meme first came to my attention on Drew Benvie's blog, he has a good summary on some people's answers there. My suggestions:
  • Blogger - yes it is tempramental and the spell-checker is dyslexic, it is virtually unusable with Safari, but its what I have been using to blog for the past two years and a half years or so
  • Flickr - It is just so easy to get the whole pictures thing, prior to using it I didn't bother with photos at all. Now when my old Yahoo! employee Flickr Pro account runs out in September I will have to pony up my own cash to sort this out
  • Bloglines - Whilst I dearly like NetNewsWire for the Mac, having my newsreader on the web makes life so much easier
  • Email - yes its old school, but its still an invaluable source of news and its contents has persistency that IM doesn't. I dearly love the IMAP4 standard that allows me to keep my mail on a server and access it from work, my home computer and my mobile phone
  • Yahoo! MyWeb 2.0 - Ok so the log-in/sign-up process can be a dog, the pages have a foul colour scheme and it is hard to get your initial bookmarks in there, but thanks to project leader Tom Chi this service went from awful to something useful that could outperform in a few iterations time: (Chi sorted out basic things like making MyWeb work with the Safari browser). Another thing really valuable about MyWeb is the ability to keep a copy of the page that you are looking at like a virtual photocopy for you to read at your leisure after the content has disappeared behind an archive paywall.
Since six is the new five, I would add my MacBook Pro by Steve 'I invented the iPod you know' Jobs and Co. Whilst I preferred the titanium of earlier models rather than the aluminum sheet look garnered from Ikea and prefer a computer that runs a little cooler, it still rocks big time.

I guess that I should pass the baton on to some others: Jonny Rosemont, Iain Tait, Wadds, Tom Coates and James Warren.

Viral nature of memes kills lazy comics

GQ Magazine's 10 things that you need to know carried an interesting story on how text messaging in a theatre performance meant that after a comedian tells a new joke it has a shorter shelf life.

The viral mechanism by which memes are spread means that a new joke can get a laugh one night and barely a ripple of a response the next night.

Is this the real reason why Jim Davidson was reportedly declared bankrupt?

Scientists also claim that it would be cheaper to send a man to Mars than make Jimmy Tarbuck funny. The story also featured in The Metro.

On the subject of laughs this faux blog of Steve Jobs is the bomb.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Social bookmark(et)ing just got professional

Thanks to the GMSV blog for the heads up. AOL-Netscape have offered the top contributers to Reddit, Digg and Flickr the opportunity to be active on the New Netscape site and get paid for it. This is interesting because it means that there is now a price on the super contributers that make up every social community product.

Arguments go along the lines of it won't work it will disrupt the community dynamics, I am sure that Bradley Horowitz and danah boyd would have more feedback.

Where I think it is interesting is that it shows how community or micro media is morphing back into becoming part of the 'big media combine'. Big media has long ago recognised that blogs represented a viable way of publishing content without having to resort to a complex content management system.

I could see social bookmarking working as a media, some of my favourite blogs post links of the day, imagine what would happen if an aggregator of news and links on gadgets was open to sponsorship from say Energizer?

It messes with the numbers of players relying on free user-generated content as consumers get hip to their value. Just like power sellers on eBay sent everyone scurrying into the attic to sell their tat online, so they will start to look at their online life in a different way.

Where does this leave the start-ups and some product groups within the big online players and their business plans? Will points and web badges be enough?

For instance will social networking, email and instant messenger operators have to pay highly-connected individuals for their patronage in order to continue to get eyeballs?

I think that the opportunities it offers marketers (and PR folk who are willing to get involved in through-the-line-marketing initatives) addressing global niches are very interesting.

I am just waiting for to announce dress down Friday for users, reflecting the new professionalism in The Conversation.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Weblogs, reputation management and rotoscopes

InfoWorld says that Jupiter Research claim that 70 per cent of large companies will be using blogging to try and get word-of-mouth online karma going about their product. IT is having to look after the weblog infrastructure and the columnist is bitching about it as IT resources are overstretched. Ok, well why not use the outsourced blog in India as a trial for rightshoring more of the IT taskload?

It isn't as bad as they make out as there are plenty of really good hosted services that are ready for enterprise grade blogging; Six Apart most immediately springs to mind, hell Yahoo! product-specific blogs for Yahoo! Answers run on Y!360 which is a toy platform in comparison to Six Apart and yet the IT department are worried about enterprise blogs. What I find interesting about this article is that the journalist does not see weblogs as important for the company image and reputation, yet they wouldn't say the same about the corporate website would they?

The laurel branch of innovation has been passed on from IT to other branches of the business apparently.

Brandchannel have a good primer for marketers on the importance of PR and reputation management, I can think of a couple of marketers who think that the PR budget should be spent on Google AdWords who may benefit from a read ;-).

Stephen sent through a link to a French film that has the monochrome feel of Sin City matched with the rotoscope goodness of Through a Scanner Darkly. Find out more here.

Carson Workshops had some good guidelines in their email newsletter about pimping your latest web application:

Tips: How to Market Your
Web App - Ryan Carson
1. Write your "Ten Second Sell" and learn it.

2. Put up a holding page to generate pre-launch buzz (You'll probably get between 2K - 5K email addresses).

3. Use the blogosphere to your advantage, pull in favours.

4. Write useful articles for big sites and submit them.

5. Dream up a publicity stunt - we did

6. Try to avoid paying for advertising in the beginning

7. Tell people how great your app is - every chance you get.

8. Try to get speaking slots at conferences
9. Network - be helpful to others and they will help you back.

10. Use Technorati and Google Blog Search to track when people blog about you - Subscribe to these feeds

Monday, July 17, 2006

Requiem for the page

Yahoo!'s three-year old home page design is being replaced in the US with other countries soon to follow as the site becomes more web 2.0 buzz compliant and is more in keeping with the luck and feel of newer and revamped properties. It would be good if they could reinvigorate the look and usability of the search homepage in a similar AJAX fashion.

It gives a better user experience (and hopefully a stickier one) at the price of losing a little on network advertising inventory space for Yahoo! properties (though I may be wrong on that one). How many casual users will realise the blood, sweat and code that went into the new look.

It plays nicely with Microsoft Internet Explorer, Mozilla and Safari which is good news. I will wait to hear from Ian Wood if does equally well on Opera.

Return of the Jay

Kevin Smith is doing a follow-up to Clerks, the first of his films to feature Jay and Silent Bob - two of the most awesome slacker deities.

Mewes and Smith will be back as Jay and Silent Bob.

Slackers get a hooky DVD copy down the pub and get ready book out the sofa for the next 18 months watching this latest installment in the generation x life guide.

After me 1-2-3 Snu-gins.
Kudos to AP.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

The canary in the mineshaft

There is an interesting article on Reuters Curse of the Devil Wears Prada by Abha Bhattarai today about how luxury goods are being affected by the high cost of petrol and other economic pressures. Apparently the middle classes and the nearly rich (people with only 5 million USD to their name) are cutting back on luxury goods including Calvin Kleins, their latte from Starbucks and Tiffany's the jeweller.

Are these luxury brand the canary in the mineshaft warning of an economic downturn?

Well this follows on from profit warnings across a number of industrial sectors including most parts of the technology sector. If a five-dollar coffee is too rich, what about a 500 USD PlayStation 3?

Friday, July 14, 2006

lastfm has gone all 2.0

Music site has had a make over with artist collages generated from your playlists and graduated fades that say web two point oh. Click on the image to get a better view.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

PR and IR communications best practice

Quocirca have an interesting report about what influences IT spending decision makers (free registration required).

Basically the IT department is the finance directors bitch. Finance influences all reasonable sized IT decisions, half IT managers aren't even technical decision makers. Finance people are likely to go to exhibitions and read IT publications.

Online is read more widely than print. Sunday papers are not valued for their IT knowledge (so that blows up the Sunday Times nice little sideline on supplements). Interestingly IT publications like IT Week are more respected by finance and IT managers than the FT or The Economist. They generally prefer to read IT publications online.

The first port of call for recommendations on vendors and solutions for finance managers is.... other finance managers. Direct mail, mobile marketing and targeting influentials in the blogosphere doesn't seem to cut any ice with anybody.

IT managers relied on search engines more than any other source, in order of trusted ranking:
  1. Google
  2. MSN
  3. Yahoo!
  4. Lycos
IT managers are the most cynical about market analysts and IT, telecoms and public sector business are not influenced by analysts as they aren't willing to pay for their reports.

Meanwhile the picture above is the most unusual investor relations communications design that I have ever seen. I have doctored the contact details so that you don't go pestering people or turning up uninvited ;-). Clicking on the image will make it larger for better inspection.

Finally Emory Business School have some heavyweight recommendations of reading material for the beach here.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Links of the day

Interesting survey over at Duncan Chapple's blog over which analyst houses have the most influence.

Whilst the split may may change depending on what tech sector your client is in, its an interesting piece of research; particularly when you see the dominance of US focused players.

And the fact that a good third of the most influential analysts are in the other category indicating a large amount of fragmented trusted expertise.

Meanwhile the GSM Association have a handy site that allows you to compare roaming charges when you visit different countries in Europe.

I tried it using Orange post paid as my settings to have a look at different carriers. What I found interesting was that in the countries that I sampled (Germany, Ireland, Spain, France) there was not price differential between the carriers. Of course this was an unscientific test isn't at all indicative of price fixing is it?

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Address Book woes

I had a bit of a sickener on Sunday afternoon and I wanted to pause and calm down for a bit before I wrote about it. I was editing an entry in my address book, when the application suddenly hung.

I shut Address down using force quit and rebooted my machine.

All 3,600 or so contacts had vanished from address book, .mac and my phone. I couldn't find them as a hidden file somewhere using Spotlight on the Mac, they had just vanished completely.

Spooky, weird and a bit unnerving to say the least. Apple's support forums didn't reveal anything that could shed any light on this.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

New Orange experiential marketing / advertising thing

I got this in my inbox this morning if you are interested in participating click here.

What is Linkie Winkie?

I noticed that my blog feeds had been scanned by a site called Linkie Winkie, I went over to the home page which hinted at some social webby thing going on but didn't spell anything out. Answers in the comments section below please.

PR 2.0 part five: When to blog

This installment in the PR 2.0 is a bit out of step with the rest of them but fell out of a discussion that I had yesterday evening with someone I had met from a consumer agency. As an agency they were being pressured by their parent company to move more towards blogging, online PR, joining in The Conversation, worshipping Robert Scoble/Steve Rubel/Jeremy Pepper/Dave Winer (insert favourite touchstone blogger name in here as appropriate) as the second coming of Christ etc.

Two issues that came up and got my attention were: - What do you say to a client that wants to start a company / product blog? - How does digital culture and society link together?

What do you say to a client that wants to start a company / product blog?

First of all ask yourself will the client flame out in 12 months or are you in for the long haul?

If they're a flamer, their funding is going to burn away like foam on the space shuttle's undercarriage on re-entry, so you may as well bill them and be damned otherwise they'll just throw it away on business-class flights or Cisco routers.

However if its for the long term the first thing that I think you do is fall back on consultancy skills and ask the right questions. The big one in this case being why? My own thought is that it is better to do nothing for the right reason than encourage the client to do something for the wrong reason. Although you have lost the mark-up on employing a digital agency to set up a template and a Word Press server you will have helped build a longer term relationship with the client based on trust and valued counsel.

Where you can sell blogging services even when you are discouraging your client from using blogging as a communications tool is by pointing out that the client from a HR perspective should have blogging guidelines in place because at least some of their staff will be participating in the online conversation.

You can then utilise your expertise and Google to find and adapt guidelines to suit the client's corporate culture and business requirements. Voila! Two days of senior time that can be billed to the client.

They probably don't blog about the company, but giving employees guidelines can encourage them to become company ambassadors because they know what is acceptable and what isn't.

How does digital culture and society link together?

My take on this was that the online world largely mirrors the offline world, however it also exerts some influence as a feedback loop. A great example of this is the mobile phone: it became popular because it was convenient to use and fitted into consumers lives, however the 160 character limitation of SMS has given use a new written vocabulary and camera phones have facilitated the expansion of citizen journalism.

(Citizen journalism was about before in a less impactful way, the amateur photographer or tourist with a camcorder or the eyewitness phoning up a newspaper and recounting their story down the phone. The difference is that now the citizen has more control of the distribution.)

I think that there are generational differences in world outlook that also influence this: most bloggers are late boomers or generation X. Boomers are existential in nature broadcasting their views, gen X like the conversation and debate of the comment fields and generation Y have a different world view that is much more collaborative so social networking makes even more sense to them.

Looking at generation Y is their collaborative nature borne out of the technology world around them or inspite of it. I read an article a while ago that pointed out that just over a decade ago caller ID was pushing the bounds in privacy, whereas generation Y realise that they don't really have privacy anyway.

Then again, the exhibitionism of MySpace could be also down the cult of celebrity show-it-all phenomena from MTV's The Real World or the The Osbournes to Endemol's Big Brother; or for all you Daily Express readers out there its just another sign of the end times in a decaying society brought about by the premature death of HRH Princess Diana.

PR 2.0 series
Part four
Part three
Part two
Part one

Thursday, July 06, 2006

London Underground

London Underground
Originally uploaded by renaissancechambara.
I woke up this morning and according to the TfL newsletter that drops into my email box for 6am there was no problems with the tube anywhere. If you don't believe me click on the image.

Anyway I was gobsmacked, so I felt that I would have to fall back on the wit and wisdom of street poet, philosopher and career guidance counseller Ice Cube on this situation.

This was the first 'Cube track I found on there but it was strangely appropriate.

Ice Cube
It Was A Good Day

[Verse One]
Just wakin up in the mornin gotta thank God
I don't know but today seems kinda odd
No barkin from the dog, no smog
And momma cooked a breakfast with no hog (damn)
I got my grub on, but didn't pig out
Finally got a call from a girl I wanna dig out
(Whassup?) Hooked it up for later as I hit the do'
Thinkin will I live, another twenty-fo'
I gotta go cause I got me a drop top
And if I hit the switch, I can make the ass drop
Had to stop, at a red light
Lookin in my mirror and not a jacker in sight
And everything is alright
I got a beep from Kim, and she can fuck all night
Called up the homies and I'm askin y'all
Which park, are y'all playin basketball?
Get me on the court and I'm trouble
Last week fucked around and got a triple double
Freakin niggaz everyway like M.J.
I can't believe, today was a good day (shit!)

[Verse Two]
Drove to the pad and hit the showers
Didn't even get no static from the cowards
Cause just yesterday them fools tried to blast me
Saw the police and they rolled right past me
No flexin, didn't even look in a nigga's direction
as I ran the intersection
Went to $hort Dog's house, they was watchin Yo! MTV Raps
What's the haps on the craps?
Shake 'em up, shake 'em up, shake 'em up, shake 'em
Roll 'em in a circle of niggaz and watch me break 'em
with the seven, seven-eleven, seven-eleven
Seven even back do' Lil' Joe
I picked up the cash flow
Then we played bones, and I'm yellin domino
Plus nobody I know got killed in South Central L.A.
Today was a good day (shit!)

[Verse Three]
Left my nigga's house paid (what)
Picked up a girl been tryin to fuck since the 12th grade
It's ironic, I had the brew she had the chronic
The Lakers beat the Supersonics
I felt on the big fat fanny
Pulled out the jammy, and killed the punanny
And my dick runs deep, so deep
So deep put her ass to sleep
Woke her up around one
She didn't hesitate, to call Ice Cube the top gun
Drove her to the pad and I'm coastin
Took another sip of the potion hit the three-wheel motion
I was glad everything had worked out
Dropped her ass off and then chirped out
Today was like one of those fly dreams
Didn't even see a berry flashin those high beams
No helicopter looking for a murder
Two in the mornin got the Fatburger
Even saw the lights of the Goodyear Blimp
And it read, "Ice Cube's a pimp" (yeah)
Drunk as hell but no throwin up
Half way home and my pager still blowin up
Today I didn't even have to use my A.K.
I got to say it was a good day (shit!)

[Ice Cube]
Hey wait, wait a minute Pooh, stop this shit
What the fuck I'm thinkin about?

There you have it. The all's clear message just wasn't credible.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Jargon Watch

Sausage casing girls - Young women and girls who are overweight and wear clothes that are far too small for them, so creating giant love handles and letting it all hang out in an unsightly manner.

The debate rages on whether they are fashion victims needing to wear the latest slinky tops and hipsters, in denial about their size or showing body pride.

There is one great line from
Letting it all hang out (July 5, 2006) by Robin Abcarian of the Los Angeles Times: "Fat or skinny, it doesn't matter," she said. "The guys in there will look at you if you're wearing a little skirt and hoochie tank top."

Monday, July 03, 2006

Piper Jaffray research doesn't show bubble

Piper Jaffray's Silk Road newsletter penned by senior analyst Safa Rashtchy is usually interesting reading. One particular diagram stuck out to me. PJ's internet index incorporating most of the usual suspects has been consistently underperforming the NASDAQ implying that shareholders have a relatively well-balanced view of the sector.

Admittedly this doesn't cover most of the start-ups the VCs are funding as built to flip operations so that they can sell them on to big media combine like Yahoo!, Google or NewsCorp.

Link of the day

Advertising Age has a case study of the Yahoo! Found campaign that ran in London.

The campaign was interesting because it used the environment as an interaction with the poster executions to give it an experiential feel.

The campaign reasonated for a long time with consumers and we took found arrows on to the streets long after the poster campaign had finished to hijack the Dukes of Hazzard UK fillm premiere, SES London (with the help of Vegas showgirl outfits) and a Harry Potter book launch.

Running that kind of campaign on a sustained basis takes a lot of cojones, especially in a corporate environment, its a pity that it wasn't exploited to its full potential.

The problem that marketers now face is that the likes of Google Adwords provide a safer option with PowerPoint friendly data that can be dropped into pivot tables and used like a crutch to support their decision-making in the face of a hostile management.

What this doesn't capture is brand value, goodwill which provides more diffuse benefits of preference over time.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

A dreadfully simple idea

I went home for the weekend to see the folks in Liverpool, I had not been on Virgin Trains for a good while and went on one of their new tilting 'Pendolino' trains.

Whilst Virgin have tried to give passengers the airline treatment with radio and air conditioning that actually works, the big boon for me was the humble three-point socket under the table which allowed me to plug in my laptop and spend a productive few hours going there and back.

It's a brutally simple idea. Trains are usually powered in two ways: electricity or via a diesel engine. With an electric train how hard is it to allocate some of the electricity to a step-down transformer and provide 240V 50Hz to passenger seats?

Diesel isn't as hard as you'd think either. Diesel locomotives are usually known as diesel electric, the reason for this is that in order to transfer the enormous amount of power to the axles would take an exceptionally robust transmission systems so trains have a generator hooked up to the engine instead and each axle is fitted with a giant electric motor. So in essence a diesel train is an electric train with its own power station on board.

Now if someone could apply themselves to consistent cell phone reception on the mainlines and in-carriage wi-fi, trains may represent a more viable proposition for business and leisure travel again.