:::renaissance chambara:::

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

Saturday, April 29, 2006

 

Tech tales


A couple of interesting artifacts that I found online and wanted to share with y'all.

First up, video conferencing, why is it so crap and what are you going to do about it?

Ok, we've had video online, we're now living in an age of pretty much ubiquitous broadband, why do we stop with using our VoIP client of choice and use video instead.

Well there is the network side of things: IP networks provide a 'best effort' service so the signal may be come degraded. All the pixels will get to the other end eventually but they won't get there in the right order and the latency of the signal will depend on the slowest part of network travel that they have to make through the internet 'cloud' no matter what kind of pipe you have between you and your local telephone exchange, wireless hub or cable television outfit. Look at video streaming, it has errors and flaws in its signal even on my 2MB pipe AND the signal is buffered to smooth out these glitches like a CD player. With real-time interactive video conversations that is not a technical option.

Also you may not want to have the person see you as well as speak to you, imagine if you have a bad hair day or want to lie?

The third factor is a much more basic human system and the best way of illustrating it is by looking at the picture above. Notice how you don't have eye contact with the people that you have a conference with because the camera's perspective is slightly different to the view you would have if it were a real-world conversation. Notice how the men on the left and right are looking above their screens and the ladies are looking below, this is just enough for you to notice and process at a low level. It doesn't feel natural, the conversation won't flow as well as a real-world sit down would because the eye contact feels wrong.

This is why video conferencing can feel so wrong, even Apple's attempt at correcting it with a small mirror picture (the one at the bottom) to see how you look to the callers feels wrong.

Historically the way to do that is to have the difference between camera angle and the viewing angle of the screen as small as possible. This was achieved by using big TV screens with a camera on top and the participant perched at the end of a big conference table at the other end of the room. That's why big oil companies and George Bush love video conferencing but you're not likely to see it adopted en masse in UK homes soon.

Its also not exactly the most elegant solution, which the reason why I was really intrigued by this Apple patent which I saw courtesy of those nice people at AppleInsider.

Imagine where the screen viewing area was the camera with camera elements squeezed in between the pixels on your LCD. The back-light would provide the ambient light required for the picture, you an have eye contact with whoever you are speaking with without living in a mansion and having a conference table the size of a small yacht.

In theory this principle would also work with on mobile screens (at a lower quality-level), televisions etc. On the scary side it would also allow the omni-present two-way tele screens for surveillance like Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Web 2.0 and the Enterprise

News.com have an interesting article Web 2.0 meets the enterprise how companies like IBM and Visible Path are using technologies like social networking, RSS feeds and wikis to help large companies build IT systems. News.com make a big show of how these 'consumer' (their word, not mine) technologies are changing the enterprise software landscape.

In addition, Forrester sent out an email newletter talking about how service-orientated architecture (SOA) (simply put: enterprise-grade web 2.0-type technologies) are having an accelerated take-up with happy IT directors to be found everywhere.

The truth is more complex than the News.com story about how the kids are showing big business the way, the process is much more complex.

AJAX is generally a hard thing to do well so it is interesting that Michael Robertson is selling AJAX-based web services through ajaxLaunch and looking to use AJAX as a way of providing applications and widgets on top of an OS. Its an interesting take from a business head on all the utopian dreams such as the network computing meme or Netscape's 'the browser is the OS'-hype back in the day and an ideal way for novices to get web 2.0 see his 'everything is moving to the cloud' keynote here which also has a good product demo (RealPlaya required).

Nice definition of what AJAX means to marketing people - 'rich web applications right to your computer'.

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Create Social Bookmark Links
 

Jargon Watch

Pokemonetize - To make money by appealling to the stupid human instinct to collect dumb things. Developed by Simon Willison in the bowels of our office in London and eagerly catalogued by prankster and tech strategist Tom Coates. The scary thing is that its a really articulate mission statement for any web 2.0 enterprise that you care to mention. Thanks to Tom for sharing this work of genius with us, I can see a book deal and a speaker tour coming soon ;-).

"If I don't make it in heaven, I'll run shit in Hades" - Everlast (Soul Music)

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Create Social Bookmark Links

Friday, April 28, 2006

 

PR masterclass


This special installment of PR masterclass comes courtesy of Popbitch email newsletter.

How to use a celebrity to your advantage and maximise your publicity budget:


1. Have a new online gambling company? Look around for a popular, downmarket celebrity to front it.


2. Announce that Kerry Katona is the new face of your brand.


3. Watch her career slide under accusations of drug use and boozing.


4. Decide you want to get rid of her but don't want to look like you're kicking her while she's down.


5. Prepare to leak to the papers that she's been up to some bad behaviour so her contract has to be ripped up.


6. You get publicity, the tabloids get a story, Kerry gets thrown out on her ear, you don't look bad.


... 7. Except it's not a good idea to discuss this so openly on a Palma-London EasyJet flight,
within earshot of two reporters...

The moral of the story is of course not to fly with budget airlines where this nothing to eat, drink or read and so you have to talk about business. Also fly first-class so you won't have to be surrounded by lots of beastly people? ;-)

There is an old adage that was attributed to the founders of Hill & Knowlton that you shouldn't say in public anything that you wouldn't be happy seeing in the following mornings papers.

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Create Social Bookmark Links
 

Bring out your dead


When I worked on the Palm account the most valuable asset the company had was a vibrant developer community from large organisations like Sybase and Oracle to one-man bands selling their shareware over services like Tucows.

Now according to News.com Is the PalmOS missing the Multimedia Boat? by Tom Krazit that developer love don't live here any more.

What's more given that Access are building a PalmOS as what is basically an embedded Linux platform there is a curious lack of development tools for the next iteration of the PalmOS? What on earth is going on?


What's the benefit of using an open source codebase then over offerings from the likes of WindRiver or QNX?

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Thursday, April 27, 2006

 

Code Martyrdom & The BBC


I saw this interesting article from the San Jose Mercury News: Work widow's blog fuels uprising at Electronic Arts by Nicole Wong (April 26, 2006) about how tech company employees are rising up and casting off their shackles to try and get a life outside of work.

Whilst the article focuses on the games industry, it has been a matter of pride in the tech sector since polyester shirts, pocket protectors and punched cards were geek chic.

Which is why sites that cater to code monkeys like ThinkGeek stock up on so much caffeinated materials and celebrate The Sacred caffeine Molecule (check the bottom right of the page).

Indeed the seminal book on the invention of the internet Where Wizards Stay Up Late canonised this practice in its title. This ethic has also slipped into supporting sectors like PR and design agencies working for technology clients.

Instant messaging software, Treos or Blackberries and laptops mean that the work doesn't stop, there isn't downtime and there is a very real social cost. It makes interesting reading.

On the BBC 2.0 coverage, Tom Coates provides an informed opinion at the developments, based on his experience as a former BBC mover-and-shaker.

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Bank Holiday Plans


I am stuffed with a duff leg but if I wasn't I'd be taking advantage of the following events in London this weekend - details courtesy of FACT magazine:

'Proper' Acid House Warehouse Rave @ secret East-End location They say there’ll be laser shows, a 15K rig plus Dennis the Menaces, rhubarb & custards and snowballs available at 1990 prices! Party runs 11pm till 6 am and is strictly invite only. To add your name to the list, email: rob@meplus1.com - directions will be available on the night on 07736 961 169. Feel the rush!

Breakin’ Convention ’06 @ Sadler’s Wells, Saturday 29th & Sunday 30th April
Annual celebration of breaking lands in fine style with displays from the UK’s Zoo Nation Youth and Holloway Boyz, Deep Trip from Switzerland, Storm from Germany, Medea Sirkas from the US and French headliners Wanted Posse. Plus DJs, films, graf and an abundance of hip-hop related shiznitz – all this good stuff and a weekend pass costs a McGuyver – bargain!!! Check: www.breakinconvention.com

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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

 

Veoh saves the web and fishy chip tales


Veoh Networks is a great company, though I haven't worked out yet whether it is sailing too close to the wind or not. The company is funded by media conglomerate Time-Warner and Michael Eisner (the former ruler of planet Disney). The website looks like YouTube, but with some important differences:
  • Veoh lets you submit full-sized streaming videos
  • YouTube limits its users to 100 MB files.
  • Veoh can do 2 GB files distributed via a P2P-client available for Mac and that other platform
I've been enjoying a selection of 'so-bad-they're-good' 1970s martial arts movies off there. The Mac client is really easy to use. My main concern is how will the company make money in the longer term. I can see someone like TimeWarner using Veoh as a guinea pig to further is experiment with AOL and online TV. On second thoughts just enjoy it while you can!

I'm with Stupid


Apple has apparently moved away from using a PortalPlayer media processor in all its iPods and instead moved to Samsung for the next-generation of MP3 players. PortalPlayer is very exposed to the Apple business, with iPods counting for about 70 per cent of its sales according to a Reuters report that I've read. Its not healthy for PortalPlayer, hopefully the company will diversify its client base to become more independent.

However Samsung as a supplier was also a dumb move for Apple. This is not a commodity product like flash memory where Apple can use multiplie suppliers and change at will, the media chip is central to the iPod functionality and experience.

Does it sound like a smart move to work closely with (and educate in the art of engineering a killer MP3 player) a large ambitious, hyper-aggressive company that wants to eat Apple for lunch? It has been alleged that Samsung had meetings with creative agencies in London where the central theme was Kill iPod.

You can chart the fall of the iPod empire from this moment on...

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Tuesday, April 25, 2006

 

Jargon Watch and Code Sludge


MSM - shorthand for mainstream media: the kind of publications that web 2.0 advocates think will be washed a way in a sea of RSS feeds, XML data and AJAX-coded pages. It's funny how web 2.0 companies want the benediction of substantial coverage in these magazines though isn't it? Kudos to Richard Edelman.

I looked forward to the debut of Plaxo on the Mac. I think that its a great service if you use it wisely and not spam the-world-and-their-dog with it.

The product is a beta which often means not fully functional, watch out for side effects. In my case the product slowed my computer right down so that the only thing that worked was the spinning beach ball cursor and my Mac would no longer recognise my iPod.

I hope that Plaxo resolves these issues and unveils a product ready for prime-time.

Picture courtesy of CBS News.


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This is most likely a hoax, but I love the irreverence of it anyway

Monday, April 24, 2006

 

Blogosphere slooowwwwing down


David Sifry's blog posts on the state of blogosphere are now the webs equivalent of the Halifax House Price Index. Each announcement causes people to go scrabbling off to update their PowerPoint presentations. In the case of David's postings there follows a stream of phrases like participation media, citizen journalism and even heaven forbid Web 2.0.

For all you PowerPoint jockeys, here's the numbers for this month
  • Technorati is tracking over 35.3 Million blogs
  • The blogosphere has been doubling in size every six months
  • It is now over 60 times bigger than it was three years ago
  • On average, a new weblog is created every second of the day
  • 55 per cent of bloggers are still posting three months after their blogs have been created
Ok, where it gets interesting is looking more closely at Sifry's graph pictured above by clicking on the image. The rate of increase in blogging seems to be slowing down if you look at the period of August 2005 - April 2006.

Thoughts?

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Links of the Day


Linspire have finally released a free distribution of their Linux operating system. This is an interesting move, which could see them moving away from being a z-list box shifter to being the iTunes of consumer software through CNR.

There is lots of tired Gateway and Dell boxes out there that could be given a new lease of life and installing Freespire provides a good way of removing and helping proof against malmare targeting the Windows platform.

It would be especially attractive in wi-fi enabled homes were computer access is at a premium as kids and parents currently duke it out over two or more computers.

For any tech-heads passing its based on the Debian distribution like Linspire.

AOL promises that it is releasing a MySpace product for the rest of us that will be 'kick-ass' according an AOL spokesperson quoted over on a Business 2.0 article at CNN Online. Looks like they've finally figured a way to leverage their huge instant messenger user base.

Apple have released a 17-inch version of the MacBook Pro, but it isn't really news as the rumour sites had it down pat for a few weeks now. Over at Crack Unit Iain Tait has been talking about life with his new MacIntel companion.

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Sunday, April 23, 2006

 

Blog Post 800: The Relative Freedoms of the Internet


A couple of stories came to my attention this morning, first off today's New York Times magazine has an indepth feature about the challenges that China presents to Internet companies seeking a Chinese audience. Google's China Problem (and China's Google Problem) by Clive Thompson is balanced and well written, there are some interesting aspects to it:
  • The censorship is open rather than furtive
  • It involves self-censorship as a key element in it's execution
  • Chinese people interviewed do not view freedom of speech as an absolute binary state (you're free or you're not) but as a continuum and are prepared to make trade-offs; so Google's 'Do the least evil' approach makes more sense
  • The role of chat and forums in Chinese internet usage is far higher than we're used to
  • The assumption that the US readership of the article enjoy 'absolute' freedom of speech
The last point brings me on to the text of a speech given by US attorney general Alberto R. Gonzales at National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Vigilant civil rights activists have noticed a number items in the speech which would extend the government powers of censorship and surveillance well beyond child pornography with the implication being that in future US legislation freedom of speech may not be the absolute that it once was.

Lauren Weinstein of pressure group People for Internet Responsibility made the following post to the Interesting People email list:

In a speech a few days ago, Attorney General Gonzales announced DoJ plans to send Congress new legislation to control "pornography" and (apparently) ultimately to require activity log and other data retention by Internet Services (in follow-up interviews, Google and other search engines have been specifically discussed). Gonzales is pitching this legislation using child abuse as the hook. That is, he is arguing for tools to use against child abuse and child pornography -- certainly a "third rail" issue these days where virtually everyone will support enforcement efforts.

However, it's also clear that the DoJ seems to have no intention of limiting such tools *only* to child-related areas. The legislation itself is currently titled: "Child Pornography and Obscenity Prevention Amendments of 2006"


A transcript of the Attorney General's speech is here:
http://releases.usnewswire.com/GetRelease.asp?id=64319


Note this key quote:
"This legislation will help ensure that communications providers report the presence of child pornography on their systems by strengthening criminal penalties for failing to report it. It will also prevent people from inadvertently stumbling across pornographic images on the Internet."

Requiring the reporting of child pornography on systems (when it is known to exist) is something that few people would argue against, obviously.

But let's examine the second sentence again:
"It will also prevent people from inadvertently stumbling across pornographic images on the Internet."

This seems to be addressing the entire broad category of non-child "pornography" (which of course can be defined in any number of ways in different locales and contexts), and suggests a requirement (here we go again!) for proactive ratings/controls (presumably ID or credit
card based for "offensive" materials) for all (U.S.) Web sites.

So this isn't just about children, it's likely about broader government controls over many U.S.-based Internet entities (of course, Gonzales doesn't effectively address the issue of Web sites outside the country).


Gonzales goes a lot further in another quote:
"The investigation and prosecution of child predators depends critically on the availability of evidence that is often in the hands of Internet service providers.

This evidence will be available for us to use only if the providers retain the records for a reasonable amount of time. Unfortunately, the failure of some Internet service providers to keep records has hampered our ability to conduct investigations in this area.


As a result, I have asked the appropriate experts at the Department to examine this issue and provide me with proposed recommendations. And I am going to reach out personally to the CEOs of the leading service providers and to other industry leaders to solicit their input and assistance.
Record retention by Internet service providers consistent with the legitimate privacy rights of Americans, is an issue that must be addressed."

Again, we see that protecting children -- the goal that we all support -- is being used as the raison d'etre to likely later propose broad data retention requirements on all manner of Internet services. Ironically, this is occurring shortly after calls for mandated data *destruction* legislation that arose in the wake of the DoJ vs. Google records battle (where I strongly supported Google's stance).

cted that this sequence would occur -- though it is happening even faster than I expected.
Record retention is a particularly risky area.

DoJ might be expected to argue (as Gonzales implies) that such records would only be demanded in cases involving children.

That's today's line. But in a general records retention environment, you cannot a priori retain only the records related to child abusers whom you don't already know about -- you must retain *everyone's* records.


While the criteria for records access might be child abuse today, does anyone seriously believe that calls for access to user log data will not massively expand over time, to the extent that such data is available? Of course it will. If the data exists, all manner of ostensibly laudable reasons for government digging through users' Internet activities will be forthcoming. And that will create a wholly different kind of Internet, where ultimately our every action on the Net may be subject to retroactive inspection. The term "slippery slope" is definitely applicable.


We need to see the specifics of legislation before detailed comments will be possible. But the handwriting is on the wall, and it does not bode well for either Internet users or Internet-related services.

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Saturday, April 22, 2006

 

KultureVulture


I went to the V&A in South Kensington with Stephen and David to check out the Modernist movement exhibition that is currently on.

Modernism: Designing a new world 1914 - 1939 speaks to a more continental European experience than a British one. Much of the modernist work that I most like (such as the work of Charles and Ray Eames) was post-war.


The exhibition has been well put together, highlights include an original Tatra saloon, though the exhibition is 'disrupted' by the exhibitors not wanting to address modernism in Fascist-era Europe. An exception to this is a statue that takes the profile of Musolini and rotated through 360 degrees so that it gives it an abstract but recognisable shape.

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Friday, April 21, 2006

 

What the blak is that?


Coca-Cola have launched a new variant of Coke in the States called Coca-Cola Blak. Essentially is some sort of Coke-coffee hybrid. Fast Company blogger Jennifer Reingold thought that it was designed to compete with Starbucks head on, or is it supposed to compete with Jolt cola - a heavily caffienated cola that acts like nitrox for jaded geeks?

This would explain why it is in a 'Coke-shaped' PET bottle with a wrap that looks like the kind of camoflage pattern that would be worn by Satan's storm-troopers in the battle between heaven-and-earth.


It has been launched with a pretty standard brochureware site in Flash and the home page has a female voice over that sounds like she should be reading the news on a smooth jazz radio station with second-rate lift music in the background. This vibe is continued in the free wallpaper downloads that feature a bongo player.

The product and the brand messaging feel schizophrenic.
Weird, if Coke wants to sell more drinks, what about selling Barqs in Europe?

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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

 

Link of the Day with an Oprah segment


Where Wizards Stay Up Late by Katie Hafner and Matthew Lyon is the tale of how the internet was built. It gives you an idea of what an achievement it was and how fast we've come in the past 20 years. It is particularly good at covering the dynamics of the different personalities involved and the genuine sense of wonder that the protagionists had for their creation.

The book manages to focus beyond the usual suspects name-checked like Vin Cerf and Bob Kahn.
I have no idea what always-on generation readers growing up today would make of it between IMing each other and building their flickr album.

Speaking of generation-Y, Josh Weil of New Jersey-based research house Student Monitor got in touch with regards their new Gen Digital blog. It is aimed squarely at marketers and wannabee hep-cats in the spirit of Ypulse. Josh told me that they would like to expand it out to other countries in the future. They're only starting out so support them with your click.

Wikipedia hack: when searching Wikipedia by going direct from the URL ie: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Happy_Mondays. Wikipedia recognises spaces and puts in the _ character for you, so you can instead type http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Happy Mondays. Thanks to my colleague Simon Willison for this gem.


Finally is nothing sacred. This article in The Wall Street Journal (courtsey of YPulse) reminded of the 'marketers kill yourselves skit' that Bill Hicks used to do. The punch line was the marketers knew the price of everything but the value of nothing, well Nike and DaimlerChrysler's tie-up with comic giants Marvel provided empirical evidence to support Hicks' theory.

Ok, word to the wise, a comic character is a brand in their own right, the 'older' fan boy that notices your swoosh will go for The Punisher t-shirt over one emblazoned with 'Just do it' every time. And if he has enough money for a Crossfire, he'll use the money to complete his Spiderman collection instead and visit a few conventions to admire Nathalie Portman from afar. Nathalie Portman mmmm...

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Tuesday, April 18, 2006

 

Around the Web


Small things please small minds, I had overlooked the following post in my email box from the Interesting People email list from April 12, 2006:

A correction published in Tuesday's Wall Street Journal: "The wireless technology called CDMA stands for code division multiple access. An article Thursday about an investigation of Qualcomm Inc. incorrectly said the acronym stands for code division multiple complaints."

Or maybe it does when people see the size of licence fees that Qualcomm often demand ;-)?

Over at Trend Watching the latest concept that they've written about is Info Lust. This seems to be a mix of new and old ideas that are increasingly becoming of their time. Put simply Info Lust is the addiction that consumers have become to getting instant access to any kind of useful and relevant information.

It encompasses the benefit of the web as a information provider meaning that consumers purchase habits tending towards what economists would call a perfect marketplace where they know what is the best of the best for any given item through sites like epinions and the very best price based comparison shopping sites. This isn't a new concept, six years ago I was hyping evenbetter.com and launched DealTime in the UK.

Trend Watching claim that is driven by the consumer need to be in 'power and empowered'. Where this is moving on from previous incarnations is always-on ability to interrogate and receive answers through mobile devices and 'real-world' objects.

Key drivers include:
  • Micro-publishing
  • Web 2.0 traits like mash-ups, open API hacks (Pricenoia does price comparison across different Amazon sites using the company's APIs to provide the relevant data)
  • Opinion and review sites like SeatGuru
  • Mobile websites including mobile local search and review sites like SeatGuru Mobile (which is also great to use on a normal computer because of its clean design)
  • Dumb Objects, Smart codes: from SMS short codes to variations on tbar-codeode. Using camera equipped mobiles to input bar codes directly into a phone and request information across the web. Apparently Amazon is big on this in Japan. More information are held in QRCodes that can be in magazines, again Japan has led the way with reader software available for many of their common mobile phones. There are also other competitors like mCode, UpCode, ColorCode and ShotCode. The article also highlighted Neom whose Paperclick system uses server side image recognition technology to provide users with information based on bar codes, short codes or brand names.
  • Customer-generated codes allowing them to communicate a public message to those in the know on a t-shirt, sticker or web site. This could make a mockery of all the monitoring services getting to grips with blogs in the right hands.
  • Audio recognition like Shazam
  • Mobile audio guides including user-generated ones like Yellow Arrow or commercially-provided ones like the service Stet Hellas used to provide around the ruins of Athens seven years ago
  • Intelligent packaging (like the power meter strips built into Duracell batteries)
  • RFID
  • Bluecasting
Picture courtesy of Painless Wayne.

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Monday, April 17, 2006

 

Adamski, Njoi, James Lavelle and De La Soul - what more do you want (ok apart from Alex Kingston's cell phone number and next week's lottery numbers)?

 

Oprah Time


The journey back north gave me time to read Constance Hays expose of the accidental success that is the Coca-Cola company Pop: Truth and Power at the Coca-Cola Company.

The book was a bit repetitive in parts and could have been reined in with some proper direction and editing. Despite these flaws it provided an interesting insight into how a company had become such a colossal success in spite of itself and a parable on what happens when you try and shaft distribution channel partners.

The company used interesting accounting arrangements and stuffed its distribution channel in order to deliver results. It used an off-balance sheet transaction to set up a separate distribution company and then buy up its partners bottling operations.

Eventually this arrangement together with product disasters like New Coke and
Dasani.

Unlike Enron these weren't bad people, they were just trying to keep Coke the success it had always been in a world increasing dominated by savvy consumers and operators like WalMart that have a touch of the night about them.

Where it gets interesting is how someone like Warren Buffett could get taken for the ride.

It is full of high-drama like directors being called to meetings in distant aircraft hangars, being fired by key shareholders and then all of them going home in their own Gulfstream - quality, you couldn't make it up even if you wanted to.

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Thursday, April 13, 2006

 

Media@Emory


Emory University send out a regular email about research that has been conducted by students and teaching staff. For those interested in the digital media there were two stories of interest this month.

The first was piracy could be combatted through sampling (trial), by allowing customers to trial digital content in the way that they can trial real-world products like perfume or deli samples according to Ramnath Chellappa in his paper Managing Piracy: Pricing and Sampling Strategies for Digital Experience Goods in Vertically Segmented Markets.

The second paper is on survival strategies for newspapers in the face of competition, micro publishing like blogs and changing reading patterns. All the News That's Fit to ... Aggregate, Download, Blog: Are Newspapers Yesterday's News?

If the future of newspapers is an area of particular importance Forrester Research analyst Rebecca Jennings has written an interesting paper: Print Media's Answer to Cannibalization. (Paid registration required).

Happy Easter holidays!

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Wednesday, April 12, 2006

 

Link of the day

Take the Lead is one of them MTV-type films that street kids and people who listen to hippidy hoppidy music should be given a chance rather than taken out behind a wall and put down. Anyway the marketers behind it had the movie trailer remixed by a number of VJs and the results can be found here. The fave here at rc towers is the Addictive TV remix, but we still won't bother watching the movie.

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Tuesday, April 11, 2006

 

The Whizz


Ever since I discovered Netnewswire Lite by Ranchero, I have been a fan of RSS readers, the integration of RSS with the browsing experience that you get in the normal version of Firefox and Safari leaves me a bit cold.

A friend pointed out a freeware plugin Wizz for the Mozilla browser that turns it into a traditional style news reader. I was a bit cynical, but I have been convinced.
Mozilla is becoming an application platform in its own right, will this make Wizz Web 1.5?

Good Morning Silicon Valley pointed out that Webaroo, a modern day version of the offline browser has managed to raise a stonking 8 million USD. Given that the web everywhere is rapidly becoming a reality with wi-fi, wimax, 3G and 4G - why?

I know that venture capital firms are sitting on a huge stockpile of money that they need to 'invest', but the pitch for Webaroo must have either been very compelling or presented to some very desperate investors.

Also, only supporting Windows is so web 1.0. Check out their site before they burn through their funding and see where your pension fund money has gone (again).

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Monday, April 10, 2006

 

PR 2.0 part three: Bull5h1t Bingo


Don't Panic
Originally uploaded by renaissancechambara.

The Long Tail - The idea is that the web due to its ability to reach so many people means that collectively niche markets can be more powerful than 'the mainstream'. Chris Anderson wrote an article about it in Wired magazine and although some of his maths has been questioned the principle is sound enough.

So it may be 10,000 bands on MySpace selling a million albums between them or a record company selling the same amount by one artist or the mass of blogs versus conventional media.

Items that are in low demand ie have a low sales volume can collectively have a market share bigger than best sellers or blockbusters, this is used to explain the power of user-generated content.

Actually harnessing user-generated content isn't new: AOL was built on user generated content: emails, chat forums and IM conversations.

Context is used to explain the success of products because they fit into peoples online lives: for example Wikipedia and Flickr are simple ideas well executed, however they are powerful because people understand clearly what they are and what they do.

Context is also used to describe the increased level of interpretation that can be put on data when meta data like user generated tags are used, or the data is complemented by other relevant information from different sources (mash-ups in web parlance) like 118118.com do with their directory database and Google Maps so you can actually see where the restaurant is that you want to go to.

From a PR perspective, context is what you need to provide in your PR programmes for your Web 2.0 client, often it can be quite hard to articulate how their service is relevant to the average consumer's online life and why it is beneficial of them to take the time to tag?

There is a school of thought in product design that goes something along the lines of if a product isn't intuitive enough to be used without providing how-to guidelines its badly designed, what can I say most of your clients will fall into this technically talentless category.

The Web as Platform - the web is not not only being used as a way of hosting websites but also as a way of delivering a service or application, this isn't a new concept in businesses, as Salesforce.com and MySAP have been doing this for years; but its a major change in the way consumers do things.

Instead of relying on that bootleg copy of Word from the IT manager at work, they and draft their CV using Writeboard and similar services, share their wedding photos via Flickr or help their children use eyespot to edit a three-minute happy slapping in the playground video recorded on their mobile phones.

In addition as they build up a critical mass of users, they start to become even more useful, think about the way that Last.fm recommends new music to you based on your personal ratings and playlists, how how eBay became the world's market once enough people started using it.

This is driven by a process called group-forming networks where users band together through altruism. There is a network effect where the value or power of the network grows exponentially as the numbers within it increase. Think of it as a pyramid scheme without the lots of people getting defrauded at the end bit (well apart from from the fund managers who are negligent in the way they invest for our retirement).

Ok, so an online word processor is not going to be as full featured as using one on your desktop machine because you're using it over a net collection and it would be tediously slow.

This means that many web applications like Backpack or Writeboard concentrate on doing one thing well with a minimum of fuss, providing a better user experience: making a technological silk purse out a pigs ear.

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Sunday, April 09, 2006

 

The Five Rs of iPod Support


iPod, do you?
Originally uploaded by Carlos Noboro.
Thanks to Troy at Smalldog Electronics' Tech Tails email newsletter for sharing the five things that you need to do if your musical friend is unhappy:

1. Reset your iPod.
2. Retry with a different USB port.
3. Restart your computer.
4. Reinstall iPod and iTunes software.
5. Restore your iPod

If these don't work its time to call in the professionals or send it back to Apple under warranty.

Photo by Carlos Noboro via flickr. This is a nice take on the transparent screen meme that had been running on flickr last year.

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Wednesday, April 05, 2006

 

Jargon Watch


Next Net - Remember when we said that the first rule of Web 2.0 was never to describe it as Web 2.0? Well this is yet another way that you shouldn't use to describe Web 2.0.

Triple A business plan
- A witty play on the Standard and Poor's (and other credit ratings providers) way of designating an investment grade business, instead it actually means AJAX, Adsense and Arrogance . PRs if you see these three ingredients in a prospective client, treat them like they've been infected with avian flu.

Kudos to VentureBlog via Bubble 2.0

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Wilf can't sort out his BRICs from his CRIMEs


One of the first accounts that I worked on as an agency PR person was a semiconductor company called LSI Logic.

LSI Logic have a long and illustrious history making application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs) and are one of the major players in what is known as 'system-on-a-chip'.

Put simply rather than having different chipsets doing different things, why not have them all on the one piece of silicon. If you are mass producing an item this can reduce costs considerably as the device takes up less space, has a lower component cost and will take less time to physically manufacture.


The company was founded by Wilfred 'Wilf' Corrigan. Corrigan was quoted at the Annual Creativity in Electronics Awards where he was presented with the lifetime achievement award saying that growth in the electronics sector would reach double-digits driven by two billion new consumers in China, India, countries that were part of the former Soviet Union and the Middle East.

This is a slightly different set of countries to what economists will be the future power houses in the world economy the so-called BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia (and former Soviet republics), India and China.


So in honour of Wilf who is a fellow scouser I came up with the CRIME acronym instead based on his predicted growth markets of (China, Russia (and the former Soviet Republics), India and the Middle East).

Kudos to David Lammers at the
EE Times.

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Tuesday, April 04, 2006

 

Cool as BAPE?


IG Trendcentral make the mighty claim of having spotted the next BAPE (Bathing Ape - the uber cool Japanese streetwear brand) being American they think that aNYthing (A New York Thing) can equal or surpass the kingpin streetwear brand today. I don't think so.

Meanwhile flyer pack dons Don't Panic have an exhibition of posters since the millenium (their words not mine) at the Aram Gallery at the bottom of Drury Lane in central London.

Finally AOL has changed its name from America Online Inc to AOL, I know you can't control yourself with excitement, but it gets better. Explaining the rebrand Jon Miller the chairman and CEO said "Our new corporate identity better reflects our expanded mission -- to make everyone's online experience better.'' Right well there you have it. You may want to discuss it in more depth amongst yourselves. Kudos to the San Jose Mercury News.

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Sunday, April 02, 2006

 

Fox Network: this thing that the kids are doing with MySpace its ok really





danah boyd is probably the most vocal person that really gets the whole MySpace pheonomena was interviewed on Fox Network by Bill O'Reilly a few days ago.

danah is an academic and researcher who specialises in that tricky area where people and web technology collide. I had the pleasure of meeting her when I was in Sunnyvale last August.

O'Reilly is well-known as a kind of neo-conservative Walter Cronkite with his own show called the O'Reilly Factor. danah does a good job, fair play to her. Though the cynical spin doctor in me can't help but wonder that O'Reilly may have been told to take his foot off the gas as both MySpace and Fox share the same owner?

Why couldn't Fox have used the parent to find a spokesperson from MySpace themselves?

Is this part of a larger plot to get the bible-thumping, xenophobic moral majority on side before NewsCorp's MySpace property goes all Pete Tong?

If you don't know what this MySpace thing is, the clip acts as a reasonable primer on the service and the current issues surrounding it. For further reading I can recommend danah's blog.

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Saturday, April 01, 2006

 

A man walks into a hotel bar and asks a ballerina where he can find some refreshments


It sounds like a joke, but actually was the surreal climax of a cultural day out that Steve and I had.

We started off at the National Portrait Gallery and completed that in a surprisingly short time. The modern photography and painting was more interesting than the earlier dull-but-worthy material. Some of the most admirable material was actually the architecture of the building itself. There was a particularly good picture on display of Mo Mowlam.

We had a leisurely lunch at the ICA on Pall Mall and then headed over to White Cube.

White Cube was a disappointment. I hadn't realised how small a space it was. We wandered back to Liverpool Street station from a very quiet Hoxton Square and where stopped by what I assumed to be a chugger (charity mugger, someone who gets people to sign direct debits for charities on the street. These people are often aggressive as they're on commission,) or market researcher. Instead she was a photographer's assistant.

Stephen and myself were models in an art photo shoot for Bernhard Deckert where we sat around in the gallery bar of the Great Eastern Hotel and ignored a ballerina called Geida. Geida is a performance artist who does electro versions of cabaret classics: think Al-Naafiysh meets the Blue Angel.

Anyway midway through the shoot a well-dressed man walks up to Geida without batting an eyelid that she is in a tutu and ballet shoes and asks her where he can get refreshments.

She is able to give him directions as she used to organise the Electric Stew nights there. He then nips to the toilets and comes out a couple of minutes later as if everything was the most natural thing in the world.

I suspect that Steve and I will end up as blurs in the background, but that doesn't mean that we won't be milking our 'male model' status for all it was worth.

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