Apr 27

Business

I’m going to be spending at least the next few weeks in New York, so I’m looking at the Craig’s List to find temp accommodation which would be far more cost effective than a hotel. I used the service to find accommodation in Austin earlier this year, but New York seems to have a whole different level of posting, with what appears to be 100′s of ads going up in a day. My first foray into the service gave good results, let’s hope this one does.

Apr 27

Helping a guy along – viral marketing and the tipping point

After a hiatus in posts (I’ve been sort of busy) something that is well worth blogging. From Charlie, awonderful example of how the content on the web can suddenly take off beyond expectations. So a guy called Dan has a bet with his girlfriend, that he could not get 2 million hits on a website. The prize if he wins is interesting to say the least, you have to go click through to the Help Win This Bet page to find out..but be aware that you may be responsible for serious damage to his relationship..or may help it to blossom and grow in a different direction ;-)

The last update to the page says that on 5 April he had had 10000 hits. Over 5 hours this morning, the hits more than doubled from 145000 to 345000. Five hours later another doubling to over 700000 hits. By this rate, the bet should be won early tomorrow morning. So it looks like Dan may be looking for something for the weekend…

Apr 15

Online Calendars – Micrososoft, Google, Yahoo

With the release of Google’s Calendar, I thought I’d take a look at the offerings of the three big companies and see how they compare as I need to pick one to use going forward.  This review is not comprehesive, as it focuses only on the bits I need it to do, not necessarily on the complete feature set.

 With the phone I have, I can only synch with MS Outlook, which is only desktop-based in the version that I have.  As I don’t use it for email, I’ve not seen the value in upgrading yet to one that shares online calendars.    I also need an online system as I work across 2 or more PCs; therefore, to get the best out of the tools, I need to have something that synchs with Outlook to synch with the phone (which only holds the bare minimum details) and allows me to do most of the work online.. 

For this comparison I’m using Yahoo Calendar, the Google Calendar released in beta this week and the Windows Live Calendar, also in beta.

Time View:  For a week, Yahoo and WL are both arranged horizontally, with days listed in rows down the page.   Google has columns for the days, as with the Outlook workplace standard.  Google does not have an annual view, unlike the others.

Event Entry

WL: Click on New appointment or double click on the calendar itself.  Fill in the form with appropriate details.   You can choose from a variety of categories for the event, invite people, set up a recurrence and get a reminder email or IM alert sent

Yahoo:         Click on either the Add Event button, or the links on each day.  There’s a long form with all the options on, (WL has links to click for some of the option).   The same options to set up the event as in WL, however you can also check others calendars if on same system.  Yahoo also has a quick add system, filling in form fields for title, data and time.

Google: Click a Create Event button to get a form to fill in.   There are no categories but other options are similar to the others.  You can set a reminder but only to send it to your gmail account. (WL and Yahoo allow you to choose a mail address).  Google allows me to send an text message to a US based phone only (it needs to know carrier and a verification code, which I guess is a requirement of the US system), but has no IM alert.   Google also has a quick input – which takes a text input and extrapolates when the event should be.  Some thought needs to be given to the syntax when using this, and you need to add pm to times otherwise everything is in the morning or change the calendar settings to 24hr clock and remember to add the colon calendar settings)

Interestingly, all of the calendars allowed me to create events in the past without warning me.

Viewing Events: click on the event in the calendar.  Yahoo and WL take you to the events page, Google displays the relevant info in a bubble on the page and you need to click into the event to see notes.   Google has a great integration with Google Maps, taking whatever you add to the location field and trying to map it (although giving me 108 million options for ‘home’ may get me lost)

Deleting events: WL – from the event only; Yahoo from the calendar view or the event entry; Google from the event or the calendar view (but one extra click than yahoo)

Public Calendars

WL allows you to share appointments and calendars with contacts/people with a Passport.   It also allows you to publish directly to the web for all to access.   The default setting is to allow all appointments to be shared, which needs to be watched for.  By default, it displays any events set up by groups you belong to.

Yahoo allows you to share with listed people or direct onto web.   The choices when setting up an appointment allows you to designate time as busy only, instead of the details of the event.  ‘Special Friends’ can set up appointments and change your calendar for you.   By default, events from groups you belong to are displayed.

As with the others, Google allows you to share publically or with a select group.  Permissions can be set up to allow others to edit. 

Sharing data across applications.

WL does not appear to allow you to export or import data

Google uses XML and ICal to share, opening it up easily to a lot more options and has public and private version of these feeds.    It also allows you to create more than one calendar, making it extremely flexible for group or family settings, allowing total or limited sharing across the calendars.  After disbling the calendar in the browser, I was able to export an ics file easily, which can then be imported to Outlook.  Importing files is also straightforward .     (on my previous post, I stated that it could not do export – finding it is not straightforward, as the option is about 4 levels in)

Yahoo has a standalone application, which needs to be downloaded and set up,  called IntelliSync which allows one click synchronization between your online calendar and Outlook in both directions.

So which one:  Without Import/Export Windows Live is not an option at the moment.   Google’s Calendar is probably the best looking, very ajaxy and probably got the best feature set for sharing the calendar outwards, .   But the one click 2-way synchonisation of Yahoo sells it to me at the moment.  It means I can add events to the phone or to the online calendar and synch between them using Outlook as a middleman.  Until the phone allows me to use iCal, then that is how I need to do it.

I’ve also being trying out Qumana for typing the post.  So far, it looks good.

Apr 13

Nike Football


Nike Football Two

Originally uploaded by RachelC.

At Niketown, in Oxford Circus, the windows and all the ground floor are dedicated to football and the World Cup. Nike have a great integrated campaign, TV, print, and Nikefootball.com.

In Trafalgar Square, a huge 3-a-side football competition was taking place, all sponsored by Nike, with U16 and U20 teams. They are really starting to push this campaign.

Apr 12

Army Everest Expedition

The British Army are trying to conquer Everest. To allow you to follow the three teams on this massive adventure there’s the obligatory website armyoneverest.mod.uk. Who ever has built this knows how to leverage this space. News and updated, blogs, videos, podcasts, RSS ties into Google Earth and a promise of mobile goodies; a good education page focused on teachers and children as well. One of the best sites I’ve seen of this nature.

Technically it seems to be using Microsoft CMS, ASP.NET and Flash 8 all combined to give a really good experience – a good example for some of the agencies I’ve met who are never quite sure what you can do with this lot ;-). Aso the first site I’ve seen with a link to the Freedom of Information Act homepage!

Apr 12

Video Developments

Lots of stuff on video happening.

DVGuru compares 10 video services. I’m going to have to dig into a lot more of these, as I’ve only used 3 of them.

The US network company ABC have announced that they are goingto be providing programmes via broadband the day after they air, on-demand, streaming and supported by ads that you won’t be able to skip (until someone works out how to skip them). I’m not sure how many programmes they are going to offer – it looks like it is a select few only. The BBC is hopefully going to move out of trials and roll out their on demand service which appears to cover all of their programs, although they are offering certain sports live. And Channel 4 are also dipping their toes inteh water – without the ads (The IT Crowd).

So another option gets added to the mix, and Kevin Marks has summaried the US based offerings. The UK is already offering the ‘cached’ programmes from cable, which pleases a lot of people. No need to remember how to programme the video recorder, just need to remmember which screen the programmes are listed and play. My mother loves it, never misses something she forgot to record.

Also, I guess Tivo is different in the US than how I use it here. I bought a box, paid a one-off payment and just watch all ‘free-to-air’ commerical TV through it. I’m not tied into a cable company. The description meets the Sky Digital + though.

Apr 12

Snippets 13 Apr

I have so many tabs open at the moment that they are dissappearing off the edge – Firefox only appears to deal with 40 or so at a time and does not scroll the tabs.

Carphone Warehouse enter the brandband market. Taking advantage of the Local Loop unbundling, Carphone Warehouse is going to be offering up to 8MB broadband at a new cheap price. BSkyB are also planning on entering this market. This would be why BT quietly upgraded my acocunt to 8MB over the last couple of months.

Questing appears to be a interesting game. Send a question to the text number and get an answer back. Play with a group of friends and see where it takes you. It’s still in test phase, and the founders appear to be running a few small evetns to iron out the rules. An example:

Quest: Challenge the nearest person to a game of thumb wars. If they refuse to play, attempt to battle yourself. Outcome: Alex challenged the cashier in Boots to a game. She refused but the person behind Alex accepted and won the battle on Cheltenham High Street. Alex now walks her dog.

An essay on software patents from Paul Graham.

I’m not saying secrecy would be worse than patents, just that we couldn’t discard patents for free. Businesses would become more secretive to compensate, and in some fields this might get ugly. Nor am I defending the current patent system. There is clearly a lot that’s broken about it. But the breakage seems to affect software less than most other fields.

In the software business I know from experience whether patents encourage or discourage innovation, and the answer is the type that people who like to argue about public policy least like to hear: they don’t affect innovation much, one way or the other. Most innovation in the software business happens in startups, and startups should simply ignore other companies’ patents. At least, that’s what we advise, and we bet money on that advice.

Marketing Sherpa have a whole load of case studies of great viral marketing campaigns.

And finally…tomorrow could be on of the more religious days of the year. From Londonist, a list of faith-based ‘events’.

Thursday 13th April Maundy Thursday – the Christian dayof remembering Christ’s Last Supper
Hanuman Jayanti – the Hindu festival marking the the birth of Hanuman, the Monkey God
Memorial of Christ’s Death – this is the only religious festival marked by Jehovah’s Witnesses
Therevada New Year – a three day festival for Theravada Buddhists, starting on the first full moon day in April
Passover – the first day of the season of Passover when Jews commemorate the liberation of the Children of Israel who were led out of Egypt by Moses.
Vaisakhi or Baisakhi – the Sikh New Year Festival

Apr 12

Hogmanay Unconference

Ewan is trying to get an unconference up and running over Hogmanay in Edinburgh. Waht could be better – a couple of days learning and sharing and then a night at one of the best New Year Party’s in the world. If you’re interested, leave a comment on his blog.

Apr 12

World Cup ads


Apr_general 103

Originally uploaded by RachelC.

A day trip to Hamburg yesterday for an interview gave me a few hours to walk around the city. I was surprised at the lack of advertising for the World Cup, with only the odd touch like this bus shelter banner.

I also took a wander round the botanic gardens – what could be better than a hothouse when you’re cold!

Apr 09

Life is short

A funny day today. My parents were visiting with plans to do lunch; instead we ended up going to Camden Market. My aunty had also traveeled down, the first time she’d been to London for 28 years. The tube proved an adventure, but the confusing corridors and barriers were soon mastered.

Part way through the day, we got a strange text message from my sister, “I’ve just found a dead man and had to do CPR”. Eventually catching up with her, it turns out she’d been driving just round the corner from her house and saw a man laying down, with an elderly gent looking confused. They’d stopped – the other man had just found the guy on the floor. Checking, there was no immediate discernable pulse. At this point, a couple of other people turned up, one called the ambulance, the other turned out to be a doctor. Between the doctor and my sister (who’s a nurse) they started full CPR and kept that going until the ambulance arrived, apparently about 15 minutes later. Things were not looking good as they left the guy being shocked in the ambulance.

The guy appeared to be in his late thirties and was carrying no ID at all. So sometime today, someone will report their family member or friend missing, things will be put together, and there will be bad news.

Life can be short – don’t waste it.

Apr 07

Looking for US gossip blogs

I’m looking for US based/focused blogs on gossip, fashion, celebrity. Are there any recommendations. I’m going to be using the blog search tools to look for things, but looking for any personal favourites.

Apr 06

Online Identity – a digital tattoo

I was at a couple of events last night that tied together nicely. The first, Blogging Demystified, was being run by Londonist and bought together Annie Mole, Tom Reynolds and InkyCircus. I’d not read the latter before, but it’s now being added to the list, a fun look at science matters. The presentations were high level, but enjoyable non the less – talking about personal experiences of blogging. Tom, pictured here with his draft new book, Blood, Sweat and Tears, talked about online identity.

Tom and Book

It’s quite apt, as Tom does not go under his real name, although he’s now well known under his pseudonym. He started off writing a blog called Why I hate Humanity and, as an ambulanceman, thought it would be prudent to cover his tracks, so used his middle name and the name of the local butcher.

Tom gave an overview of identity. In relating to people, especially initially, around 90% of the perception is drven from body language and vocality. Other peoples perceptions and your’ stereotype’ of the person fill in some of the other gaps. But online interactions lose the face-to-face and you have to rely on what you can find – blogs help provide an online identity and can give people a ‘long view’ if they read your history. Other identities can also help – Tom gave us 2 (or 3..) slides of his various avatars in his online gaming personas. He also discussed using blogs as a way to ‘prove’ who you are.

Next up was a geek dinner with David Teten; his company uses online sources to research job candidates etc. There were organisational cockups which were taken care of bu Ian and Ben, but by the time I got there, the food was being put out and I had time to eat before the speach. David talked about his book, The Virtual Handshake, and how you can build up an online identity and leverage it to your advantage. There were 6 main points to be considered:

  • character and online id
  • competency
  • relevance of your network (to what you are trying to do)
  • ‘strength’ of online brand, links, relationships
  • number of people in your netwrok
  • diversity of your network

The discussion turned to the rights, wrongs and difficulties of having a digital identity online. It’s becoming more and more expected to have a presence – the lack of one in certain work areas would trigger a question for employers in some cases. And it is more common for people for start their online presence earlier and earlier. But things that can be said in your pre-work life can come back and haunt you later – once it’s out there, it’s there. Your online personality can be like a digital tattoo – obtained early in life but later regretted and difficult and painful to remove. SO your tales of student life may seem fun on myspace now, but less so to an employer later in your life. A strong recommendation from David is to keep identities separate, have a personal and business persona. But how many people actively consider that before they start to build their own digital cookie trail in their own space. And remember that this is supplemented by what other people say and comment about you as well.

A couple of different perspectives on online identity, both positive and negative. The summary – just be careful out there.

And here’s a Hugh perspective on having a good online character.

Apr 05

Made up names

Every now and again, I get a bunch of spam for some medicine stuff. I have to laugh at some of the email names which include such gems as Unlawfully Ghostliness, Helps Sedates, Codified Rattling and Quibling Scientist.

Apr 05

Swedish Beers

On Tuesday, I went off to the Swedish Beers night, a mobile networking event. Douglas from Sponge ws talking about mobile groups and marketing. The group Jane’s Addiction were given mobiles on a tour; fans were encouraged to sign up for a text group and the band sent updates tot he group whilst on the tour. As well as general updates, they also used it for a form of flash-mobbing. After playing at Brixton Academy, the band announced a back of the theartre, post-gig acoustic set, and also announced a Covent Garden busking concert, which lasted til the police moved them on. This is a geat example of engagement with fans.

Apr 05

London 2.0 Meetup

On Monday, I went along to a London 2.0 meeting. As usual with many of these meetups, the first time go along you’re never quite sure who you are looking for. But this time it was slightly easier. The venue chosen was near to the law courts so was full of suits; the meetup group, being primarily in the technical area, weren’t, making them slightly ewasier to spor than usual.

I spent some time with Ben discussing reevoo, a UK consumer product review site. It has both formal reviews and customer reviews, collected via feedback emails/interviews and from blogs. The customers of the company are the retailers, who pay for feedback, but the reviews are not sanitised.

There were a number of demos presented. The photo below shows everyone watching the demo from Python Hosting from Remi, who demo’d a very cool install control panel with one-click installations of web app frameworks. From the ooohh, arhhs and offers to pay moeny there and then, it was a popular demo. The other demo was from Phil, who showed off Protest, a test application that streamlines the process.

Fascination

Apr 04

Snippets 4 April

The Chevy Tahoe make your own ad competition, menetioned previously, has got a fair bit of coverage since the weekend. THere appears to be pver 500 posts discussing it, and on a random flick through the links it looks like the majority of the blog comments are negative. But, from CNet

The contest is a success as a marketing campaign, according to Melisa Tezanos, a GM spokeswoman. Consumers have submitted more than 21,000 ads and have e-mailed commercials over 40,000 times, she said. Chevyapprentice.com has generated 2.4 million page views, and the average visit to the site lasts more than 9 minutes. The company anticipated before launching the contest that it may see some negative ads, but Tezanos noted that more than 80 percent of the commercials depict the Tahoe in a favorable light.

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It looks like they are leaving the ads up there, but are they going to just gloss over the negativity (as that quote implies) because of the small numbers or actually take heed?

Second Life presentations: PSFK have put up the slides from a recent presentation into Second life. Exploring current trends, a good look at where things are happening – well worth a visit.

Popurls is another aggregator, this time an aggregator of aggregators. A couple more levels of this and I’ll only ever need to read 1 piece per day.