Apr 13

Amazon Fail

Update: this becomes even more confusing.

A cataloguing error, a lack of response from Amazon followed by confusing messages and a lot of jumping to conclusions (including me) led to a social media storm that can only damage the reputation of the brand. As BL says, you need to think about how you monitor your brand all the time, not just 9-5 Mon-Fri; although Amazon did appear to be responsive over the weekend even if the answers were not fully clear.

According to Amazon, they’ve been having a ‘glitch’ over the weekend that has stripped the sales ranking form a number of books, thereby reducing the likelihood of the books appearing in searches, so impacting sales.

The only problem with this is that the glitch appears to affect gay/lesbian/sex titles only and even then the impact is inconsistent, which is unexpected if there was a logic behind it. Playboy and Girls Gone Wild is not adult under the glitch, but literature with a gay themes is, even when there’s no sex written about. Apparently, before they called it a glitch, they had called it a policy according to the email received by Mark Probst

In consideration of our entire customer base, we exclude “adult” material from appearing in some searches and best seller lists. Since these lists are generated using sales ranks, adult materials must also be excluded from that feature.

If you’re on Twitter, or have been reading feeds over the weekend, you’ll have seen this. It appears that the power of public opinion, published all over the web has forced Amazon to update a policy to a glitch and then to fix it. But is it enough to rescue their reputation or the new meaning of Amazon Rank

Feb 21

CIPR, Non-for-profit and social media

On Thursday evening, the CIPR ran a session for not-for-profit PR types and for bloggers interested in the same, as part of their Fifth Estate activities. The evening was set up casually, with wine and nibbles and a short overview of social media to introduce the topic; the rest of the evening was spent in conversation. Although at times I felt like I was just their to offer free consultancy, in the whole it was a good night with plenty of questions asked. The PR people wanted to learn and asked a lot of great questions. I think I had 4 key conversations:

  • The group behind the Great Gorilla Run, supporting Gorillas in Africa had a lot of questions about connecting with their supporters the rest of the year, not just around the time of the race.
  • A great conversation with someone who was new to using online tools but not new to social media, if you view that as getting out their, spreading the knowledge, talking , discussing, writing white papers and all that stuff. He already had all the behaviours, just needed to try a different set of tools.
  • One charity who looks to develop entrepreneurial behaviour in teens. An interesting discussion about how to reach with children who are not in school and not working
  • A discussion about local council usage, message boards, community management and staffing requirements. Plus about not sending out press releases as attachments!

One key thing I siad 3 or 4 times during the evening was about ASKING the people yu are trying to conenct with for ideas. If the charity is unsure how to use these tools, there’s a good chance that some of their active volunteers and supporters have a better idea, so how about involving them?

Overall a good evening and I’d be interested in doing something similar again.

Feb 14

Google Lattitude and other location services

I use a few location services.

  • Dopplr to record my travels. You can see them all on the MyTravels section of the site
  • Brightkite. Because it is a nice little mobile connection and has connections out but I’m not using it a lot at the moment. It won’t take a feed from Dopplr, but will feed into that service.
  • Fireeagle. Simple, all it does it record where you are and then act as a hu to other services. I like it to use it like that, at the centre of things, but not everything is quite there yet with the other services.
  • Google Lattitude. I’ve just started using, especially the mobile version, and quite like it.

I’ve been playing around with all the services over the last week and have been thinking about ways I’d like to add some control. I’m not a power user of these in anyway, but like to just play around with them

  • Connectivity. Google is particularly bad, it does not appear to have any. From past experience, it’ll likely be a while before it does. What I’d like to be able to do is have Fireeagle as the hub and be able to control and feed in and out from the other services. I’m likely to drop Brightkite if Google had this – I only need one mobile version.
  • Location Setting. Latitude allows you to decide to set your location manually or automatically. But it only has this per account, I’d like to be able to do this per device. I’d like anything from the computer to be set manually and anything from a mobile device to be automatic (well usually)
  • Granualarity. Fireeagle allows you to tell other services your location at different levels – exact, area, city. Google seemed to miss that nicety, in allowing you to define who can see what. Every service should have the ability to fuzz things.
  • Exclusion zones. I’d like to be able to set exclusion zones, so that a service will never display you at certain points (like personal addresses). When I start to approach these zones, the location becomes fuzzy, moving around a bit. I’d like to be able to turn this on at a click of a button – say if I’m visiting somewhere. I may tweet that I’m with someone but want to be able to fuzz out the location.

I think that will do for now.

Feb 07

TwitterSheep

You’ll have probably seen this a few times, but Twittersheep do a word analysis of the bios of your followers. I saw this when it first came out, but didn’t try it, as they were looking for username and password. They’ve fixed that problem and now you can just add your (or another) username. Then you get something like the image below. So the people following me are interested in this stuff – which means I must provide somekind of information that meets the need. I’m not sure how accurate the sizes are – I’m pretty sure “bre ♥ twittersheep” is only in one bio, so there’s something a little weird going on. It’s fun though.

twittersheep

Jan 19

A 2009 Restaurant Plan

In the 2009 Michelin Guide, there are 8 restaurants in London that newly have a star. A plan was hatched, to visit them all the new ones this year.

  • Chapter One, Bromley British type restaurant with main courses from £16.50 at dinner, I like dishes such as Pressed Rabbit & Foie Gras Terrine, Cranberries, Mushrooms, Truffle Mayonnaise & Roasted Apples (a starter) and Slow Roast Belly of Packington Pork, Choux Crout, Baby Leeks, Caramelised Onions, Apple & Pork Jus. This is a re-entry after they lost their star a couple of years ago
  • St John, Clerkenwell. This is a restaurant that does nose-to-tail eating, which does not appeal too much to me, I’m fairly conservative, but I’m happy to give it a go. Definitely British food, mains this evening include faggots and peas at £15, which I quite like.
  • Ambassade de L’Ile, South Kensington. Definitely French with a name like that, it’s only been open 7 months. They have a 3 course set lunch for £30 and do a 7 course for £90! (may be a bit beyond the budget). dishes this month include steamed Scallop with Lobster coral Nage and black truffle and Mille-feuille of Pot au feu.
  • Hélène Darroze at The Connaught, Mayfair. Big hotel, only open during the week and with an inability to turn their menus into HTML, it does 3 courses at lunch for £39 or dinner for £75. The menu is French, with things like le Saint-Pierre de Ligne and La Perdrix Grise, neither of which I recognise so it could be an interesting meal.
  • Kai, Mayfair. And now for something completely different – Chinese. (although same problem as the previous restaurant with pdf menus). I knew this was not your regular Chinese when I saw it did Peking Duck for £118 (it is for 2 over 2 courses though!); it does a more reasonable Szechuan Chicken for £16
  • Murano, Mayfair. Mayfair has it’s fair share. This is a Gordon Ramsay restaurant with a set lunch for £25 or 3 course dinner for £55 with options such as Carnaroli risotto, gorgonzola and apple, fresh walnuts and Roasted turbot, potato galette, wild mushroom duxelle and cep velouté.
  • Semplice, Mayfair. This is Italian, with mains from £16 and pasta from £9. I like the look of Pheasant ravioli with potatoes and thyme sauce or Roast Chicken breast with taleggio fondue, french beans and hazelnuts, tomatoes and white wine sauce
  • L’Autre Pied, Marylebone. Another French offerings, with mains around £18, they also do lunch or pre-theatre 3 courses for £20.95 with dishes such as Pithivier of Game, Savoy Cabbage, Celeriac Purée, Puy Lentils and Red Wine Sauce

The plan is to get together a group to try them out over the year, to get out there regularly. So if you want to volunteer, let me know

Dec 29

Radios and Fire Engines

I’ve been digging into some history, of the house and into some of the things hanging around.

First up we have an old EKCO radio, with the various choices of Gram, Long, Medium and VHF for wavelength choices.

EKCO radio

Then we have an old Corgi Simon Snorkel Fire Engine, model 1127. You’ll see quite a few of these for sale around the web but none quite like this. Grandad was the Chief Rate Fixer/Engineer at the Simon factory in Dudley having moved there from the Simon factory in Stockport in 1959 to start a new production site for the engine. When the first sample models were delivered to the team from Corgi, he was pretty upset that the toy manufacturer’s had got it wrong and painted the whole thing red. So he painted the lift white to demonstrate what it was supposed to look like and apparently got into a big argument with them. But he didn’t win it, as the production model still has the lift painted red.

Fire Engine

Nov 24

Survivors – What would you do

Survivors, a re-imaging of the 70’s series devised by Terry Nation, started last night on the BBC and there was a minor Twitter flurry of discussion about it. There’s been mixed reaction to the episode, including these from Jason, and from Savage Popcorn.

One common question that popped up is what would you do in that situation, how would you rebuild. Well, the odds are that you, or me, or most of everyone would be dead anyway. The show said something like 90% infection, which would still leave 6million in the UK alive, but the impression was there were a lot more dead than that. Even if you weren’t killed in the first infection, you’re going to have to be lucky and good to escape ongoing death from disease, cold or starvation in the first year or so.

The first episode ended with our group of heroes finally meeting and wondering what to do next – only one of them had done any thinking and collecting of goods to get to the next stage. The rest seemed woefully inadequate in their outlook. But, if, by some chance, you did survive, would you have any idea of what you would have to do? I thought I’d throw up some thoughts – and these have been done with no research, just mulling around what would need to be put in place. I’m pretty sure if I looked, I could find a whole bunch of websites giving me the information I needed. One assumption is that there is enough stuff around to survive the first month or so. Canned food, bottled water and transport with available fuel, to get to somewhere. This is about longer term thinking.

  • Key things are shelter, water, food and sanitation. You’ll need a place to live, which has its own water supply – a well or a spring – and has arable land to grow food. Ideally, it should be defensible; law and order won’t be around and humans tend to fight a lot, especially over resources. A septic system would be a advantage.
  • Ideally, you’d want to be away from any nuclear plants and from prevailing winds that could bring radiation. I’m not sure how safe these plants are with no electricity, no water and no manning, but some may go boom.
  • You’ve found your farm, castle or where ever it is. (I fancy Windsor Castle actually, but probably a little too close to major population centres for the start, so it would be smelly and potentially disease prone in the beginning.) Now you need to start stocking it. First of all, work out where to get fuel, stock up some tanks so you have transport as long as possible. Go and raid supermarkets and get enough food (tinned, dried) for at least a year.
  • Find a library/book store and grab lots of practical books for the things below. Also writing things and lots of paper, so you can start recording the new history.
  • Hope the farmer had a shotgun and rifle, if not, go find some. You won’t be the only one, you’ll probably have to defend your place and you can go hunting.
  • Tools – axes, knives, carpentry, farming, scissors. As much as you can
  • Find some generators. You’ll need to have the option as you build up for the longer term
  • Clothes and linen- stock up with tough stuff, it’s going to have to last. Store a lot for future use – including material. You’re going to have to learn to weave at some point but t may have a lower priority than starting the food supply.
  • Growing things. Find agricultural suppliers and get everything you can – seed, fertiliser, pesticides.
  • Animals – sheep for wool, cows for milk, meat and leather, pigs for meat, chickens for eggs and meat. Rabbits, guinea pigs and all the small stuff could be good.
  • Farming. you may have a tractor and enough fuel for one year, but longer term I’d be looking for a plough and some horses. You should probably grab some horses for transport as well, along with some bikes
  • Medicine. It’s not going to last, but grab what you can. Antibiotics, diarrhoea medicine, painkillers, antiseptics. (Stock up on soap as well). Iodine tablets may be useful as well

Now, you have to learn how to use all these things, how to farm, how to metalsmith, how to manage sanitation. A bit of medicine.

What have I missed, what else would you add to the list to gather and control in the first year?

Sep 22

Omnivore’s 100

I like lists and here’s a list of 100 foods that Andrew from very good taste thinks every one should try once. As usual with these lists, bold are those food I’d try, strike through are those I don’t really want to try. I’ve annotated the list to give a little background. (via CC)

The VGT Omnivore’s Hundred:

1. Venison. Love it, makes great stews. I had venison sausages last night.
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros. Tried in Austin at SXSW. Not really a favourite.
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile. Tried at a speciality restaurant. OK.
6. Black pudding. One of Dad’s favourites. I like it in small doses fried with a full breakfast.
7. Cheese fondue. Love making these/
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari. Most memorable onthe harbourside in Pireus, Athens.
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses. Well, I think I have. It looks familiar.
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes. We used to make it – blackberry and elderberry wines.
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream. Bleurgh. Give me chocolate, or Rum Raison
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries. Well, blackberries and elderberries at least. Plus strawberries.
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese. No thank you.
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper. I’ve had the sauce. Never wanted to try the raw ingredient.
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters. I prefer them cooked rather than raw
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi – I’ve had one sip. Don’t really like yoghurt drinks and I don’t like salted/savory stuff very much.
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float – I’ve had floats, but never root beer as don’t like that pop.
36. Cognac with a fat cigar. Cognac yes, but I don’t smoke. I’ve had cognac with friends when they were smoking fat cigars – does that count?
37. Clotted cream tea. Mmm, scones. Jam, clotted cream. Lovely
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects. Chocolate covered are best
43. Phaal. Just tastes. Too hot for me.
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more. I used to work for a distillers, so probably had whisky worth far more, usually straight out the cask!
46. Fugu. Never wanted to
47. Chicken tikka masala. It’s the UK’s national dish 😉
48. Eel. Love it smoked more than jellied.
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads There are some things I really just don’t want to try
63. Kaolin. Well, as a medicine. I always run this together as ‘kaolin and morphine’ as that’s how it used to be sold.
64. Currywurst. Tried. Didn’t like
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs. Tried one, that was enough.
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis.
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant. I’ve only managed a 1 star. Need to up my game!
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

Not too bad then, I’ve tried 78 of them. How about you?

Sep 14

Les MisBarack

Les Mis is one of my favourite musicals (I’ve seen it about 3 times), so I love the song here. But it works on more levels than that. It would be great if UK politics was as creative

Sep 10

LHC makes headlines

And isn’t that gorgeous. This is a science project, a hard physics project and it’s got the world twittering and blogging and just generally talking about it. How often does that happen? It’s mainstream as well, it’s not just the geeks, with the Google logo changing and BBC pushing it as the number 1 headline inthe news bulletins and even dedicating programmes to it. Loving it.

Google Logo celebrates the LHC

Google Logo celebrates the LHC

They’ve not started the collisions yet, that’s later in the year. But just in case you’re worried the world is going to end, you can check with this handy website “Has the Large Hadron Collider Destroyed the World Yet?

Sep 07

Bre Pettis and History Hacked

My friend Bre from New York has just made a pilot TV show for the (US) History Channel. In it, he hacks historical inventions today, using items out of his closet. I sublet his room in NY for a few months and have seen his closet, so can believe it 😉 So congratulations are due and luck is wished for it to be picke dup

Not sure if it’s ever going to be out in the UK, but here’s a teaser.

Aug 12

Scarborough

Last week, I was up in Scarborough with an old school friend. As I’d not seen her for about 10 years, there was a little concern, but it all went great and lots of fun was had. She usually lives in Moscow, but has a holiday home up in Yorkshire, to get back to the UK seaside from time to time.

It was typical British seaside weather, grey with some rain, but we made the most of it. Building sandcastles, eating fish and chips, walks along the front, trips on little trains and on the fun fair. At the end of the week I was exhausted from all the sea air 😉

Scarborough Trip

Scarborough has a park that is has recently been done-up. It includes this weird water splash ride, where you get in cart and go down a hill, before being pulled backward by a rope to do it all again. Here’s the video with my totally embarrassing screaming. The other voice is my friend’s son – I’d been ‘volunteered’ for the ride whilst she looked after the other kid.

Aug 03

Blogging, Touristing and Fetes

Got up to some interesting things this week. On Tuesday, I went to the London Bloggers’ Meetup; it was sponsored by Stella, who did a grand job. They bought the drinks and offered some free trips on their new airship for the most entertaining description of your local pub. (I didn’t win). This is all part of Stella’s Love Your Local campaign. We also got some great glasses, as Annie Mole shows in her post.

From Thursday, I had house guests, my sister and niece. Thursday they were accompanied by my mom and brother-in-law and we all went off to a tour of the Houses of Parliament. Brilliant tour, through all the main public bits, including both chambers. I was struck again by the paranoia of US businesses where I could not get into my own office building without photo ID but here it was fine to walk in our centre of government for a tour without them having any idea who I was. In another event last week, the NESTA Catalyst award, the Prime Minister turned up without any fuss at all. I much prefer this model!

After the tour I took them on a walk up Whitehall, to see Downing St and Horseguards, then Trafalgar Square and Covent Garden. Lots of touristy things for them to enjoy.

Guards

Friday it was time for Buckingham Palace, around all the State rooms. Well worth the money, the tour gives you lots of information about how the place was put together. Being English, we appeared to be in the minority as most of the people wondering around appeared to be foreign tourists.

Buckingham Palace

Saturday, a separation. Sarah went off to the Science Museum and Harrods and I went off to the Innocent Village Fete, which was a great afternoon.

Innocent Summer Fete

Jul 27

A trip out sculling

I went sculling yesterday, probably the first time in a single for about 2 years. I’ve spent a lot of time coxing crew boats and in the bigger boats rowing, but never really cracked the single sculling thing (falling in and getting wet not really being my favourite thing – I like scuba diving but hate swimming!).

However, instead of walking the few 100 yards and using a scull from one of the Tideway clubs I live close to, I decided to try some safer water and go and use a boat out at Dorney (one of the Army sculls). The river there is a lot smaller and you can even see the bottom! A far easier place to get back in a boat. I managed to get in and out, always the tricky bits, and managed an hour’s outing before calling time with achy bits. A good load of exercise when combined with the walk to and from the station.

On the walk, this really annoyed me.

River walk

The river path has been ‘upgraded’, flattened out and covered with grey stone/dust. I’m sure it’s all about providing access but what they have done is stripped all the charm away, cutting back and killing all the path side plants that can make a walk interesting. Now it’s just like a pavement, just next to a river. It; only covers part of the way so you soon get back to the more overgrown parts, which are a lot more fun.

Jul 15

Going Solo is hiring

By all accounts, the Going Solo conference in Lausanne earlier this year was a success and Steph is running a second edition here in the UK. She’s also looking for help in the form of a sponsorship person so if you’re interested, what are you waiting for?

Availability: as soon as possible
Remuneration: 20% commission on cash sponsorships
Profile: skilled in negotiating and closing sponsorship deals, knowledge of the tech/freelancing world a plus.

Jul 10

Firefox 3 Launch Party

Firefox was the star of the party last night, when it was awarded with a Guinness World Record for the most downloads in a single day, over 8 million.

Firefox World Record

A good time seemed to be had by all, with the free drinks flowing, sponsored by Glaxstar, eBay and Glubble. It was interesting how there were a lot of suits there, far more than I expected.

Jul 03

Henley regatta

Off to Henley for the Henley Royal Regatta. Should see some good racing and lots of hats. But hopefully not too much rain although it did not start too well today

Henley Regatta

Jun 30

Battersea Power Station

I was supposed to be doing some biz dev today, but the meeting got cancelled after the other party spent all night playing werewolf (I still don’t see the attraction in that game). I thought I’d try and do something a little bit different and Annie Mole came through via Twitter, after she’d just written a post about a consultation exercise taking place at Battersea Power Station.

Battersea Power Station

They’re looking at doing the place up, after it has in effect been abandoned for 25 years. It’s been tried twice before, so there’s no guarantee, but the idea looks good. It definitely needs something doing, as it’s a gorgeous building, just waiting to be used. The idea is a mixed use place, with parks, new buildings, shops and galleries. They’re looking at building a tower bigger than the chimneys, to act as a cooling tower for the green development.

Battersea Power Station

First up, you go round a presentation and model about the new development. It all looks very good and all the posters are positive. Part of my feedback is I think they should also list objections or problems and what they are doing about it, to make the coverage more balanced. I also suggested to the team they should start showing feedback and their responses, so people can see that it’s actually been read and listened to. They seemed to think that was a good idea and gave the indication they’d be doing that – so if there’s a feedback board up later this week, it’s all down to me!

After the questionnaire, you get to wander into the site, following a fenced off track, but you ge thte chance to at least look in the building. I’m surprised it’s still standing, as it’s nothing but an empty shell, only walls and broken windows. It’s a fascinating view of a building that seems to have so much potential just trying to burst out.

Battersea Power Station

I think it’s well worth a trip if you are in the area. Full details can be found at Battersea Power station page