Jul 06

A few more parodies

It must be the week for parodies…I’ve got a a few more just sitting and clustering up the tabs.

The first takes the piss out of the US MPAA warning about video piracy – before Lay’s (un)timely demise. Unfortunately the UK version does not have a similar backing tune so may not be as fun to parody, but I’m sure the ORG could step up to the mark.

And from Vallweywag, the Office Pirate audition for the new presenter at Rocketboom.

Jul 06

Cancelling the account

One possible measure of success is the parody. When Vincent Ferrari tried to cancel his AOL account, his recording of the reps attempts to keep him went quickly around the web. But Mark Day has now taken this and imagined himself trying to cancel a Playboy account and all the extra offers that could come with that subscription.

Although the particular AOL rep was apparently fired for treating the customer like this, I doubt he just decided to come in one day and decided to be awkward. He had to have been following the training and expectations of his bosses. I;ve tried cancelling a BT account and got the same kind of pressure to stay (although not as bad). It’s always cheaper to keep customers than to recriut new ones, but the attempt to keep should never be at the point of leaving. If the customer has got that far, it’s too late – the effort to keep should be done at all stages of the customer life cycle. Keep them happy, provide them the services they need with littlle trouble and they should never go near the cancellation hotline

Jul 05

Amanda Deboomed

Amanda Congdon has apparently left Rocketboom and from the sound of it is not too happy with the split. The main site just has archives and no current show. (Update – the Rocketboom site is currently showing a statement about Amadna wanting to move to LA to pursue other opportunities, a slightly different version to the one on her site. The truth – probably somewhere between the two?) An interesting decision – Amanda has a personal brand, ina way she is Rocketboom. If that programme continues and Amanda does her own thng, I’m guessing a lot of the audience will move with her and Rocketboom is going to lose a lot of brand equity.

Jul 05

Community Content

The rise in cameraphones/videos, desktop publishing and the ease of adding content to the social network sites such as myspace and bebo is driving the internet hall of fame. You can be forever famous for 15 people through your prose, spoken word or mimed dance video. And there seems to be an evergrowing appetite for content to while away the day and an increasing number of people who are looking for an outlet for the creativity that does not rely on the old media.

But sometimes, a real world famous person gets caught up in the amateur digital world. So here I bring you Alan Shearer, footballing hero, former England captain, miming along to U2 in the car. Apparently caught on film by his daughter and loaded up for the world to see.

Jun 12

Original Content on You Tube

There’s a lot of stuff on You Tube…much of it still ‘borrowed’ from other places, or poorer quality ‘home’ recordings. Don’t get me wrong, I like a lot of it – it’s funny..or weird..or a great place to find those TV clips that you can’t get on your own TV network. But finding good quality, original content takes a little more digging. Dave Coyne is someone who is producing some great stuff, such as this video parody of Bono, Samuel L Jackson and the essential blogging entertainment this summer, Snakes on a Plane.

Take a look a the rest of his videos as well…I liked the ‘don’t drink and strum’ one 😉

Jun 04

World Cup Online

Great that the BBC is broadcasting all the World Cup matches via its website (and Wimbledon as well). I’ve normally tuned into the webcasts, whether the Olympics or the national events as usually they give the best choice, allowing you to pick what you want to watch outside of the single track on the TV.

But because I’m going to be abroad I’m not going to be able to watch it online. I’m going to be subject to the whims of US TV..and apparently the commentary on ABC/ESPN leaves much to be desired (the Spanish commentary is supposed to be better, if only I had more than the basics).

But I’ve paid my licence fee..so why can’t I watch it. I’ve got perfect credentials to prove this – a licence number. tied into an address. So why can’t the BBC let me log in with these details and watch the matches. Instead I’m going to have to dig up a proxy.

Back in the UK for the weekend, World Cup fever is really building. Many of the advertising has a football connection and the build up is all over the papers; every single edition today has ‘World Cup’ guides as well as the endless specualation about Rooney.

In addition, a couple of World Cup related sites. The New York Times look to be pulling together a comprehensive blog on the topic. Big Picture Advertising have started a blog StattoStattolisting places in the UK where you can watch your team play (that is, if you don’t support England)

Update Unsurprisingly, this post is one of the most viewed over the last few days..there’s a lot of interest in doing this. For a far more detailed explanation of what can be done see ghacks here and here, or WorldCupWatcher. The bad news for me is that no-one seems to have got the BBC commentary/video working through a UK proxy yet…but if you are just after watching the matches in general, there are lots of options.

May 04

WeMedia the conference

I spent some of the morning watching the WeMedia on video stream and via the online chat and IRC, then got to see a couple of sessions at the conference. There is a lot of blogging coverage about the event, some from participants, others from the virtual attendees.

The blurb says “The We Media Global Forum brings together the trailblazers of the connected society – the thinkers, innovators, investors, executives and activists seeking to tap the potential of digital networks connecting people everywhere”. From the bits I saw and the people I talked to, not too sure that really happened. Digital networks change things, move and share power, giving the potential to take control out of the hands of the few and spread it around. This can happen with or without the current set of gatekeepers. I would have thought the conference was about providing a chance for the traditional media centres to take stock and assess how they are going to support the devleoping communities across the world.

Instead I got the impression that what was being said on stage only supported the existing worldviews. There was little challenge, the same old questions were being asked and little movement made. Rebecca McKinnon puts it well: “The question we really ought to be focusing on is: how can citizens and professional journalists work together to create a better and more well-informed public discourse?”. Instead, it was the same debates about them and us, bloggers are scary and don’t we (media) know best?

I’m not sure if today’s was any different – I was travelling all day so missed it.

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 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 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.

Mar 31

More stuff

A few other things I’ve had sitting in tabs.

Cadbury’s Creme Eggs are launching a talent contest; entries are discussed and broadcast as podcasts. The prize – a free consultation with a talent agent. I’m with Adverblog on this – looks like a ‘what’s hot’ moment.

TechCrunch has reviewed Online Feedreaders. I think I may try out Rojo and take a look at it.

Some good analysis of .com Domain Name registrations from Dennis Forbes.

April Fool stuff from ask.com (can’t be much else, despite them soliciting feedback from readers whether to wait ’til Monday):

This will go down as the day the momentum in the search wars shifted to Ask.com,” said Jim Lanzone, General Manager of Ask U.S. “When combined with our site’s already-powerful “Narrow Your Search” and “Expand Your Search” capabilities, “Rhyme Your Search” sets Ask.com apart with the unprecedented ability to suggest phat new ideas for your search.”

RhymeRank was developed at a top-secret laboratory near Ask’s headquarters in Oakland, California. It is based upon the educational theory that people commit information to memory more effectively when it is phonetically consistent. Understanding this, Ask hired dozens of experts to develop algorithms capable of producing the best and most irrelevant rhymes.

Mar 30

Gmail delete

I’ve finally received a Delete Button in my email . At some point the Gtalk will turn up in the Inbox – it’s been in my other account for weeks!


Update: As Ray says in the comments..change the setting to US English and suddenly I get the Talk option on the mail page, plus the web clips feed on the same page. Looking in the options I see I can also set From addresses as well as out of office notices. Some nice improvements there.

Mar 29

Ezine Tips

As part of the LinkedIn bloggers group, there’s a weekly focus on new blogs – looking at the blogs of our fellow group members. This week it’s Patsi Krakoff’s blog on worting great eZines. This is an advice blog on building audience, subscriptions and improving the quality of what you are writing, not only from Patsi but she also pulls together a lot of great useful reseouces.

As blogs become mainstream and move away from personal journals or technical topics, there are more and more ‘business blogs’ either promoting a business or being a business. Resources like this help improve the quality of them and leverage the latest tools. So if you are tryihg to do this profressionally (unlike my amateur ramblings) go take a look and pick up a few tips.

Mar 29

Predictive Markets – the wisdom of crowds

One of the talks I went to at SWSX was by James Surowiecki on the Wisdom of Crowds. Looking into The Boat Race this weekend, (more info on Wikipedia) i find that there is a website that is using some of these principles – Inklings Markets. Sign in, and you can bet on various challenges with the fake money in your account. But it is also being used as a research tool, to look more into predictive markets.