KAGOY – (kids are getting old younger) a phenomena observed by toy industry experts. Where a few years ago children of eight years-old were willing to use their imagination and play with action figures, now the action figures would be aimed at three-to-five year olds. Toys for older children have to battle against the Internet, multi-channel television and games consoles. In addition, toys for younger children have to get ‘smarter’ including basic voice recognition for instance, in order to hold their imaginations. Courtesy of the FT.
This posting started off after I read this Media Hack column by Adam Penenberg for Wired on the growing irrelevance of the Wall Street Journal. The gist of the column is that taste makers like blogs are not recommending the WJS to their peers, since they would only be able to read a linked article if they were a subscriber. Consequently, there was a conditioning behaviour that was developing resulting in the WSJ becoming irrelevant. My first reaction was that the article lacked the full picture. Popularity does not necessarily equate to relevance. Take the ultimate online subscription media, a Bloomberg terminal, or even a high brow magazine like the New Republic. Both of these media have an impact that way way beyond their thousands of subscribers. Then it occured to me that it was like as if they banned you from talking about them. For the WSJ, you could easily insert the Financial Times or The Economist instead.
What really annoys me about the FT more than the Wall Street Journal is where they will publish content only in the online or offline edition and they point you to it. Its like saying, you bought your paper, but we’re still going to try and squeeze you even more. Its mean spirited marketing that even Dow Jones hasn’t stooped to yet…
At Gloucester Road there is a series of self portraits by a photographer who has desguised himself in each picture. It is part of London Underground’s Platform Art series.
I boought the tenth anniversary reissue of the original Renaissance mix album by Sasha and John Digweed. Renaissance is hailed by many clubbers as being revolutionary. I thought I would comment on some of the innovations:
– Renaissance was the birth of progressive house: no it wasn’t you can hear a natural progression between early Renaissance and Sasha’s sets before the club was formed. Renaissance was built on the back of the reputation that Sasha had earned at Shelly’s in Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent. Progressive house had been put out for a fair while by artists, most
notably the Italian acts Sueno Latino and Last Rhythm. Fabi Paras had championed the sound in London.
– Renaissance changed the visual language of clubbing: kind of. Renaissance got its name from borrowing fromrenaissance paintings, which were deconstructed and repurposed, however from the early days of house, many club flyers and imagery was borrowed from the cheesier ‘catholic’ religious art.
– Renaissance was a life changing experience: It depends where your head was at. Renaissance was a good club, they managed to get all the ingredients right: the security, the staff, the clubbers, the venue, the ambience, the music and the DJs. People had a great time, but then
in club culture during the early 1990s there was a lot of great times to be had every weekend all over the country.
– Renaissance revived clubbing: Don’t believe the hype. Renaissance caught the top of the clubbing wave. It was one of a number of clubs that issued in a glitzy waye: straight lads wearning Versace shirts and leather trousers. Another trend to benefit was the mixed gay straight clubs like Vague in Leeds. The reasons why this came about was as much to do with getting a licence as baggy clothes for dancing meant wholesale drug use and possible dealer rumbles. Mincing around the club in clothes you would be afraid to sweat in was supposed to prevent it, it didn’t it just heralded the arrival of wholesale cocaine use. It replaced the egalitarian nature of house and rave with snobbishness.
My recollections of Renaissance
It was towards the end of 1992, a friend of mine had got a gig on a Friday night at the Venue 44 in Mansfield playing what would now be termed drum and bass. I knew him as we used to play house sets together. He had met a couple in some ski resort where he had gone to play for a couple of months. The couple were involved in putting club flyers in shops and bars throughout the Midlands and the North of England. When he came back, he got in touch with the couple and they got him the gig.
I turned up to a half empty night decked out in decorations. After I made some enquiries, I got into Renaissance for free a few weeks later. I remember having a nightmare parking the Austin Metro I had at the time and stiff legs from the two-hour drive that did not welcome the stairs I had to climb to the front door. The building looked anonymous and whitewashed on the outside.
The main dance floor had the DJ booth well above it and there was a chill out area between the front door and the barn like dance floor with bench seating and some sort of trellices. Most of the lads going there looked like rugby league players and the girls like night wear models. The club had a buzz, but it was not the raw electric feel of Shellys, The Hacienda or the Quadrant Park.
The Evening Standard media page in Wednesday’s paper (February 23, 2005) explained to its readers in the meejah sector what gonzo journalism actually meant: surely a case of selling snow to the eskimos? The works of the fast living writer were allready well-known in recreation chemically-minded Islington.
Thompson’s gonzo legacy
What exactly is ‘gonzo’ or outlaw journalism, invented by Hunter S. Thompson, the great American writer, who committed suicide on Sunday at the age of 67? There are few things you can say for certain, other than that it was a product of the 1960s and describes a form of writing where the reporter becomes a central character in the story.
Gonzo is based on William Faulkner’s dictum that “fiction is often the best fact’. The gonzo reporter lives what he writes.
Gonzo journalism is now everywhere. The film-maker Michael Moore used the technique in Fahrenheit 9/11 as dis Morgan Spurlock in his documentary Super Size Me. Robert Fisk’s coverage in The Independent of the killing of Rafik Hariri, former prime minister of Lebanon, by car bomb, in Beirut last week, was a good example. As Mr Fisk’s flat is only a few hundred years (sic) away from the site of the explosion, he was able to give an account that recorded his own emotions as he ran towards the black smoke.
“Hariri, I kept repeating. I had sat with him many times…” And so on.
Writing personal webistes or blogs is a further extension of the technique. It is a self-indulgent, even narcissistic, but it is also vivid. And, at its best, it can catch readers up in a story beter than any other style: that is Thompson’s real legacy.
Motorolan – an employee of Motorola. Apparently goes back to a more innocent time when the sci-fi genre was populated by B-movies like Plan 9 From Outter Space, IBM employees used to have a company song book and abortions were a back-street affair.
The Economist has an interesting article about the pitfalls of modern ‘smart passports’ filled with biometric data.
They highlighted a number of deficiencies:
- The data on the passports is unencrypted
- Passports can be read remotely with cheap easy to acquire equipment, making it easier for terrorists to target Americans
- Tests have shown that a significant number of passports do not work with readers
- Biometric data creates a significant amount of false negative tests, creating a larger requirement for further screening
Usually when people from the UK go to New York, it is for a shopping fest that resembles the behaviour of red skins in a John Wayne movie. However the New York Times guide to New York, you now have the opportunity to pursue more cultural pursuits and still blitz the shopping.
With mixed feelings I decided to replace my PalmOne PDA / Nokia phone combination with an all-in-one device. I had to get something that would synch its data with my Mac and a work PC. I decided to go for a Treo 600. The Treo 600 has recently been superceded as the top dawg in the PalmOne range by the Treo 650, but I wanted a device that had enough history behind it to get the bugs ironed out.PalmOne devices are notorious for having memory related issues that required a service patch post product launch from the RAM issues in the Palm Vx, to the SD/MMC card issues for Tungsten devices. I didn’t mind leaping in with both feet before because if my Palm died I still had the phone and vice versa, but this is having all-your-eggs-in-one-basket time.
The Treo used a different connector to my Tungsten T3 which made my cradles for work and home redundant. PalmOne were cheapskates by throwing in only a synch cable and charger like a entry point PDA rather than a proper cradle. Handily for UK mobile users the device automatically configures itself to use your carriers GPRS service, saving much grief.
In itself is nicer to hold and has better sound quality than I had hoped. As for the camera, its not that good, but then I was more worried about mobile email and having all my contacts together. I had to invest in a new mail application because the one on board the device only looked after POP3 accounts. IMAP4 is a newer and more useful standard that many consumers such as myself are turning to. (You can read more about it here). Thanks to Google and Mitch Kapor’s blog I found a first-rate mail client from New Zealand software company Snapper Fish. SMS texting is made easy via a IM style chat interface that keeps track of SMS conversation threads, very handy for impromptu social calendar planning holding together texts about when and where you would meet.
In common with all touch-screen devices it is worthwhile investing in a cover, I have gone for this shape hugging silicone number and screen protectors.
The look and feel of the device is early Tungsten, not as pleasant as the T3 I had previously, but this is made up for by the seamless integration with phone and PDA components, rather than the Bluetooth-linked shuffle that I had to do before.
I also use MobiPocket as an e-book reader on the tube and MetrO to help me plan my way around London’s public transport system.
No Graffiti – PalmOne devices key advantage was ease-of-use and key to that was the simple handwriting system that users could use for inputting data and controlling the device. They were sued by Xerox, who initially won, licensed Jot (now called Graffiti 2): and crippled it from a usability point of view. Xerox eventually had their case thrown out, but PalmOne has not reinstated the ‘legendary easy-to-use’ Graffiti. In the Treo’s there is no Graffiti pad at all. Instead there is a thumb keyboard, being a seasoned Palm user, I was proficient in Graffiti (when working on the Palm pan European PR account I frequently had to give demonstrations to journalists and other influencers), could get by with the crippled version but have found the thumb keyboard a bit of a retro step. For newbie Palm users it should be fine, its about as hard as a Crackberry.
Using Orange (UK peepz only) – if you are using Orange as your cellular provider you may find the following information of use. All outgoing email from an Orange phone has to go from an Orange SMTP server, they won’t allow you to link to an external one. The address is smtp.orange.net .
There is no user name or password required. They have a helpdesk for data users you can get by dialling 156 from your handset and follow the machine instructions to get put through to the correct team.In conclusion – I have managed to list some negative points, but that is only because I have known and used the Palm platform for a long time like an old friend. I would recommend the Treo from my own experience. If you want to invest in a Treo 650, give them a bit of time to get it right and for the cellular provider handset subsidies to kick in.
The New York Times has a great review of China Inc. by Ted C. Fishman which highlights the growing economic might of China. Some interesting facts and figures featured in the review of the book include:
- From 1982 through 2002, the United States economy grew at an annual rate of 3.3 percent. China’s economy grew at an annual rate of 9.5 percent,
- In 2003 China bought 7 percent of the world’s oil, a quarter of its aluminum and steel, almost a third of its iron ore and coal, and 40 percent of its cement.
- China makes 40 percent of all furniture sold in the United States
- China has 3,000 Christmas-decoration factories which exported more than $900 million tree trimmings and plastic Santas in the first 10 months of 2003.
- China still only makes one-twentieth of everything produced in the world
- China can rely on a vast low-wage army, working for an average of 40 cents an hour, that can turn out consumer goods of every description
- American and Japanese companies spend $1 billion to $2 billion to develop a new car
- New super-cities like Shenzhen, a fishing town of 70,000 20 years ago that now has 7 million people, making it larger than Los Angeles or Paris, swelled by migrants from the countryside looking for a better life in the city
- Up to 300 million Chinese have migrated from the country to the city over the past 20 years
- The Asian Brown Cloud, a wind-borne industrial smog that originates on China’s east coast, can be seen in California as it rides the jet stream
- China has seven of the world’s ten most polluted cities
The book also provides some insights into the differences between the rise of China and Japan. Unlike Japan, China is driven by local enterprises rather than the central analysis and planning carried out by Japanese Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) [now known as the Ministry of Economy Trade and Industry] to find key markets to conquer. There is a certain irony in the socialist state using the brutal darwinism of the marketplace in a way that Adam Smith would have appreciated.
Current reading at Chez Renaissance Chambara:
- Michael Collins by Tim Pat Coogan – a biography of one of the lead players in Ireland’s struggle for independence
- The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe – east coast square writes about one of the most fertile times of the 1960s counter-culture in a stream-of-consciousness style that catches a vibe
ADSL Guide has a comparison facility on their site that allows you to compare the performance of different ISPs. I decided to compare AOL, BT Broadband, Demon Tiscali, Wanadoo and my own ISP Freedom2Surf, you can see the results here.
According to Media Appointments the PR recruitment market started off with a bang in 2005! As a reflection of this buoyant market, many of their clients are continuing to hire at all levels and across all sectors: technology, consumer, lifestyle, corporate, B2B, consumer tech and healthcare.
Average Salary Scale 2005 (for your information)
Managing Director £75000 +
Board Director £65000 +
Associate Director £45,000 – £65,000
Account Director £37,000 – £45,000
Senior Account Manager £32,000 – £37,000
Account Manager £26,000 – £32,000
Senior Account Exec. £22,000 – £26,000
Account Executive £18,000 – £22,000
Graduate Trainee £15,000 – £18,000
Mobile PC magazine has drawn up a very US-centric list of the top-100 gadgets of all time. You can find the lsit here
I decided to vet the list and put in comments for or against as necessary:
1/ Apple PowerBook 100 – this set the design for a range of laptops that still are design icons of mobile computing, look carefully at the clipart and stock photos used in many business brochures.
4/ Motorola StarTac – yes this was a style icon, but was everybody seems to forget was that the connections in the hinge used to go before the warranty expired, the aerial snapped off in your pocket and they looked like Quasimodo with the bulbous ‘long-life’ batteries you had to put on them to get semi-decent talk time.
7/ US Robotics Pilot 1000 – despite a naming dispute with Pilot pens, many people still call PDAs Palm Pilots, the impact of the 1000 is the reason why. The Newton kicked the door to digital data on-the-go in, but it was US Robotics/Palm that ran through it
12/ Apple iPod – nice idea, shame about the dead batteries and the easy scratch case. My iPod sits dormant in the back of my kitchen draw as much use as a 200GBP paperweight
18/ Motorola 8000 cell phone – the first cell phone I used was a Motorola and came in a ballistic nylon luggable satchel weighing about as much as a small car battery. Then I got hold of an 8000, it was brilliant you could hold in your hand, tuck it under your chin whilst driving and it was so robust
19/ IBM Thinkpad 701c – I had an Apple PowerBook 165c in college and a Swedish guy on my course had one of these Thinkpads. Despite the fact that it ran Windows, the keyboard and the nipple were cool as fcuk. IBM got rid of this key layout and nobody copied it, so I suspect that it had reliability issues. The list managed to miss off Think Outside’s Stowaway foldable keyboard for the Palm which was a QWERTY revolution
21/ Cartier Santos watch – the first wrist watch. Without this the watch could not have become the style icon it is today as we would still be wearing waist coats and carrying pocket watches
31/ Trek thumb drive – so you want to walk off with a bunch of files thanks to devices like the Trek thumb drive employee intellectual property theft has never been easier
39/ Apple Newton – set the standard in handwriting recognition and functions and PDAs that others followed the Newton was just a little too early. Despite bad media reports, the intrinsic quality of the devices means that 11 years later there is still a thriving underground community catering for the Newton. Unfortunately Apple has cast all the intellectual property aside and let it go fallow.
46/ Speak and Spell – bleeding edge for the time, many voice synthesis products have yet to equal the robotic tones of the speak and spell. Unfortunately UK lemon manufacturer Austin Rover tried to incorporate Speak and Spell like intelligence into their Maestro car, winding up the unfortunate customers to breaking point
50/ Whilst my Etch-a-Sketch kept me entertained as a kid, I can never remember drawing anything that did look anything other than a complete Jackson Pollock
52/ Sony CFS-5000 ghetto-blaster. Whilst the ghetto blaster was an icon of the late 1970s and 1980s, it was the big-ass silver and chrome models by the likes of Sharp that were the most desirable. This Sony model is just plain lame.
68/ Nokia 6100 series. An iconic mobile phone that felt great in the hand, had a great menu system and was designed with love. (If you popped off the removable face the plastic moulding protecting the ear piece had an artfully cut grinning face cut into to it like the stencilised image of an Eastern European puppet.) This was the killer ‘candy bar’ shaped phone, however I was surprised the Nokia 2110 didn’t make the list.
89/ Rubiks cube – a puzzle for dweebs and misfits that briefly swept the world in the 1980s and spawned countless imitations. It also taught 80s designers that black would go with the most garish of colours.
98/ The pez dispenser – this is the sweet dispenser that launched eBay. The auction site was originally developed to allow a guys girlfriend to trade Pez dispensers. Its very American, I guess it must make up for the fact that they don’t have heritage like ‘old Europe’.
Boutique bankers Think Equity Partners LLC now have their own blog, not as interesting or articulate as the likes of Andy Kessler it looks like a reasonably well concealed attempt to talk up the market. I am sure the content will improve as time moves on. Thanks to Ian Wood for putting me on to Lifehacker, a light but interesting read and open about its relationship with Sony.According to the US Army, it is convinced that its free to download game America’s Army is a more effective way of delivering its messages to potential recruits than advertising. Where it really gets interesting is in the math, America’s Army costs about six million USD a year, in contrast its advertising budget runs into hundreds of millions. That’s an ROI that PR couldn’t match. More from the New York Times Circuits section.
Finally, Microsoft is having to recall the power cables on over 14 million Xbox consoles due to the real risk of a fire. Seven people have received burns, 30 customers have reported fire damage and 23 have reported smoke damage or localised damage to flooring or entertainment systems. The recall affects over 70 per cent of Xbox consoles in the wild. More details from SiliconValley.com.
First off with music, my friend and producer Uri Levanon has a relatively new blog here that seems to straddle both music and technology, you can find it here.
3GSM is rapidly turning into a gadget fest that Comdex or CeBIT would be worthy of. The amount of mobile devices and services offered by carriers and vendors shows a new found confidence within the technology sector. Push to talk over cellular (PoC), a Nextel-type walkie-talkie service seemed to be the flavour-de-jour. With some notable exceptions, from examination of press photographs the product design of many of these products is still pretty shoddy. You can outsource your manufacturing to Asia, but spend some of the savings on some good design people!Philips described their 655 as ‘being ideal for self portraits’ with its built in mirror. I expect to see it being used by ‘media types’ in many Soho clubs as an impromptu surface to cut a line of charlie on. Talk about niche marketing and targeting trend setters.