Style n Fashion

Style pimps Oki Ni have some great jewellery by Japanese graffiti artist Daisuke Sakaguchi as ultimate b-boy wear. Splurge your snaps here.

Jargon Watch

EBITDA-CAC: I can’t work out whether this is inspired, mad as a bag of cats or both all at the same time. Hutchison Whampoa have come up with a new performance indicator for its third-generation mobile telecoms business 3 Group. It is actually an acronym for earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation and amortisation minus customer acquisition costs.The FT quotes an executive who claims that metric was invented to take account of “the market’s focus on the cash cost of building the 3 Group’s business.”

“The metric gives a better understanding of whether and when the business have achieved operating cash flow sufficient to cover the growth investment in CAC”.

CAC sounds the same as cack, English slang for for rubbish; surely a coincidence?

Kudos: 3 Group points the way in 3G by Tom Mitchell Financial Times (page 29) March 28, 2006.

PR 2.0 part two


Calman art
Originally uploaded by renaissancechambara.
The New, New Thing: Same Old Carpetbaggers and Snake Oil SalesmenThe first time around during the dot com bubble I can remember meeting very bright intelligent people trying to convince me that they were going to change the world based on their mastery of the latest buzz words.

Already industry pundits like Om Malik are complaining about businesses that are built to flip; that is not developing a service as a business that will be paid for by online advertising or a subscription, but instead is designed to only make one sale – the business itself when it is bought by (insert the name of a large technology company here).

Since Web 2.0 is hard to pin down this allows an assortment of modern-day carpetbaggers and snake oil salemen to try and pry money out of large companies that need to be seen to be dynamic or venture capital companies that are not very good at kicking the tyres.

As a PR consultant its your job to avoid these people as they will sully your relationships with the media and will not think twice about leaving you with unpaid bills.

How do you avoid these people?

  • Use your common sense
  • Avoid companies that are built to flip
  • If a companies business model makes no sense to you, its because its nonsense
  • Are there too many expensive professional business people on board?
  • Google the people you meet, read their blogs, have a look on flickr. Do your research – have they written or presented papers? What’s their pedigree?
  • Avoid people that tell you upfront they’re in talks with (insert large tech firm), big companies talk to lots of people all the time. It doesn’t mean that they’re serious 90 per cent of the time
  • Try the product, would you use it at home? Would you recommend it to friends? Would your partner (or bit on the side) use it? – If not, then how can you promote it and expect other people to buy into it?

PR 2.0 part one (or the peculiar nature of representing Web 2.0 firms from a PR consultant’s perspective)


eBay
Originally uploaded by renaissancechambara.
This posting is the first of a series is not designed to provide a technical understanding of Web 2.0 but help PR people understand what they can bring to the table and how they should help out.What is Web 2.0?

The first rule of Web 2.0 is that you don’t describe it as Web 2.0. If you break this rule, you’re obviously a know-nothing marketer or a grasping journalist looking for a bandwagon to hang your hat.

The movers and shakers in this movement consider that label to be so two-to-three years ago. Forrester Research uses the label XInternet so they can make it sound as if they alone have discovered an online future, personally I think that they may have read too many comics as a child and in the middle age still want to be Wolverine.

Ok, social movements seem to coalesce and have their time and the media and everyone else like to put a name on it because a name gives you power over it, an understanding , makes it tangible.

That’s why many ‘primitive’ civilisations had a big thing about not giving out your real name, kind of like policemen with their badge numbers when at the scene of an incident.

So Web 2.0 is a label like acid house, hippies, the beat generation, rave and indie.

The phrase came out of a conference run by IT publisher O’Reilly Media. From this Tim O’Reilly wrote an essay about the kind of things that made up the phenomena of Web 2.0. He did not come up with a trite definition but came up with a number of symptoms that indicate Web 2.0-ness.

Like the judge in a famous obsenity trial, most people have struggled to neatly define Web 2.0, but know it when they see it.

The Web 2.0 pioneers usually came out of bootstrapped enterprises, they achieved a lot quickly by being made up of small highly talented teams rather than the traditional IT development approach of using body shops like IBM Global Services, Accenture or EDS. Indeed the skills sets of these companies are completely in the wrong place both in terms of technologies and project management.

Tools like XML were widely looked on as a successor to EDI (electronic data interchange) in the enterprise, rather than the bedrock of building applications themselves.

Web 2.0 is:
A set of values – Web 2.0 companies tend to have a common set of values that affect everything they do. They are technically led and influenced by the philosophy of the open source community. They’re products include elements of online collaboration where the consumer is both producer and consumer or prosumer as Alvin Toffler put it, such as social networks, tagging, folksonomies, user-generated content.

Many of the successful companies in this area where boot-strapped together, rather than funded by venture capitalists, this gives them a mom-and-pop feel – more of this this later when we talk about communities. Many are community-minded, by this I do not mean that they’re members of the Rotarians, but they think about how the products can be used by people like them. They not only consider themselves to be facilitators of these communities but part of the community themselves

A set of design principles – Ok, so there is a cliched look with rounded fonts and the use of AJAX to provide a dynamic user experience is a bit of a cliche, but Web 2.0 applications generally have an approach to doing things that is framed by what has gone before and the limitations imposed by being small and beautiful.

They generally focus on doing something well, a product is not finished when its good enough but evolves through a dialogue with consumers. Rather than trying to be all things to all people by providing a monolithic set of products, Web 2.0 products have open APIs that allow their functionality be the brought together or ‘mashed-up’.

A way of looking at a problem – Web 2.0 companies largely seem to be dead set against feature creep in a way that conventional software companies could learn from. On the flipside they have also been accused of being features rather than businesses as they are focused on providing the best solution to do a particular job.

This goes the convergent direction that hardware manufacturers in the mobile phone and consumer electronics sectors have been going down. Much of the developments that have driven Web 2.0 have as much to do with social engineering as technology: take Amazon’s ratings systems for goods purchased on the site or the use of tags on services like Flickr.

An interesting take on IP – Microsoft is looking at registering over 5,000 patents a year, yet companies like Google provide open APIs that allow developers to build on their work. A classic example of this is the local search product provided online at 118118.com which utlises Google maps and Thomson directory listings together with rail data from thetrainline.com.

In addition, the approach of making frequent evolutionary improvements on a product does not lend itself well to patent laws as outside the US patent filers do not have 12-months grace to file on an invention in the public domain but have to file before it goes public.

There seems to be a dichotomy. The services themselves are build on easily available tools from Linux servers to open source scripting languages. The war in Web 2.0 is less about intellectual property ownership and more about ‘owning’ the smartest people to conjure up new ideas and take things in new directions.

A way of doing business – Web 2.0 companies provide open interfaces because they believe that there is a network effect happening when the API is used that has a positive benefit for the originator so long as there is attribution. This is in stark contrast to the more defensive approach by conventional software companies and existing web businesses. These open APIs could also allow a user on one service to move their existing data over to another newer better web service at any point in the future. It’s like a bank advertising the fact that they make it easy for you move if you’re ever dissatisfied with their service.

A new set of challenges – How do you build a community when your product grows beyond your early adopter peers? How do you communicate the value you provide? How do you educate people on the benefits of them doing your work for you. Encouraging them to tag, link to friends or provide their own content? How do you convince people that you can make money when you give away your service to potential competitors through open APIs?

A reaction to what has gone before – Cause and effect. The inadequacies of the software industry and current internet offerings, together with the rise of XML, cheap tools, widespread broadband, growth in processing power, cheaper storage and maturing open source applications were the midwives to the birth of web 2.0.

On heavy rotation

A Hundred Birds – Black Water (Wave Music) Japanese artists cover the detroit techno classic using real instruments. It adds a depth to the track that original didn’t have. This was recommended to me by Alec, apparently the number of texts to his radio show goes through the roof when he drops this. You can listen to samples and purchase it here.

White Collar Criminals – Wanting You (Jackin Tracks)

The one to go for is the Johnny Fiasco mix on the b-side. A great mix of rousing soulful strings and samples with jackin’ beats and acid lines makes the track something that the best producers from the Chicago house scene. More info here.

Terry Mullan & Bryan Jones – Reclaim Your Acid Heritage EP (Robsoul) Classic acid-style tracks with lashings and lashings of TB-303 sounds all over the place. Get your fix from Phonica before they sell out.The Miami Winter Music Conference has started which means that its start of the music buying season again, if the rest of the year turns out like these tracks then we’re in for a jackin’ summer to take our minds off the hose pipe ban.

Link Heaven

Wired Online resurrected one of their best features a while ago Webmonkey which is a great resource for web creatives and pseudo nerds (check out their classic bluffers guide to UNIX commands), anyway they have a great redux of Web 2.0. which can be found here. While you wile away your life in a cube toiling away for the man in the 21st century’s answer to the dark satanic mills check out

Unknown FM. If you’re up early on a Sunday morning or haven’t got to bed yet check out Alec (Alec Samways of Splendid Communications) and Sacha’s show from 8 – 10 am. It is a mix of easy-to-digest house music, so you can host an impromptu after-hours club in front of your PC.

A revolution without dancing is a revolution not worth having

I paused for a few days before writing this review of V for Vendetta because of the polarised views about the film. People who like it are accused of being fan boys, the people who dislike it are alleged to be blind. The truth is somewhere in between.About V

V for Vendetta was imagined by a disillusioned Moore who was living a mid-1980s Britain very different from the present day. The cold war raged on in Africa, the Middle East and Afganistan.

AIDS was a scary new illness and the red-tops were calling for carriers and high-risk groups like homosexuals to be put in ‘detention camps’. We had race riots in Brixton and Toxteth and there were allegations of a shoot-to-kill policy against the catholic minority in Northern Ireland.

The Sunday Times magazine ran a photo-journalism story about how unemployed men in Birkenhead were making ends meet by scrabbling around the municipal dump of Bidston Moss looking for scrap to sell on. And the forces of the state were let loose on mining communities to break the organised labour movement. Violence by police officers captured and shown on the TV news was considered to be inadmissible evidence in cases were charges of police brutality had been brought.

Meanwhile the UK took its first steps to becoming the world’s surviellance capital with the widespread installation of closed-circuit television in most major towns.

In the words of Moore the country had become ‘mean-spirited’ and he thought about moving abroad.

Where its different

  • It involves a biological war rather than the low-level nuclear war envisaged by Alan Moore (who didn’t take account of the nuclear winter)
  • It references modern-day conflicts like the war on terror and references the negative capitalism of drug companies; indeed the launch fo the film occurred around about the time a pharmaceutical trial went horribly wrong in London

Where it succeeds

  • V is well portrayed by Hugo Weaver
  • Natalie Portman is in it – lovely
  • Elements like the Shadow Gallery are on the money
  • Stephen Fry and Stephen Rea are well acted

Where it falls down

  • V is too slick for its own good visually
  • The film has been badly edited, if you hadn’t read the comic some of the changes would have been harder to understand. For instance, the fire at Larkhill isn’t explained at all and the full significance of Scarlett Carsons – the rare rose breed is missing
  • You don’t get an understanding of how Vis at the centre of the country’s control apparatus

Why do they hate V so much?

  • Alan Moore had his name removed from the film, though the illustrator David Lloyd was happy to be associated with it. This has as much to do with the bad experience Moore had at the hands of DC Comics and the film industry which are well documented here and here
  • Its made by the guys who did The Matrix: it also uses a lot of Matrix cliches in the colour of scenes, their lighting and special effects. Bullet-time is used in the main fight scene for instance
  • The controversy of Euan Blair being a runner on the set
  • The concern in the public’s mind over terrorism and the ideas that the film drives home are close to the bone

The MySpace Saga continues

Social networking boffin danah boyd has carved out a bit of a niche as the media’s talking head of choice regarding MySpace.Following on from my posts that have discussed MySpace, danah’s perspective on the challenges that the social networking site faces makes an interesting read.

Put simply Friendster waned because they didn’t manage the way they treated their community well, MySpace runs a risk of imploding under its own weight as the needs and cultures of its users collide in a messy super public. MySpace is also threatened by a political and public pressure of moral panic as the adult world don’t get what the kids are doing. This is likely to bring in legislation in the US (sounds like rock n’ roll music in the middle of the last century).

danah sees this as bad news for freedom of speech, anonymity online and damaging for social networking sites in general.

A secondary impact will be on the ability to monetise these sites through advertising and sponsorship deals, as big brand marketers won’t want to support sites that would tarnish the public perception of their brand. This restriction on entrepreneurs is likely to impact on the development of social networks.

Kudos to the YPulse newsletter. Picture by Patricia Gomez-Garcia.

Empirical Evidence

Due to work, I found myself down at The Guardian’s main office last thing on Monday afternoon with another colleague to talk through a community-related product that we had just launched in the UK. While we were in the papers swanky and reasonably priced canteen in the bowels of the building, I got to shoot the breeze with

Jane Perrone about blogs.Jane is assistant news editor of Guardian Unlimited.

The first topic of discussion was

Comments is Free; the new editorial commentary blog has meant that some of her old media colleagues have had to learn about how to work in a new medium. Jane also pointed out that some of the interns find it hard to get to grips with blogging and often don’t have a clue what’s it all about, reinforcing my own views of the generational marketing gap opening up between unversity students and younger scholars.

Jane is a keen organic gardener, (she blogs about it

here) also mentioned the rise of retired bloggers who document every aspect of their life obsessively. One woman Jane mentioned documents the size of eggs laid by her free-range hens each day. Nokia’s life blog concept now starts to make sense.

Quattrone – even if he’s found innocent he’s guilty

Frank Quattrone got leave to appeal his conviction earlier today, whilst overturning his conviction would be a vindication for him and be a sense of relief to family and close friends he has already been sentenced and found guilty.The NASD have punished him, his career as a banker finished and those who used to associate with him scattered to the four winds for fear of being tainted by association.

Quattrone ultimately was punished for the sins of the many:

  • The equity and market analysts who hyped the industry
  • The bank directors who looked the other way in the name of profits
  • The pension fund managers looking for easy money
  • The media for lapping up the lies and half-truths without questions
  • PR people for being the ringmasters of a four-ring circus of companies, bankers, analysts and the media
  • And most importantly we the people for being gullible enough to believe the rubbish the told us in their marketing brochures

Quattrone is a sinner: particularly against style and fashion if you have a look at his ties and the John Holmes moustache, but we should not ignore the plank in our own eyes when looking at the thorn in his.

The judges finding on Quattrone’s appeal is here. Kudos to the San Jose Mercury News.

Jargon Watch

Body uncountNeal Stephenson and Frederick George’s political satire and thriller Cobweb has the unscrupulous gravy-train merchant Dr Arthur Larsen inventing a notional statistic based on the number of people the work of his researchers had saved for public relations and loosening the purse strings of grant bodies.

It reminded me of the kind of statistics that we would use to manufacture news for clients that had nothing new to say.

In one particular case we took the percentage savings figures that the client had achieved for existing client installations over a year. (We didn’t do anything as coarse as asking the client how these numbers were derived).

We then applied this to a government figure on the amount of money being spent by national and local government on IT initiatives using similar technologies.

A press release was issued on the wires, sold into journalists and emailed to the opposition political parties.

Sure enough we were asked to arrange a meeting between our client and the Cabinet Office for further discussions on their offering.

Regarding the picture, Robert McNamara when secretary of the Department of Defence has been accused of using statistics like body count as smoke and mirrors victories during the US involvement in Vietnam.

Second Chance Tuesday – amend your diaries


Shu Uemura
Originally uploaded by renaissancechambara.

At RC towers we got an email from the organisers of Second Chance Tuesday which has been postponed until early May.From: Glasshouse Events
Date: 16 March 2006 12:15:34 GMT
To: events at theglasshouse.net mailing list
Subject: RE: Second Chance Tuesday – New Date 2 May 2006

In a change to the published date, the next Second Chance Tuesday will be held on Tuesday, 2 May 2006. Full details to announce the opening of registration for the event will follow shortly. We will also be announcing details of new sponsors and plans for development of SCT events throughout 2006. We truly apologise for any inconvenience that the date change may cause. We promise not to make a habit of moving event dates and we will publish future dates well in advance.

We have been overwhelmed with the response to the last Second Chance Tuesday and hundreds of people have been joining the mailing list each week. We would like to thank all of you who have been in touch to give us feedback on the last event and some new ideas for the future. Please do keep the suggestions and ideas coming, we are looking forward to seeing as many of you as possible on Tuesday, 2 May 2006. If you have friends or colleagues who would like to join the mailing list please ask them to visit. www.secondchancetuesday.com.

With very best wishes

Judith Clegg & Michael Smith

Where the rubber hits the road

Following on from my posting about how much of an impact blogs are likely to have on PR, it occurred to me that whilst people talk about the technological aspect of services and how they change the media landscape; but not how this impacts from a sociological point-of-view. There is the generational gap of digital natives versus digital immigrants where digital immigrants have only known the world with the Internet as a source of information and and communications. Secondly there is the sociological generation gap between baby-boomers, generation x and generation y.They have different aspirations and ways of working. Generation y would be digital natives, but it is also factors like they didn’t live through the cold war, or that women’s rights is accepted as norm which changes the way they look at the world, interact with each other and use information.

Generation y are seen as being more group centric than baby-boomers and generation x as more pragmatic than the existential boomers.

If one overlays this on web services you can see how the ‘ego-centric’ nature of blogging would fit quite nicely for boomers and its comments section allows rigorous debates that generation x love, whereas services like MySpace would fit better with the consensus, high touch and collective nature of generation y.

MySpace the service, will probably wane rather like Friendster before it, mainly because social software still has a lot of learnings to do and services to refine.

For instance, I have not been able accept a friend invite from Drew B, and an example of bad user experience design is the way I have to go and pick up mail from MySpace rather than have it drop into my email account.

KultureVulture

Mancunian breaks night Airtight have got a revamped site with some great MP3 mixes for your iPod. The mixes can be found here.


I had dinner out on Thursday night with some of the team from consumer PR agency Splendid at The Cuckoo Club on Swallow Street just (off Regent Street). The venue has a restaurant on the ground floor with a lovely interior and some tricked out low lighting, it looks bigger than it is through the use of mirrors.The food is very good and I am told that they had a good wine list. There is a dance floor downstairs which isn’t cutting edge but filled with lots of bright young things and provides excellent materials for avid people watchers. The venue did have one of my pet hates however the toilet attendant looking to blag tips.

One last point, I guess the more inquisitive amongst you will be wondering why the picture of the adidas Torsion special kicks to accompany this post. The simple answer is because I can.