Links of the day

Popular Social Networking Websites Around The World – thanks to Steve Rubel

‘Buzz’ finds favour in the UK – Coca Cola and Kelloggs leap on buzz marketing

Featured Mac Download: Add Keyword Search to Safari with Keywurl  – key word tool built into Safari

apophenia: Where HCI comes from (and where it might go)

SyncWizard – SyncWizard takes your contacts, appointments, music and documents and zaps them onto the Net. You get a MyStuff page. Using this web site all your personal information is in one password protected place available from any net aware device.

Two takes on essentially the same data set about Google’s clicks Google’s Paid Click Business Slipping – ComScore – Seeking Alpha

BIL Conference – Minds Set Free. – TED meets barcamp

What Consumer Technology Companies Can Learn From Apple Product Launches | Joshua Weinberg | Voices | AllThingsD

Tim Berners-Lee Says the Time for the Semantic Web is Now – The interesting thing about Berners-Lee’s interview is that he thinks that the semantic web will be closer to Google’s vision through database manipulation rather than folksonomy

The Global Race Among Social Networks Heats Up. Keep an Eye on Hi5, Friendster, and Imeem

MUJI Book 2007 – ‘This Exclusive and Unique Publication Looks at The Extraordinary Success Story of MUJI Includes MUJIs Story. Its Introduction, History and Founder. MUJIs Philosophy Products and Exhibitions. Interviews With International Designers Such as Ikko Tanaka.’

KUNG FU PANDA – Po the kung fu panda comes from the same school of hard knocks as gangster olypmic mascot JingJing, though he prefers hand-to-hand combat to JingJing’s use of firearms

Open Tech 2008 – 5th July in London. – I went along to OpenTech2005 which was inspirational and there was great discounts on O’Reilly books

Chinese Websites Sign Internet Video Agreement – – The Technology Source for the Latest Chinese News, Information, and Commentary on Internet, Computers, Digital, Science, Electronics, Law, Security, Software, Telecom, and Wireless Indus

Estimates Put Internet Advertising at $21 Billion in U.S., $45 Billion Globally

The Chart: Google clicks filling more shopping carts – interesting stats on Google’s click-through rates

RTÉ Business: German consumer confidence stable – Gfk

TweetVolume : Home – nice really simple zeitgest measurement tool on twitter

Customer insight

Open (Subway Sandwich Restaurant) on Villier Street

I have been thinking a lot about customer insight recently. Part of this thought process goes back to when I was at college I was told the story of instant coffee’s launch in the US. The story went something like this: instant coffee granules were successfully launched in the US, and then sales dropped off. Conventional marketing support tactics such as in-store sampling and discounts didn’t work out.

Meanwhile, the advertising agency on its own initiative took a different tack, by interviewing the target purchasers and watching how they interacted in their homes. It seems that the housewives felt that a key part of being a good homemaker was brewing coffee through more traditional (presumably a french press). Women that used instant coffee were perceived as being slovenly and sluttish. So a programme of advertisements and sponsored programmes was developed showing instant coffee being used as part of life within a happy and healthy family.

The rest as they say was history until Starbucks managed to get us to drink coffee on-the-go and pay 5 USD per cup.

A more personal example happened to me on Sunday, I got called by Stuart, the owner of Mainline Menswear, who followed up with me as I was a first-time customer. Part of the reason was help prevent card fraud but by the end of the call he knew I had a specific interest in adidas’ original line and had told me that if I could get an adidas part number for an item and dropped him an email he could plug in directly to adidas and get the item.

PR as an industry is shockingly bad at getting decent quality research done like that adverting agency to gain real customer insight, developing a big idea based on the findings and building our programmes on top of them. Part of the reason for this is that PR spend is only a fraction of that for media buying or advertising and PR people only really get paid for implementation. Our research tends to be secondary data and very media content focused rather than looking at the audience itself.

We can understand the media, we can understand the problem from the clients perspective like the coffee problem, but we don’t have a real tap into audience motivations. Digital channels allow us to do research to find out what people are saying, but anybody who has been in a relationship knows that what people people say and what they mean or the reasons behind what they do often don’t match up. For example, you have an argument with a loved one about the last incident that tipped a scale, rather than all the factors that have caused discontent.

Is customer insight research a more important resource for the PR agency of the future than digital skills?

Links of the day

Judge on privacy: Computer code trumps the law | CNET

Michelin Gives Stars, but Tokyo Turns Up Nose – New York Times – if I go restaurant hunting in Japan, I want to be told by by the Japanese not some French interlopers the best places to go. Also Japan is more wired than most other nations on earth, why the dead tree edition instead of using viaMichelin’s much vaunted mapping on a mobile service?

FT Executive Membership Forums – Homepage – the FT’s answer to A Small World for executives or another way to sell attendees at its conferences? The page is shockingly badly coded

Brand persuasion wheel – Ulli Appelbaum – Six most common principles of human persuasion that can be used by marketers reward, threat, expertise, liking, scarcity and social proof

Who watches the movie-makers?

Watchmen movie website screenshot

Some things are special to you. For me there is a wide range of works of art that stand very nicely on their own without people trying to improve on them like the original 3:10 To Yuma, Sergio Leone’s Dollar’s trilogy and Once Upon a Time in The West, anything Akira Kurosawa shot with Toshiro Mifune, Seijun Suzuki’s Tokyo Drifter, Wong Kar Wai’s In The Mood for Love, Zen And The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig and Alan Moore’s comics.

I grew up with V for Vendetta and Watchmen so there is a strong emotional attachment for me in those comics. To give you an idea of the cultural impact that Watchmen had on its release; Bomb the Bass used the smiley image above for the sleeve of the single Beat Dis and Watchmen artist Dave Gibbons is thanked in the sleeve notes of the Into the Dragon album.

The Beat Dis single sleeve was co-opted and that was how the smiley face became the inane grin of acid house and raves appearing on record sleeves, event flyers, t-shirts, bandanas and the blotting paper of LSD tabs.

As a reader I found that the first time I enjoy the multi-layered plots and action, each time I then revisit Moore’s comics I see a further layer of connections and what some people describe as ‘Easter eggs’, though in fact they are right in front of your eyes all the time.

This means that Moore’s works don’t translate all that well to film. V felt very ‘choppy’ where an obvious editors hand had tried to compress the film and many of the crucial plot devices that sewed the story together were lost – most noticably the reason why Scarlet Carson roses were so important. The League of Extraordinary Gentleman was virtually unrecognisable from the comics and looked like a drunken fancy dress party.

It is with considerable concern that I await the film version of Watchmen. I am sure that the green screen techniques can render a passable visual interpretation of the comic: film adaptations of Frank Miller’s Sin City and 300 proved that, but will the ‘soul’ of Watchmen transfer to the screen or will the film be a shallow interpretation of the comic? in the comic the following question constantly appears on graffitti and protestor banners which ask ‘who watches the watchmen?’ I think we need to change it out and ask the more pertinent question of who watches the movie makers?

The film is due out in March 6, 2009 according to the official website.

Links of the day

How to Succeed in an Ever-Changing World – O’Reilly FYI – one for the Amazon wishlist

Friendster – Rexteen Rexy – Unilever social media work on friendster aimed at Malaysian teens. It has a widget that allows you to furnish a virtual room. The more deodorant you buy, the more stuff you can have in your room. I really like the real-world / online integration of this campaign. Its a great idea that drives forward on marketing  the brand and fuelling demand and goes to show the best social networks never die, they just find a niche like Friendster has done in Southeast Asia

Shopnik – experiment in data organisation (thanks to my colleague Nathan for flagging this one)

I, Cringely . The Pulpit . Leadfoot | PBS – interesting post on the false green measure of lead-free solder

BBC NEWS | UK | Tate & Lyle sugar to be Fairtrade – In terms of size and scale, this is the biggest ever Fairtrade switch by a UK company, will the company get held to a holier than thou status and get beaten up on big food issues the way the post-Prius Toyota got beaten up by environmentalists about the conventionally powered cars that it still sells?

Small Dog Electronics Burlington Retail Store – a photoset on Flickr – I love the touches that Small Dog, an independent Apple reseller have in their store at Burlington Vermont. If you are a Mac user they also do really handy weekly newsletters and a relatively new blog with with tips on troubleshooting and getting the most out of your computer.

Akinaiblog Japan Shop – Buy or request Japanese products online – more online fuel for my obsession with all things Japanese

Translation Browser Buttons – from Google, click to get translation of the site that you are on. I can’t believe that people don’t know about these, they are so handy and kick the crap out of Yahoo! Babelfish (sorry Gina and Salim) in terms of ease-of-use

Japan to Door – Personal Shopper, Auction Agent and Personal Forwarder in Japan. – DANG! as our Rachel would say, this service is both awesome and scary at the same time I could see me blowing all my cash and then some. Home – Ireland’s equivalent of NME, with the occasional investigative article that’s worth reading, however all the good content is behind a paywall.

DAB – its demise has been exaggerated

World Cup

Fellow ex-Yahoo Fru Hazlett started it off when she re-focused GCap and reduced the amount of programming away from digital radio (this is is known in the UK as DAB after the acronym for the European digital radio standard ‘Digital Audio Broadcasting’), soon even that bastion of reliable commentary on media industry affairs The GQ magazine blog weighed in on how broadcast radio is dying.

Ok, first of all, GCap closed down stations to focus back on their core London demographic, people in Liverpool and the Northwest just aren’t as attractive to advertisers the bulk of UK economic activity is in the Southeast of England. Secondly regardless of what way you transmit your radio signal, either over the internet or via the airwaves you still have a cost of producing compelling content.

Whilst DAB does have its problems: expensive receivers the continuing proliferation of analogue FM radio devices in mobile phones, alarm clocks and even gadgets to play your iPod through your car stereo. Competition from internet radio is not going to kill broadcast radio anytime soon. The reason for this is technological. Whilst the internet is great for many services it is not a panacea for all communications problems. It is just that the media companies need to find the best content for the best delivery mechanism and at the best price point.

Let me illustrate this by a series of examples:

  • I love the cinema, with some noticable exceptions like Cloverfield, I still love watching film and even documentaries on the big screen, having it fill my visual field and benefiting from the giant soundsystem. I remember going to see Independence Day and coming coming out with a numb backside because the cinema had tricked my brain into believing that I had been on a wild adventure park ride in the air and space flight sequences. But I am in the minority. However, during the last World Cup, I worked next to the Odeon cinema on Shaftesbury Avenue and they broadcast World Cup matches live on the big screen. Lots of people who couldn’t get the time off or spend the money to go to Germany got to watch the match in a stadium like environment where they shared the agony and ecstacy of the beautiful game in a shared experience that was much more powerful than watching it on the internet, their own television or even down the local pub. This shared experience by proximity is something that the internet cannot offer in the same way
  • During the July 7 attacks on London by a homegrown suicide bomber cell, many people went to the Internet and the internet slowed to a crawl. I was working at Yahoo! Europe at the time, email slowed right down, you couldn’t get through to the news pages of many media outlets and I remember IMing Jonathan Hopkins who worked on the Yahoo! team over at Bite to see if everybody there was ok. There was a heroic effort by the editorial team led by Simon Hinde and a brace of engineering staff to reinvent the home page for the day so that we could keep Yahoo! readers/surfers up to date as best we could. Adverts came off the page and the whole download payload was reduced to make it easier to serve and download the news. During this time broadcast radio and television had no such infrastructure problems, it didnt matter whether there was 5 million or 50 million people watching, whilst there was still electricity the broadcast networks could cope with that demand spike. There is a technology called multicast which the BBC messed around with and Cisco had been talking about for at least the last decade that help fix some of the architectural problems of the internet, but it won’t be useful until the vast majority of internet switches have the multicast option turned on. The second point is we still may run into problems even with multicast if we don’t have enough bandwidth in the right places. Bob Cringely has a series of good articles on multicast technology here
  • Vinyl supposedly died sometime in the early 1980s, yet sales over the past few years have jumped. A combination of the use of compression by audio engineers on modern music formats, the platform for cover art that vinyl offers, modern pressing plants in the Czech Republic built by skillful local engineers and the ease of digital piracy meant that vinyl sales actually picked up over the past year or so. The sales are still small, but people like SimplyVinyl have recognised a very lucrative market niche

The point is that is that the demise of a media channel is less to do that one is better than another, its about the media companies being smart enought to find the right content for the right channel. And the right channel changes by culture as well. When I went to Hong Kong, I saw what Sir Run Run Shaw meant when he described cinema as ‘air-conditioned darkness’. In a place where people live quite literally on top of one and other, the ‘me time’ offered to individuals and lovers by the cinema in terms of privacy and respite from the heat and humidity is an important part of the cinemas appeal.


I just love the craziness of Uniqlo’s campaign to bring back plus fours and cashmire. This is an idea that like a fine piece of Japanese engineering looks ridiculously simple but is in fact fiendishly complex.


Links of the day

Piper Jaffray Article Archive – probably some of the most useful and insightful research by an investment bank

Normal Room – home for global homes, wonderful lifestyles and fabulous interior design – Home – for interior design junkies

FFFFOUND! – community for inspiration

7 Food Hacks to Stay Alert Without Caffeine | Zen Habits


Hitwise Intelligence – Robin Goad – UK: UK Polish Internet usage on the rise

The World’s Most Innovative Companies | Fast Company – I am surprised that Facebook has scored so highly in this article and we don’t have any of the results of IDEOs commissions described

The Keynote Benchmark – The Mobile and Internet Performance Review


Technology Can Be a Blessing for Bored Workers – New York Times

Telegraph Opens Tech R&D Lab | paidContent:UK

Come to the INQUIRER’s 7th birthday party! – The INQUIRER – end of an era with the departure of Mike Magee

Keyword Research for Bloggers: A Comprehensive Guide | Copyblogger

» Social Media in Russia sixtysecondview – David Brain shoots his own version of From Russia with Blogs :)

YouTube – Edison Chen Sex Scandal Apology – Hopefully this will finish once and for all the scandal and allow all the starlets to keep their jobs in the Asian entertainment industry. It would be a shame if Maggie Q had to retire :)

Facebook Fatigue


In early January I talked about the future decline of Facebook. Since that posting about a month and a half ago I am already seeing signs of Facebook fatigue amongst my friends. Ok, this isn’t a quantitate evidence, but I think that its the first brushstrokes in painting a larger picture of Facebook’s decline.

From one of my ‘early majority’ friends which I received on February 8th.

HI Guy’s

I have decided to leave face book as it’s rubbish, feel free to send me emails at

Talk soon

I also received a message from Lloyd Davis about the Social Media Cafe. Lloyd is moving member engagement beyond Facebook. The interesting thing about the mail is that Lloyd recognised that ‘early adopters’ like social media mavens don’t all ‘actively engage’ on Facebook

This FB group has been great for getting your attention and for you to show your committment (I’m thrilled that we still have 300 members) but it doesn’t really work for day to day activities and not everyone is an active facebook user – btw please *don’t* leave the group just because we’re doing stuff elsewhere – it goes down very well when I’m bigging up what we’re doing with money people that we’ve got 300 peeps on FB :)

Whilst I don’t think that the Daily Mail is one of the leading authorities when it comes to social media, but they have data points that they feel indicates the start of a decline (if not a plateau) in UK usage of Facebook.

Links of the day

British ISPs to Delve into Behavioral Ads, Too – deal by Phorm, these guys seem to have stepped up a gear. Prospective acquisition material by AOLGoogleIACMicrosoftNewsCorpYahoo? | jonathan hopkins » Missed opportunity for Marmite campaign? – Interesting analysis of Marmite

Real-time Twitter Search – Tweet Scan – Real-time search on twitter

delicious Blocks Search Engine Spiders

400,000 unlocked Apple iPhones turn up on China Mobile – and more are in HKG, Singapore etc

TechCrunch UK » Blog Archive » The UK is now crucial to Google’s revenues

Oprah Time: The Future of Ideas by Lawrence Lessig

I was curious to read Lawrence Lessig‘s The Future of Ideas because of Google’s recent intervention in the ongoing wireless spectrum auction being held in America.

The The Future of Ideas builds on previous writing he has done around creative commons and guides readers through the complex relationship between connectivity supply, media platforms and intellectual property. The story moves from the start of the media and the telecoms industries through the current struggles of the media industry to come to terms with the internet as  a baseline platform of distribution and consumption.

Lessig highlights some of the current challenges in intellectual property laws throughout old and new media in an articulate and highly readable manner. Some of his ideas make uncomfortable reading for established media / software players. His work as a definite agenda that is broadly in line with the libertarian stance taken by many technology and web pioneers, with regulation only considered warranted to keep platforms open.

My main criticism of the book would be that it does not take enough of an international viewpoint, but focuses almost exclusively on America.

Links of the day

Stegen Electronics – Scandinavian hardware hackers are selling the first multi-region Blu-Ray players from Sony and Pioneer.

Delver – Home – Interesting new social search project

Ian Wood’s reports from the Mobile ~World Congress in Barcelona: Digital Evangelist: Ist day at MWC, Digital Evangelist: Day Two @ MWC and Digital Evangelist: Final Thoughts on Barcelona

Tokyo Taxi Drivers get Ranked | Japan: Stippy – not all taxi drivers who pass The Knowledge are equal now Tokyo is recognising their most highly qualified drivers wtih a star system. Cool idea

Oprah Time: Crypto by Steven Levy

I had read Steven Levy’s previous works Hackers, Insanely Great and Artificial Life earlier on in my PR career. Along with Fire In The Valley and Accidental Empires, Levy’s books had provided a great insight into the technology industry and the cultural forces behind it.

Crypto is more of the same as the counter-cultural belief systems that begat the Whole Earth Catalog and the Homebrew Computer Club clashed head on with the security apparatus of the US government. Some of the descriptions around public cryptographic usage like PGP and MailSafe were analogous to what we now call the social graph in terms of issues of personal trust, privacy and differing types of relationships and interactions. The book also makes interesting reading because it takes you back to a time when technology moved forwards in leaps and bounds of public perception.

Its hard now to feel the same excitement about the internet now that we’ve lived with it for the past decade and a half, when I moved into my present house I considered my broadband connection as important as getting the utilities sorted for my move. ADSL was as important as electricity for me. And with that ubiquity had gone the magic.

Levy communicates the principles of modern cryptography well and leads the reader through the myriad events that let to modern cryptography and why it is so important. (Hint: how do you think it is so hard for criminals not to buy things on your credit card once you’ve shopped at Amazon, YesAsia, the iTunes Music Store or Pizza Hut?)

On the sofa: My Blueberry Nights

I managed to see Wong Kar Wai’s My Blueberry Nights at the beginning of the year in Hong Kong. The film is an entertaining non-linear tale of love lost and a journey of self-identity in the US. The film visits familar ground for the director, (all be it in a very different geographic location) and the plot echoes Chungking Express and In The Mood For Love.

Wong Kar Wai manages to get good performances out of Jude Law and Norah Jones.

The photography apes, but does not surpass Christopher Doyle’s earlier work with Wong Kar Wai.  In the end the only real disappointment is the venues themselves, New York and what I think is Memphis come a shoddy second to past locations that Wong Kar Wai has used like the grimey 15-storey fire-trap Chungking Mansions in TST or the Hong Kong Central District post office with is atmospheric rows of lock boxes.Despite its size Hong Kong makes the best of America look flat and uninteresting.

In summary I would recommend giving the film a chance regardless of whether or not you are a Wong Kar Wai fan like me.