Happy Hallowe’en :-)

Hallowe'en windo display at Pauls on Bedford Street

I am looking forward to re-watching my well-worn DVD of The Crow and having toasted slices of Báirín Breac with its mixed spices and hope not to chip my teeth on the toy ring that they put in them.

You can make your own at home if you have access to an oven and enough time. This recipe is from A Little Irish Cookbook by J Murphy.

Barm Brack

Cream the yeast and the sugar and allow to froth up in the milk, which should be at blood heat. Sieve the flour, caster sugar and spice and rub in the butter. Make a well in the centre and add the yeast mixture and Barmbrackthe egg, beaten. Beat with a wooden spoon for about 10 minutes until a good dough forms. The fruit and the salt should be worked in by hand; the gold ring wrapped in greaseproof paper should then be added, and the whole kneaded. Put in a warm bowl, cover and allow to rise in a warm place for about an hour until doubled in size.

1/4 pt/ 125 ml/ 1/2 cup lukewarm milk
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp fresh yeast
8 oz/ 250 g/ 2 cups plain flour
1 tsp mixed spice, pinch salt
1 egg, 3 tbsp butter
6 oz/ 200 g/ 2 cups mixed fruit
(currants, sultanas, raisins, candied peel)
1 gold ring (in greaseproof paper)
2 oz/50 g/2 tbsp caster sugar

Knead lightly and place in a lightly-greased 7 in /15 cm diameter cake tin and allow a further 30 minutes rising time. Bake near the top of a pre-heated oven at gas mark 6, 400°F, 200°C for 45 minutes. On removing from the oven the brack can be glazed with a syrup made from 2 tsp sugar dissolved in 3 tsp boiling water.

Oprah Time: Groundswell by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff

Forrester Research occupy a unique position. They have access to the internet’s great thinkers through briefings that they have with all the leading web service companies: Yahoo!, Google, Facebook and everyone in between. On the other side they act as a marketing consultant to a number of main street brands.

Li and Bernoff have crystalised the lessons that Forrester Research learned walking both sides of the street in the Groundswell. The book does a good job of educating the average consumer on the so called web 2.0 services and how consumers interact with them. They also provide a helicopter view about how to approach incorporating social web techniques into their business.

The most valuable part of the book is the anecdotes and case studies (some of which are from Forrester Research clients) which brings the concepts that they talk about to life. Their Social Technographics model provides a framework for segmenting audiences based on their level of interaction with web properties and communities seems to be built and expanded from the adoption model that Bradley Horowitz developed and circulated back when I was in Yahoo! as a key part of the social search strategy.

There is a blog supporting the book which can be read here.  Li has since left Forrester Research to set up The Altimeter Group, you can read her new professional blog there as well.

Links of the day

Micro Persuasion: Graph Your Tweets with Twitter Charts – really nice Yahoo! Pipes / Google Charts mash-up

Skyrock.com’s Sale Hampered By Crunch, Confident Will Survive ‘Dark Days’ | paidContent:UK

The Survival Matrix – VC analysis during downturn

Intel repudiates executives’ criticism of the iPhone – NYTimes.com – PR Fail

PR 2.0: Twitter Tools for Community and Communications Professionals

FT.com Trims Free Stories Back Again, Launches Chat Community | paidContent:UK

Shenzhen Undercover: Shenzhen’s Greater Plan: No Manufacturing, No Problem.

First China Ripples of Global Financial Crisis Come Ashore – Part 1 – Trade

China Journal : Chinese Consumers Offer More Challenges for Challenging Times – interesting insights, service paramount. Experiential parts of brands most important. This bodes well for Apple’s retail strategy

Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform: A guide for the perplexed | All about Microsoft | ZDNet.com

Social media and brands in 2009 – Shiny Red’s vox pop survey; nicely done. Wouldn’t necessarily agree with some of the trends such as the semantic web, but good material here

Digital Evangelist: Has Symbian not learnt from Psion?

Cultural and Social Media Observations From Japan

BBC user ecosystem – really nice diagram for presentations

Eagle Bar Diner – Rathbone Place – recommended by my colleague Petrina

Twitter for Public Relations – neat slide deck

On the sofa: Ghost In The Shell

I remember seeing Ghost In The Shell at the cinema in the 051 centre in Liverpool. The 051 Centre was more famous for the club nights ran there by Dave Graham at a time when he ran Groove Records in the city centre. Anyway the cinema had a reputation for showing world and art house films (I saw Akira, The Dollars Trilogy and The Seventh Seal there over the years) and was part of a rich audio visual arts community that existed in Liverpool during the early and mid 1990s. Watching it over a decade later on the small screen, didn’t disappoint, it was as rich and wonderful as I remembered it.

Watching it over again, a few things struck me:

  • The Matrix owes it a huge stylistic debt in terms of the real-world style, character motion and even the green character title sequence at the introduction film credits
  • The film was quite prescient is its perception of technology. The idea that our ideas and memories would be super-connected to each other is already happening with social software and services from Facebook to Flickr and Delicious. The three-dimensional visualisation of data isn’t that far from systems being demonstrated at the moment, if you think about Jeff Han’s touchscreen work at New York University’s Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences and Perceptive Pixel, the Apple iPhone and Microsoft’s Surface project
  • The films cultural references see Asia Pacific (lots of visual references to Hong Kong) as being foremost in future technology. This may seem far-fetched at first, given the world’s largest and most successful software companies are American (Apple, Google, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle and Sun Microsystems); but when you look at the level of engagement by Joe Public in Asian markets for social and mobile software services and cultural attitudes to new technology in general the geographic status quo is unlikely to be maintained over the longer term

Twitter killing blogs?

The likes of Paul Boutin and Ian Sample have talked about why micro-media like Twitter and the like are the future and blogs are on the endangered list. The argument goes something like this: blogging is now too big, its hard to find the good content from the bad with all the noise out there and the gifted amateur is now replaced by mainstream media.

They consider Twitter to be the new frontier. Its brevity means that its harder to write truly awful tweets. Whilst some of their points have a certain amount of merit, brevity is a valuable concept, I disagree with Boutin for a number of reasons:

  • Even if blogs as a platform died, the metaphor of blogging is so ingrained in the online text media from the comments sections under each story on the BBC and The Guardian to the personality driven columns of the New York Times Online and The Telegraph Online that their influence would live on
  • Web search allows us to find the compelling content out there, if we can’t find and follow the blog that we want,  a modicum of skill with Google, Yandex or Yahoo! will yield a good number of other options. Indeed, blogging is search’s friend – regularly updated content with high relevance is just what the search index ordered. If you are bothered about your personal online reputation, having a blog is a great way to help assure the quality of the reputation that you will have on Google
  • Blogging has a place because long form written communications has its place.  Not all communications fits into 140 characters: ‘Pass the peas please Norma’, ‘I am running late’ or ‘I am at my desk’ don’t necessarily set the world on fire. The banal nature of the vast majority of SMS sent bares witness to this, exposing them into the public light must be a nightmare of blandness despite the superstar-Tweeters like Robert Scoble whom Boutin so admires. Boutin’s argument isn’t about the platform, but about exclusivity, I saw the same thing 20 years ago when ‘normal’ people started going to the underground house nights that my friends and I were part of
  • From a business point of view BuzzLogic conducted research showed that consumers trusted blogs more than micromedia like the Facebook status messages from their friends or Twitter. That trust has a value when it influences purchasing decisions, which means real money
  • Twitter isn’t a replacement for blogs, but it does lend itself to augmenting blogs in a similar way to RSS, I currently get 10 per cent of my traffic from Twitter, people see the link to my latest blog post and click through. Or where someone has written or done something online which speaks for itself, posting the link on Twitter may be sufficient, Stephen Davies does this a fair amount

In summary think that the views expressed by Boutin are too simplistic as he assumes blogging is just about the cult of the celebrity in a web of noise. Instead, I think that blogging isn’t dead; its context and the way we relate to it is changing. In some ways, augmenting blogging with micro-media provides us with more vibrant content.