Reebok in crap-looking sneakers scandal

I love it when shoe companies experiment with edgy designs and new materials like New Balance’s past Super Team 33 efforts, but someone needs to give Reebok a slap over these efforts I saw in their Neal Street, Covent Garden shop based on the vintage Reebok Pump basketball design.

Reebok Pump boots

I know that this is supposed to be a take on Nike’s past designs with pony hair, but it looks more like Reebok have been kidnapping well loved soft toys from cribs across the world and recycling them into sneakers: a kind of 21st century Cruella De Vil.
Reebok Pump boots
No part of the soft toys were wasted as they were obviously used to line these revolting green models. The adults really need to get back in charge over there.

Things I learned on the Christmas break

I met with a number of people and observed a number of things during the Christmas break. On their own not enough for a blog post about them, but I thought there maybe something in putting them all together.

  • According to an entrepreneur I met even targeted high circulation print coverage delivered little traffic to a site. The only one that worked at all was a Sunday supplement squarely in their area which provided 200 or so unique users. Blogs and online coverage was more valuable from a business point-of-view. Consumers aren’t sufficiently engaged with analogue media to answer a call-to-action in a different media, you would need to provide analogue calls-to-action for analogue media
  • Messaging and SEO: the entrepreneur measured their messaging purely in terms of key word terms. By implication, PR was a tactical, rather than strategic discipline

The biggest technology users I came across was late gen-X and boomers:

  • Example 1: I came across was a passionate record collector, they used eMule all the time to pull down rare recordings. They had a stack of Western Digital drives full of recorded media which didn’t get listened to, yet was pulling down more. Digital services were an easier, but less satisifying way of collecting music. When I was with them, all the music they played was on vinyl. Analogue media is more social and more satisfying
  • Example 2: an older divorcee close to retirement age. Going out was too expensive so the PC was seen as an investment. They then appreciated the ‘tinker factor’ that it allowed. They spend four-to-six hours leisure time per day interacting with media online and hasn’t used his television in six years. They share films and and TV shows (not yet screened in the UK) with colleagues, encouraging them to watch The Wire and FlashForward when it was finally screened

Generation X are a lucrative entertainment market:

  • Retro Trax is a shop in New Brighton which sells nothing but older recordings. They have expanded their franchise to include compilation CDs and running regular club nights aimed squarely at the gen-X marketplace
  • Their offering is a sub-culture that is very specific to the north of England, making it hard for major brands like Ministry of Sound or HTFR to invade their niche. But there is no reason why localised offerings of a similar nature couldn’t be done in other areas like London. It is essentially analogue micro-media

Mobile broadband

  • I spent much of the time at home trying to get connectivity. My folks don’t have broadband and I was getting a download speed of bits-per-second across a number of mobile carriers. The promise that we talk about as technologists of ubiquitous pervasive broadband is still science fiction in many urban and suburban areas

Sat nav – disruptive technology

  • Not driving a car in the UK, it is easy to get into my own pedestrian bubble. Going home to Liverpool reminded me how ubiquitous satnav devices where. TomTom have had their crown dented a bit as police cars and ambulances use Garmin devices. The thing I found most interesting was the personal relationship between owner and sat nav device was as important as that between an owner and their mobile phone
  • Interestingly Google mobile mapping applications and phone-based mapping software was frowned upon as not being ‘professional enough’. The data was perceived as not being good enough and you wouldn’t be taken seriously by your peers as a fellow sat nav user

Jargon Watch: Curb mining

Marketing agency Blu Dot teamed up with furniture designer Mono to start a word-of-mouth campaign through a ‘Real Good‘ experiment. They placed chairs around New York city, tracked them to their new homes when they were picked up and interviewed the new owners. This was to investigate the concept of curb mining (kerb mining in UK English) – where people salvage other people’s stuff that has been left on the street.

Blu Dot real good experiment

Andy Jordan in his Tech Diary podcast for The Wall Street Journal interviewed one of the curb miners featured in the experiment who pointed out that the bulk of curb mining paydirt was from past-over technology like fully functional printers.

Links of the day

Household PC use swells to 76% – Hong Kong has a home internet penetration of 73.3 per cent

Whole Foods Launches Resolution Facebook Application – smart thinking which fits in with Whole Foods brand proposition really well.

Video: SMCKL#2 Steve Rubel – Social Media Club * Kuala LumpurRachel flagged up this video of Steve Rubel presenting by teleconference his age of streams hypothesis

Otamatone demo video~明和電機 社長ブログ~: これが オタマトーンの 演奏方法だ! – this is just the best I love the Star-Spangled banner rendition at the end.

New Adidas Line Brings ‘Augmented Reality’ to Your Kicks – interesting angle here

Demi Moore’s lawyers threaten Boing Boing over photo analysis blog post Boing Boing – given that Ashton Kutcher is so switched on regarding social media, I am really surprised he would let Demi Moore make this big a mistake.

Sprixi – handy creative commons image search engine

How Tiger Woods Destroyed $12 Billion of Stock-Market Value – WSJ – bit of a tenuous link here, but what a great story

Forbes: A Year In Review: 2009 Social Marketing Trends « Web Strategy by Jeremiah Owyang | Social Media, Web Marketing

MediaPost Publications This Generation’s Got Radio 12/24/2009 – iPod less popular than thought, probably due to commuting by car and that iPods aren’t allowed in many place of work

The decade when we became too connected – I remember then 3Com CEO Eric Benhamou talking about the problem of consumers being overconnected back in 1999 at Network+InterOp. Each time we find away around it, the history of information overload goes back at least four decades

Retail outlook: Discounters best poised to thrive – – US is seeing discounters thrive as well

MediaPost Publications Urban Youth Are Unhooking Brand Tether 12/24/2009 – interesting article on how the recession has changed the way young people ‘use’ brands and have become more value-orientated

Google Seeks to Help Children Search Better –

Amazon: Christmas, Kindle and hype

The tech headlines were dominated after Christmas day with tales of Amazon’s spectacular e-book success. The fact that Kindle e-books outsold paper ones during Christmas day was hailed as a landmark.

You can find the press release here. However it doesn’t tell you how many books were actually sold on Christmas day. It maybe three for all I know, and we don’t know how much the average price paid for those books by the customers. I can understand why Amazon can’t disclose these numbers as it may be affect by SEC regulations.

The second aspect of this is that Amazon would be in a lot of trouble if people who received Kindle devices didn’t turn them on and give them a test drive including downloading a book or two. Working on BT Genie back in the day I can remember the amount of work that we put in to crisis planning when the inevitable server | network overload hit the WAP portal as 100,000s of ‘internet capable’ mobile phones were given over the Christmas period.

Sure enough, on Christmas day the outage happened as Logica franticly kept putting in new Sun servers and rolling back the database to start everything up again.

At the time, you had the Halifax giving out Nokia phones so that customers could check their balance on the go, and Dominos even facilitated ordering pizzas through it.

Eventually people realised that pizza was easier to order from the web or over the phone rather than through the WAP portal, and WAP was an over-hyped, poorly implemented version of the web and best forgotten now. Indeed ‘WAP is crap‘ was an industry mantra for a while after – but the point is: demand should be high. If it wasn’t the Kindle has serious issues.

The true test of the Kindle’s staying power will be sales six-or-nine months down the road for e-books.

(Image courtesy of Amazon).

Oprah Time: Bomb, Book and Compass: Joseph Needham and The Great Secret of China by Simon Winchester

The old adage of the victor writing history applies not only to wars but also the history of innovation and science. Everything you were taught in school about the history of science is likely to be wrong, usually having a European focus; from the Greeks and Romans to the Italian-based renaissance via the wisdom preserved within the monasteries of Europe during the dark and early medieval ages.

Book, the book and the compass

The Chinese, in comparison, were seen as inscrutable and cunning rather like the Fu Manchu character of Sax Rohmer’s novels but less sophisticated than their European counterparts. This diacotomy helped assuage the consciences of empire-builders who had designs on the riches of the Chinese market, from bringing away silk and porcelain to finding a ready market for Indian-grown opium and laying the foundations for the modern-day heroin trade.

Up until the European’s arrived China was the world’s largest manufacturer, counting for about 30 per cent of the economic activity by value in the world. This time of weakness is what the Chinese refer to as the century of shame, which was finally laid to rest when they claimed back Macau in 1999.

Bomb, Book & Compass is the story of Cambridge biochemistry professor Joseph Needham and his quest to find the real truth behind the history of science and China’s role within it, he did this during the chaos of the second world war, when he had the chance to get at the documentary evidence.

He then spent the rest of his life curating and writing material for a vast series of books Science and Civilisation in China in China. These books were not only a historical record that put China closer to the centre stage position that they deserved in science, but also put the country on a more even standing with the ‘civilised world’ restoring or enhancing its reputation. In some respects Needham’s work could be considered to be the largest unpaid (in that China didn’t pay for it) corporate reputation campaign in the annals of public relations.

Bomb, Book & Compass is a compelling read, by turns adventure, travelogue and political intrigue. I would recommend it, if nothing else for the very human portrait it paints of Joseph Needham as a man of great intellect and passion, but also a man with some very human failings.

Links of the day

Spotlight: Art Adds Project To Turn NYC Cabs Into Fine Art Billboards – interesting use of ‘clear’ inventory. The commercial patronage of artwork is like a little bit of the Medici legacy on a yellow cab

The Best iPhone Apps Of 2009 (Appvee Edition)

10 Awesome Uses of Augmented Reality Marketing – more web-of-no-web examples

Monthly archives for interesting-people – great permanent record of content from David Farber’s email discussion list

Social Media Today | Drilling Down on the US Army’s Social Media Matrix– Is Too Much Not Enough? – interesting analysis of the US Army’s efforts to utilise social media internally to become a more efficent and effective fighting force

50 things that changed our lives in the aughts by AP: Yahoo! Tech

Who opened the door to nowhere? Nokia and its Ovi services

The Finnish for door is Ovi. I recently received a research request from Nokia’s Ovi services so that they can find out why I wasn’t using their services since I had registered and tried them out. The fact that Nokia is so on top to do research is a good thing and something that other service providers would do good to learn from.

ovi survey

Many of the questions focused on what other services I used and one of them asked about what they could do differently. As I was completing the survey I was reminded of the title to an old Jam & Spoon track ‘Who opened the door to nowhere?‘ as it seemed to outline the problem Nokia faces.

Ewan put it bluntly in his Mobile Industry Review newsletter when he talked about writing a report for an investment bank with a working title of ‘The Nokia Ovi Store: Systemic Industry Failure And Why The Market Says No-Thank-You ‘.

Why Nokia reminds me of Yahoo!?

Nokia reminds me of two distinct points in the history of Yahoo!. Firstly in the handsets business, the company has admitted that it has been left behind by competitors including RIM and Apple. This is rather similar to the situation that Yahoo! under Terry Semel, Jerry Yang and Carol Bartz have found themselves when we entered the Google age.

Let us not forget that even Amazon’s A9 service couldn’t compete against Google, so there is no shame in it. It will be interesting to see just how expensive a car crash Bing will end up being.

Sometimes disruption happens. Disruptions are difficult because changing behaviours is hard.

Disruption is a difficult thing to deal with, even when Yahoo! got back to having a broadly comparable product to Google in the search space, it still couldn’t stop the drift of users to Google. This is because we are stuck in our ways, once you get us to form a habit its very hard to get the average person out of it again.

View Larger Map
Every time I drive up the M6 motorway I always miss the junction 20 turn-off for the M56 to go home. I know the junction is coming up as I have driven that road time and time before, yet I can’t get out of the cycle. Now imagine the challenge that rivals to Google faced. Robert X. Cringely used to talk about the 10-times rule, that is in order for a product to demolish an established market leader it has to be 10 times better in some way that is meaningful to the customer.

So even if Nokia provides a web email that is good as Gmail, a phone that is good as the iPhone, an application store that is as good as iTunes or a mapping product that is as good as TomTom or Google they won’t necessarily see a discernable reason to go Nokia. At the moment getting to be of an equal quality to rival products is something that Nokia aspires to do in its 2010 business plan outlined to investors.

In order to win, you have to make decisive, non-linear changes. So when Apple got its mojo back, it positioned itself has a product that just worked (and there was a modest premium to pay for that), Yahoo! Mail defended itself against the onslaught of Google’s GMail by offering an unlimited capacity email account, though they carefully gamed how much capacity you could use over time.

The second point in Yahoo!’s history that reminds me of Nokia is the end of Tim Koogle’s period as CEO. Yahoo! had grown from being a web directory to acquire Four11 for its webmail service, ZDNet’s Yahoo! Internet Life magazine and a plethora of brand licencing deals; overpaying for Mark Cuban’s along the way. The company was stretched six ways from Sunday with several non-core interests and declining revenue from advertising as the economy went into a downturn.

Nokia is a similar situation with feature phones, a large smartphone range that struggle to differentiate between each other, wireless broadband hardware, web services, telecoms equipment and an interest in expanding into emerging markets like smart grids. Nokia has announced that it will rationalise its smartphone range, halving the number of phones on offer.

The key question that this hinges on is what does Nokia really mean? Because that is the key to having a slimmed down, agile, successful company in the future.

Digital Britain: it’s slow up north

Digital Britain: it’s slow up north, originally uploaded by renaissancechambara.

Searingly fast mobile broadband, at home in the north. The pathetic speed of my mobile broadband connection at my parents home in the middle of a large town in the North of England. Have to love Digital Britain.

Links of the day

Swatch group to stop third-party sales | James Spotting – Nivarox-FAR is one of Swatch Group component companies is that holds a Microsoft-like grip on watch springs. Springs are the fuel tank of a mechanical watch. This could be devastating for the watch industry.

Operator :: Add-ons for Firefox – great browser plug-in for taking advantage of microformat files on pages (hCards, hCal etc)

How Online Retailers Read Your Mind – Gadgetwise Blog – – A Global Investing Perspective: Where the World Is Going – good economic overview

5 Years Later: IWOM in China-Where have we been? Where are we going? | China IWOM Blog – word-of-mouth-marketing in China.

Christmas greetings

In the unlikely event that you are reading this post, rather than sleeping off over indulgence; Merry Christmas.

Christmas decorations - Southbank

Service is likely to be slow for a few days as I will be in the broadband-deprived North where there aren’t coffee shops with free wi-fi on every corner like London.  Things should be back to normal on December 29th.

Britain’s largest Christmas tree at Cheshire Oaks Designer Outlet, Junction 10 (M53 motorway) Ellesmere Port, Cheshire.

Britain’s largest Christmas tree at Cheshire Oaks, originally uploaded by renaissancechambara.

In the dull sky of winter this looks more like a monument to fallen cosmonauts than a Christmas tree. Its scale and and perfect symmetry made it feel unfestive and a bit intimidating.

Links of the day

China Unicom Launches Nationwide iPhone Roadshow – – its hard to explain how much events play in Asian marketing efforts

The year it exploded: 10 hottest Chinese social games of 2009 | VentureBeat – gaming is a much bigger part of online activity in China than that west

The Tyranny of Twitter

I am not claiming that the leadership of Twitter are tyrants, quite the opposite.


Tyranny of Twitter

Instead I got the idea for the title of the post, reflecting on an old concept that Eckhart Walther told me about when I was at Yahoo!. Walther used to talk about the tyranny of the majority in reference to web search. With search the relevance or order of a search engine results page is dependent on the the back-links and content provided on other people’s web sites.

This means that whatever is considered most relevant on the web is decided by the small proportion of the population who own a website of some sort, these people have more control over search in many respect than the search engine does. Think of these website owners as a jury and the search engine results page as a clerk of the court who reads out the verdict handed to them by the chairman of the jury. The social search projects that I worked on at the time looked to democratise web search and help counter the inherent tyranny in algorithmic search.

I was thinking about the way some people in the industry have lionised and developed a deep focus on Twitter, when I remembered Eckhart pacing a conference room in building B of the Yahoo! campus in Sunnyvale, California getting the concept of tyranny of the minority out of him in an ‘almost’ stream of consciousness.

I am increasingly seeing in social media a ‘tyranny of twitter’ in the way that agencies and experts think about the online world. Twitter is very easy to get started, its limitation of 140 characters is an advantage when a blog seems too long. Add to that the range of tools available in the eco-system from free to paid tools to monitor, measure and syndicate content.

It is no accident that Econsultancy and bigmouthmedia recently announced in their Social media and online PR report that 78 per cent of company respondents and 74 per cent of agency clients had adopted Twitter as a social media tactic. This compares to 60 per cent having an online press room, and 65 per cent creating and managing a social network profile.

Twitter is being focused on at the expense of taking a more holistic approach. If you take a holistic approach you can see conversations unfurling across media. For instance, I posted on the PR Week blog that I write and Neil Major responded on Twitter to the syndicated RSS feed postings on my Twitter account. On the other hand that response also goes the other way: my Twitter feed is syndicated on Facebook is where David Pincott typically responds to my tweets.

There is something at the core of my beliefs that goes against the deep focus that many companies are giving to Twitter. Some two and a half millenia ago, Sun Tzu looked at a plethora of elements regarding the environment on which a battle would be fought including weather, the nature of the ground and topology. Secondly, I don’t buy the ‘everything changes’ routine. I had heard it during the first dot com boom and didn’t believe it then I certainly don’t believe it now. It makes even less sense when you realise that social media requires human interaction, everything else is just wrapping.

Or as Hugh MacLeod tweeted at the beginning of this year: “People matter, Objects don’t”. That’s all you need to know about social media.

The smartest companies take a wider pragmatic approach; Radian6 has Twitter support and displays it as part of a wider viewpoint across social media services. is made up of a series of input modules including Facebook, Twitter and more traditional data gathering for CRM (customer relationship management) systems. On the free tools point-of-view Socialmention is a great example of a more holistic dashboard.

Finally the content on Twitter just may not be as valuable. Russell Davies developed Tom Coates thoughts on this:

But we were seduced by the speed and reach of twitter and started putting our fragments there instead. But bits of thought on twitter are ephemeral, they slip away from us. Whereas on a blog a fragment of thought is pinned down, tagged, permanent and can become part of a larger body of accreted thinking. On a blog the fragments can become part of something larger and slower, on twitter they get swallowed up by something bigger and faster.

Ultimately, the tyranny of Twitter is a tyranny of our own desires. Our desire for simplicity, for easy concise answers and for understanding. But life isn’t like that, its messy and complicated just like our interactions with each other.