Frank Miller Gucci commercial is a nexus of high-fashion and geek culture

Frank Miller of 300 and Sin City fame has produced a commercial for Gucci. This will feature on MTV on September 12.

It is fantastic to watch, but it also a point of convergence between high fashion and geek culture. This has been going on for a while with people like hackette and fashion model Anina who pioneered lifestreaming. Hat-tip to PSFK.

The secret history of Silicon Valley

The story of Silicon Valley, that I have helped to perpetuate in my career as a PR professional is that of the classic plucky young start-up founders going from garage to boardroom. Dare I say it there is even a ‘start-up’ monomyth. Bright young things work really hard developing cool | amazing inventions in a spare room | garage. Their ideas inspire rich people or organisations to fund them and they become financially successful. The world is enriched by their innovation. The truth of course is somewhat postmodern in comparison, but that wouldn’t have paid my bills.

There are a number of histories of Silicon Valley, some include the beat and counterculture generations of the 1960s, others include square-jawed engineers who would look right at home on the set of Mad Men. This video of a talk at Google highlights the role of the military industrial complex in the growth of Silicon Valley.

Links of the day

William Gibson: I’m agnostic about technology. But I want a robotic penguin | The Observer – I love the phrase agnostic in relation to technology, its often how I feel

Do people grow out of Location based services? – broadstuff – another post on check-in fatigue

Turn Your Head & Swipe: Doctors Love the iPad (Infographic)

The PurpleList expert network – reminscent of the first iteration of Google Answers, but with a tighter focus | specialism

Briefs: A Cocoa Touch Framework for Live Wireframes – this looks awesome, I hope that Apple oks it soon

Chicago House FM – Online Radio Station – I can’t believe I hadn’t found this sooner

Parks Associates – Caregivers and their concerns for chronically ill family members drive early market for home health monitoring services – big tech opportunity, particularly with the aging boomer population

Why Intel Is Buying Infineon | Fast Company – all about integration and mobile devices

Welcome NASA to the Commons « Flickr Blog – hell yeah!

More Sophisticated Rigs Drill Deeper Still for Oil – NYTimes.com – but where are the facts?

For Arms Sales Suspect, Secrets Are Bargaining Chips – NYTimes.com – continuing story of Viktor Bout

Hackers blind quantum cryptographers : Nature News – interesting use of lasers to grasp the key with no apparent trace

Japan calls for transparent labor rules in China › Japan Today – interesting dispute between Japan and China

HOW TO: Make Free iPhone Ringtones – right off to sort new ringtones for the phone

Apple App Store: 250,000 and counting – Apple 2.0 – Fortune Tech – but how many of them have most people tried?

Groklaw – A Bird’s Eye View of the HTC/Nokia/Apple Patent Litigations – Nokia spurs patent shitfest. Bottom line its going to take more than lawyers to appropriately reinvent Nokia

New Face of Iceland – Iceland’s social media efforts, look as if they have done it on a budget

Mormons ‘own’ Microsoft’s I’m a PC campaign

The LDS Church has been running some ad spots in trial markets across the US (and has also posted them to Youtube) which owe a creative debt to Microsoft’s I’m a PC campaign. But I have to admit that this video featuring motorcycle fanatic Jeff Decker for the Mormon’s campaign beats any of the I’m a PC spots hands down.

His sculptures and the vintage bikes in the video are underpinned by an awesome rockabilly soundtrack.

Innovation and Paul Allen

Doug Engelbart gave this famous demonstration of technologies in 1968, it still blows my mind watching it, you can see the future of modern computing right here. Contrast, Engelbart with Paul Allen. Allen co-founded Microsoft which went on to make him billions of dolars  from the ideas in this video, (as did Apple, Sun Microsystems, Silicon Graphics and the whole Linux economy).

Which makes Paul Allen’s current law suit against the computer industry seem petty, parasitic and grasping. There is a parallel between the Allen case and BT’s past claims over hyperlinks, at least some of Allen’s patents stand a good chance of being invalidated due to prior art.

Technology perspective: kicking it old school

My trips home tend to be part family catch up, part sociological and anthropological expeditions into the heart of Merseyside. I use this time to watch the way my parents and my friends use technologies.
Mum & Dad
On previous expeditions trips home I found that peer-to-peer networking had proved an unsatisfactory replacement for collecting and that sat nav devices where the second coming of the gadget Christ.

On the way home I saw a baby boomer couple from Runcorn deciphering their son’s Facebook page pictures and messages. This was fascinating as it came so soon after I had read a piece by danah boyd about social stenography. Unfortunately their son’s social code was easily cracked as they poked and prodded their iPhones. A call to the son ensued and the expression ‘busted’ came to mind.

My Dad’s current tech obsessions are digital photography and his home cinema set-up.
Rave Machine RIP
My parents discovered digital photography for themselves by accident when they needed to sell their old caravanette, so they used my cast-off PalmOne Treo 650 to take pictures of the van to help sell it. They also took some more shots of the inside for memories sake. Since then they have been taking pictures on a 1GB SD card I have given them.

The SD card had proved invaluable has my Dad had used it to show his friends images since they could load them on to their computers. But since I was home, they wanted to get prints so we took a trip to ASDA to get some prints made. I cleared off a significant amount of videos that were about 3 seconds in length, my Dad told me that the Treo would sometimes record the video ‘by accident‘ when he was trying to take a picture.

This gave some interesting moments:

  • My Mum asked me if we “could also get negatives because those computer things are always getting wiped all the time
  • When the computer kiosk needed to be rebooted my Dad asked me why didn’t they “make the computer properly” so it didn’t fail
  • “Why did the machine give you the prints from a slot and you only got an envelope for the prints when you paid for them?” – Both my parents viewed this as a customer experience FAIL because the prints didn’t treat digital prints with same respect that film prints got

Digital in their minds was something of impermanence and something that lacked quality that was probably partly due to design and partly due to a job poorly done.

On the way back home, my Mum asked me about my pictures that I put on flickr and why don’t I sell them to someone. I tried to explain the concept of creative commons and that my social media content was my ‘personal brand’, something that helped my career. My Mum didn’t grasp this, but my Dad did, putting it in these terms that ‘I guess if you see the job of a good tradesman, its the kind of person that you want to work for you‘.

I found out that they used the Treo 650 just for pictures. I found this surprising as I had originally thought that they would find the QWERTY keyboard useful for texting, now that their Motorola V.box (V100) had finally given up the ghost after close on a decade of service. I had originally purchased the Motorola for my Mum one Christmas as she had found texting on her Nokia 3310 such a hassle. I managed to pass on an Nokia E61 a bit later on.
My Dad's smartphone collection

My Dad put it like this: “I tried learning the Treo, but it was inconsistent in the way you did things like for instance getting back to the beginning, and it was easier in the end to teach your Mum to use the Nokia (1100) than it was to use it“.
My Dad's smartphone collection

So I pushed him on the Nokia E61 and got: “Sure that thing is even more difficult than the Palm thing. It’s shocking difficult all together“.

Not exactly a Jakob Nielsen level of insight, but still a damning indictment on the state of user experience design. They both use the drug dealers handset of choice the Nokia 1100 as their current handset. This was given a begrudging ‘It’s alright‘. by both my parents.
My Dad's home cinema set upBack at home my Dad was quite happy that he’d managed to get a PlayStation 2 I had given him to play DVDs. He was also delighted with the Tevion Freeview box. He’d worked out that it had a signal strength meter and he had improved the signal and performance of it by tweaking and then replacing the aerial. It was less about whether he was able to get CSI Vegas and more about the joy that comes with tinkering whether it’s an old car on the drive or an invention in the garage.

A couple of younger work colleagues had taught him how to connect the audio channels of the DVD up to his mini system which previously played a collection of Jim Reeves and Chieftains CDs

Take-outs

  • Find ways to reassure consumers about the impermanence of digital
  • Write more stable software
  • Provide consistent user experiences
  • Provide user experiences that aid feature discovery
  • Allow product tinkering in the analogue | real-world realm
  • Is there any way of empowering real-world word-of-mouth customer support rather than just thinking about it in a marketing role
  • ASDA could improve the customer experience of its photo booths by attaching a box of envelopes for prints to the photo dispenser

#HTML5 – the force is with it

Google has thrown its weight behind HTML5, most tellingly with this informational site for developers. Day 1 of Google’s I|O conference in May sheds further light on their standpoint.

This puts JavaFX, Flash and Silverlight in a difficult position, though Flash may be the least adversely affected because of its ubiquity and ability to handle video.

Fred Wilson on disruption

An old but good Google talk by Fred Wilson about disruption and innovation. Fred is a partner in Union Square Ventures and a popular blogger on all things that fit in the nexus between technology, the web and entrepreneurship.

Links of the day

YouTube – Googlebeat’s Channel – Google produced magazine show based on what’s trending in search that week

The Look Ahead: Google Narrows Its Acquisition Focus | paidContent – 2 billion USD per quarter.

Slashdot Linux Story | Native ZFS Is Coming To Linux Next Month – this is an interesting move, hopefully ZFS will go mainstream. ZFS allows efficient usage of storage since existing file systerms were designed for disk sizes orders of magnitude smaller than present sizes. The cloud needs this because at some point the data needs to be addressed at disk-level.

Microsoft Co-Founder Sues Google, AOL, eBay, Facebook, Netflix, Yahoo, Apple, Etc. | WebProNews – Paul Allen patent troll. A bit disappointing

Older Adults Embracing Twitter And Social Media | WebProNews

China’s Godson vector, 28nm – wicked smart Chinese silicon design work

Web users in the United Arab Emirates have more to worry about than having just their BlackBerries cracked. – By Danny O’Brien – Slate Magazine – man-in-the-middle attacks easy due to proliferation of certificate authorities

Graphene fabrication gets a boost – post silicon semiconductor tech

China bar Cisco, Motorola and HP – comparison of Hauwei and US firms given the recent US senators concerns over Hauwei

Microsoft To Spend Oodles On Holiday Push For Win Phone 7 – Barrons.com – 500 million USD. You can’t fool the people however

Character Amnesia: Forgetting Culture In China And Japan – PSFK

Why LG Will Continue to Invest in the E-paper Front | Fast Company

Weakening economy catches up with Intel | VentureBeat – are iPad | iPhones substitute purchases for PCs and what does this mean for Windows 7 sales moving forwards?

Tao Heung serves moon cakes online | Market-interactive.com – online store helps sales for mid-Autumn festival

MediaPost Publications Chartreuse Is The Real Green For Gen Y 08/27/2010 – sentiment often doesn’t turn into action

Hey Facebook, Here Are Some Other Companies You Can Bully Or Sue – yet more proof that Facebook is a corporate sociopath

ReputationOnline » Kaspersky Lab and ‘branded journalism’ – interesting article by Vikki, although it misses out a secondary reason that many of the savvy tech publications may not survive (the sector is already much poorer with the loss of publications like Byte)

WordPress By The Numbers

danah boyd | apophenia » Regulating the Use of Social Media Data – danah boyd adds her tuppence on online privacy

Analyst: Samsung on track to pass Intel as No. 1 IC vendor – kick in the teeth for US knowhow and innovation

What would your persona do? – Blast Radius – development of, and working with personas to improve online marketing

I like: Yoshihito Nakano

Amazing short film about Japanese tattoo artist Yoshihito Nakano aka Horiyoshi III. Nakano is based in the Japanese port city of Yokohama and hopes to pass his business on to his son.

Whilst Nokano uses an electric needle for the design outlines, he uses a traditional bamboo needle for the fills of colour on the tattoos. The film was shot by photographer Johnny Shand Kydd.

Hat tip to Nowness.

Dr Dre’s The Chronic album gets a Glee-style tune-up

Thanks to the folks at BNTL for this bizarre cover version of Bitches ain’t Sh** from Dr Dre’s The Chronic. The group take the track, own it and stamp all over the offensive lyrics. Enjoy:

Lovin’ it like a fat kid loves cake.

The early history of Sun Microsystems by the founders

For those of use working with companies during the first web boom of the late 90s, two companies personified the web itself. One was Cisco and its dark-coloured router faces still dominate internet infrastructure. The other was a computer company recently bought out by database giant Oracle. Sun Microsystems at that time was the archetype hot Silicon Valley company. They made computers which ran on a UNIX operating system called Solaris which still had a lot of power under the hood that other operating systems like Linux, Mac OS X and Windows are still running to catch up with its features.

The purple colour of the boxes were iconic compared to the beige boxes of the competition; even Apple sold beige boxes for professional uses at the time. Sun Microsystems claimed in the advertising that they put the dot in dot.com. That claim was not an immodest one. Their computers also put the decimal point in your mobile phone bill and your bank statement.

This was their second chance, originally they built powerful workstations for engineers and scientific computing. Personal computers got progressively more powerful so Sun moved more towards servers.

Sun had a natural affinity with the web because so much of the web was unix-like anyway. Tim Berners-Lee had developed what we all know as the ‘web on a UNIX-like computer system called the NeXT workstation (funnily enough that is the operating system that has underpinned Macs for the past decade, the iPhone and the iPad).

Thankfully the Computer History Museum captured the early days of Sun in the early 80s, before it becomes a footnote in geek history.

Links of the day

A Chronology of Brands that Got Punk’d by Social Media « Web Strategy by Jeremiah Owyang | Social Media, Web Marketing – some classics in here

A Botched Hostage Rescue in the Philippines | STRATFOR – a really smart thoughtful analysis of the Manila bus hijacking

The Freshest Kids in China | China Youthology 青年志

demographics are the real problem :: Influxinsights – aging population affecting economic growth

Text Message Reminders Don’t Help Women Remember the Pill, Study Finds – sometimes technology just doesn’t work

Top 10 YouTube Videos About Internet of Things

Technology Review: Blogs: Jason Pontin’s blog: The Japanese Model – SixApart is big in Japan apparently

Many Chinese consumers unwilling to spend – Warc

Apple To Dominate Tablet Market Through 2012, iSuppli Says – Barrons.com

Alibaba.com Buys Auctiva – Barrons.com – interesting move, gives Alibaba relationship with eBay’s top sellers

How to Tell When Your Boss Is Lying – corporate executives that is

The BBC Is Going To Wait This 3D TV Thing Out For Just A Little Bit Longer – standards not clear yet

‘Injurious, Defamatory and Polemical’: New Book Plunges Germany into Immigration Debate – SPIEGEL ONLINE

Chungking Mansions phone hub links world | SCMP.com – cheap Chinese brands and refurbed new European mobile phones from Hong Kong doing good business in Africa. Interesting that HK contract law and trade routes are keeping the business going despite razor thin margins (registration required)

Convergence strategies and the risk to Japanese consumer electronics brands

Japanese consumer electronics companies like Panasonic, Hitachi, Toshiba, Pioneer, Denon and Sony have traditionally relied on providing great value and great engineering. A great example of this is to look at the amount of ‘Made in Japan’ products that feature in hi-fi collectors stores like Audioscope.

However Japan can no longer compete on great prices because products can be made cheaper abroad in places like Vietnam, the Philippines and China. Many consumers are hip to the fact that most of the products that they buy come off the same production lines with largely the same components due to the Japanese brands rebadging reference designs by Chinese companies.

This practice was fine 30 years ago when it was Ferguson video recorders coming off JVC production lines, but when your brand is already on top following this model will only bring you down over time. I can’t imagine the damage being done to the German premium optical brand Leica with its low end compact cameras being rebadged Panasonic models.

Part of the problem is that there is now a mindset that since everything has gone digital there is no differentiation any more in the products so why not just differentiate on marketing. This has meant that the likes of Panasonic and Sony are now pursuing media convergence, which they have mistook to mean undifferentiated products and abandoned market sectors. Like the media industry they are looking for blockbuster hits in the world of the long tail.

Lets break this down:

  • Everything hasn’t gone digital: vinyl sales have started to climb from 2007 according to the RIAA and Amazon and have kept on climbing. This is the example of a small market, but one which a growing global niche – a nice long tail market. Ironically the internet has made it much easier for record purchasers to buy vinyl, record labels are waking up to the fact that they can sell a reasonably priced premium analogue product and its cool to collect. Generally if you have money to spend on vinyl, you are dedicated and you are likely to want a good quality turntable to play it on – like the Technics SL-1200 series. Yet Panasonic is supposed to be looking at shuttering the brand and the product line?
  • 1s and 0s need good engineering too. Not all equipment is created equal, there is something comforting knowing that an optical drive will work well no matter what. ALPS Electric Co. capacitors and switches still sell well because they are so much better than other manufacturers components for certain jobs, as do DAC chip sets like Burr-Brown (now TI’s high performance analog semiconductor business). Components still need shielding from interference, displays still need to be legible and easy to understand. Having control flaps that don’t fall off and a pleasant tactile experience is still just as important in selling a product
  • There is no product differentiation on products any more? Ironically, Apple; the company that has given the Japanese consumer electronics industry the most pain in its disruption of the portable audio player market is proof that there is a differentiated opportunity. Mac sales are healthier than they have ever been and the iPhone has disrupted the phone market by re-inventing the smartphone concept
  • Choose and focus: US analysts have often criticised Japanese businesses of having ‘attention deficit’ disorders. To a certain extent that is valid when you look at the breadth of products that they have such as credit cards, medical devices, microwave ovens and AV consumer electronics. I would argue that these businesses don’t have enough depth in their product ranges. Just go and have a look at Sony’s video camera range: its unbelievable the amount of SKUs they have for what is essentially the same model camera. Lots of different colour choices and support for one memory standard over another, but a lot less choice in the quality and specification department. This is one of the reasons why Nokia had some many problems in its mobile handsets business

This post isn’t just talking about products at the prestige end of the market either. Whilst brands like McIntosh Labs and LUXMAN will continue to have a demand for their premium products, new start-ups like Schiit are coming in to reinvent the hi-fi market for the new world.

Schiit are interesting because they are focusing on the headphone experience rather than the floor-standing speakers. They realise that people who have listened to music on headphones understand the difference that a bit of money makes. Try binning the white stand issue iPod headphones and beg borrow or steal a set of beyerdynamic DT 150s to hear the difference.

So they have reinvented the headphone amplifier for the 21st century. They have managed to build down to a price point without compromising sound through exceptionally clever design and are bypassing distribution networks by selling directly over the internet.

If you look at the shanzhai electronics businesses in China, they provide consumers with both breadth and depth of choice, through utilising small batch production runs. There is no reason why a Japanese consumer electronics company couldn’t take a similar approach.

Consumer behaviour is changing away from products that are so badly engineered that they fall apart soon after the warranty expires to audiences who are genuinely interested, and willing to pay for a product that lasts longer. Environmentalism through careful consumption. This means that playing to the traditional strengths of Japanese engineering and leveraging marketing smarts will deliver long term business benefits. In markets like China ‘Made in Japan’ means quality, Chinese consumers will often reject Japanese brand products that have been made outside Japan.

It’s pretty damning and indicative of the state of Japanese electronics companies, that when people think of Japanese innovation and enterprise now they are more likely to think of the likes of FAST Retail (Uniqlo), Muji or Nowhere Limited (A Bathing Ape).