Fat Boy Slim’s new year’s mix

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I like Rachel Botman on collaborative consumption | 想法

Interesting presentation on our willingness to share and the concept of collaborative consumption.

Kevin Kelly on the progression of technology | 笔者交谈

Wired founder Kevin Kelly has written a new book What Technology Wants, which funnily enough on my reading list. I am still in two minds whether Kelly sounds like a burnt out hippy with neurons fried by too many psychotropic substances, or an academic trying to make sense of technological development.

I like: Nokia 5110 | 产品设计

Sometimes you come across a design touch that gives a real idea of the people who made the product and makes the product even more valuable in your estimation. I never owned a Nokia 5110 because at the time I rocked Ericsson in the late 1990s; but occasionally I used one of the office pool mobiles .

This was one of the handsets alongside the 6110 which brought Nokia to dominance with the ‘candy bar’ format. The old Sony CM-H333 used to be nicknamed the ‘Mars bar’ phone because of its similarity in dimensions to the bar at the time (the bar has got a bit smaller since).

It was one of the first phones to have snake on board which was the first taste of mobile gaming for many people and a menu-based user experience that put Nokia head and shoulders above the competition in terms of usability.

If you were technically savvy enough to use data transfer there was an infra-red port that shuffled along faster than the mobile network could have delivered anyway, but most of the people I knew who used mobile networks for data at the time went with the Ericsson SH888.

Ericsson had a badge-engineered version of the Psion 5 PDA catchily called the MC218 (if only other Communicators – N900, E7 etc had keyboards that were that good – see the below video) and all their phones had a robust build quality unmatched by any mainstream mobile phone maker since.

One of the most interesting aspects of the phones product design was its fascia which was designed to detach. This of course opened up all kinds of hideous tack that graced mobile phone shops and market stalls up and down the country. It also meant that when you dropped the phone a lot of the kinetic energy was dissipated as the fascia popped off and it reduced the amount of damage incurred.
Nokia 5110 once you pop the facia off
A secondary feature of this was that it revealed some of Nokia’s internal product design to a wider audience. The speaker enclosure revealed an attention to detail and a Finnish sense of humour, a kind of hardware Easter egg with the folk art wood-cut inspired face as a speaker cover.

Nokia 5110 once you pop the facia off
Here’s what it looks like in more detail (apologies for my poor image editing skills). When I first saw it put a smile on my face and to be honest with you, most of the products that have done that since then were designed by Apple. The point of this trip down memory lane is that Nokia can do amazing user experiences; they just need to find their way back.

Sean Combs on social skills

Nice humourous video for Cîroc vodka by Sean Combs. He is smart enough to use his own persona as a foil.

Kudos to Lulu Chang posting at WWYMD

By the time is published I should be landing in Hong Kong and will then cross the border to Shenzhen. Looking to catch up with interesting people in Shenzhen & Hong Kong for a coffee to find out more about what’s happening there. Contact me here.

Cultural confusion

Back in 80s and the early 90s there was a time when logos were transformed and parodied. Desktop publishing tools and Photoshop opened up whole new areas of creativity and empowered satirists everywhere.

Stüssy did the linked back-to-back double-S logo as a riff on the iconic Chanel logo, market stalls had ‘adinuff’ t-shirts, Coca-Cola was subverted to promote Cocaine in clubbing circles and no self-respecting vegan was complete without a McMurder t-shirt.

I can’t help but wonder if the creators of this sign got hold of a humourous riff on the Starbucks logo, didn’t understand the full significance but did realise that it was close but not too close to Starbucks and went into business.
I wish I'd paid more attention on reading & 'riting at school
It’s funny but I am sure that there is a lesson in there for us all. Kudos to Shanghaist.

Random but interesting video

I think that this was shot at an art exhibition on Shenzhen, it also explains where the Silver Surfer came from ^_^

I like: Garr Reynolds | 表达技巧

Great video on doing great presentations from Garr Reynolds aka Presentation Zen. Although this comes across less as Zen and more like a stream of consciousness to make try and make it conversational. But it seems like a bit of a struggle.

Links of the day | 在网上找到

Beluga: Free, Private Group Mobile Messaging – could be handy for PRs working on conferences | press events etc

Senseihaus – hacks for the SL DZ1200 turntables and DJ tools CDs

MixesDB – The Database for Mixes – a Wikipedia for dance music

Kapok Online Store – Hong Kong shop similar to BEAMS in Japan

B3TA : REVIEW OF THE YEAR 2010 A TO Z (NSFW) – because its too good not to miss and its interesting to see how they get their work into the media – something some PR people could learn from. (NSFW – means not suitable for work; in case any of you lead sheltered lives).

Chinese Microblogs and Government Spin | STRATFOR (pay wall) – interesting analysis of the Chinese government’s strategy of setting up it’s own micro-blogging service. This will put it up against the likes of Sina.com’s Weibo

Chrome Web Store – Apps, Extensions and Themes – I was looking through this and there seems to be a different approach from Mozilla which augments the browser to using the browser as a kind of proto-OS. From the user PoV a good analogy to Chrome would be X11 windowing on UNIX systems due to the level of abstraction involved

FT.com / China – China’s growth model ‘unsustainable’ (pay wall) – rising social tensions, choking pollution, a lack of public services and an over-reliance on exports and investment, particularly in real estate cited as challenges to the country’s economic future in China Daily op-ed

Lessons in toymakers’ rise and fall | SCMP.com (pay wall) – hyper-competition is persuading manufacturers to re-examine how they do business and think about where they want to go

What’s on your mind? – Facebook finds that people’s days tend to be best in the morning and then go downhill

OpenBSD code audit uncovers bugs, but no evidence of backdoor

Don Passman’s Website – his book on music industry operates including adaption to new business realities is really interesting

How Wikileaks killed Spain’s anti-P2P law – interesting that it shows the level of power that the entertainment industry has in dictating policy to the US government

Come On, Demand Media, Just Drop The Bogus Accounting – quite a forthright post from Business Insider on Demand Media

Understanding Today’s Skype Outage: Explaining Supernodes – Disruptive Telephony – basic outline of Skype’s technology

Post-80s angst same as in the ’70s, study finds | SCMP.com

Monocolumn – Forecast 2011: The digital backlash begins [Monocle] – interesting article. This is about a cultural backlash rather than governments trying to put the genie back in the bottle

The Blast Shack – Bruce Sterling on Wikileaks. Humanity got in the way of the cyberpunk story playing out before us

A quick primer re @blakei @yahoo #delicious

I have had a number of people ask me questions about Delicious and what the hell has been going on at Yahoo! following my post Why I am sunsetting Yahoo! which was linked to by The Guardian website on their Technology Blog.  I could spend forever doing this over coffee with people so here is my reading of things.

The players

Blake Irving – the head of product for Yahoo!, you can read about him here. He spent some time out of the tech sector after having spent a decade and a half at Microsoft. For a large chunk of that time from 1992 – he held a number of roles in different divisions and areas of responsibility. Having been used to reading a Microsoft resumé; this is a good thing; it means that he survived the frequent reorganisations and was able to build a network of allies within the business.

He then spent the next eight years in the Windows Live Platform group (or prior incarnations of it). Irving got experience of a number of areas that would be directly applicable to Yahoo! including online identity, VoIP and messaging, advertising platforms and building an international connected infrastructure. All interesting stuff, some if it very controversial, for instance Microsoft launched Passport as a single sign-on for all web commerce, raised a number of concerns (technical, likely abuse of market power and privacy concerns); so many other key players in the industry banded together to form the Liberty Alliance. Continued developer concerns about ownership of ones online ID led to more recent projects like OpenID.

In term of the financial impact of the parts of the business that Irving ran, this report from Business Insider seems to indicate that they were modestly positive in the latter half of 2005 and then hemorrhaged with continuous quarterly losses through the remaining time of his tenure. Make of it what you will. As an aside, he also has an annoying propensity to call people dude, like some stoner who thinks its still the 1980s or is it just me being a Euro-snob?

Carol Bartz – is the CEO of Yahoo!. Bartz is a technology industry veteran having turned AutoDesk around through cost-cutting, getting rid of non-core parts of the business and providing it with a renewed focus. Prior the role she hadn’t had any experience with a consumer-facing business, a media business or an internet business. Since joining Yahoo!, Bartz has managed to improve margins by cutting costs and personnel, sold, spun-off or outsourced aspects of the business such as the US dating service and search. The business has also expanded further into Europe beyond the main EU countries opening up a portal in Russia and acquiring one in the middle east.

However the internet industry moves on and Yahoo! has struggled to articulate a clear company vision and direction to markets, so there is a considerable pressure on Bartz to deliver. Added to this pressure has been a stream of employees leaving, layoffs and news in October that she topped a list of overpaid executives managing under-performing companies. Even the novelty of an old woman swearing is starting to wear-off.

The Yahoo! audience – according to Google Adplanner Yahoo! has an older low-income audience predominantly based in the US, though it enjoys a more aspirational audience in places like Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong. In Canada and the UK, the company has customers from Rogers and BT broadband services. However for many major markets the audience does not include younger and more affluent audience segments.

The creative classes – as manufacturing has declined in the west we’ve seen the rise of new artisans and creatives as the drivers of innovation from product designers, computer programmers, web designers, advertising creatives and strategists. It is why Apple has ‘Designed in California’ on the back of every product rather than ‘Made in China’. These people run agencies and help clients make online advertising decision and act as advocates of new services. They helped grow Twitter, Tumblr and Flickr through their adoption of these services. They are also astonishingly visible and vocal in their opinions. Getting on the wrong side of them is like being spurned by the chattering classes in the pre-internet age.

Microsoft – a decade ago was the world’s most powerful company having built itself up by taking advantage of breaks as they arrived (and let’s be honest about this, that is a real skill in its self), good marketing chops and proven abuse of market power to the detriment of just about everyone else. The company took a knock when the US government successfully prosecuted it for violation of anti-trust laws; whilst the company got off lightly in court it was demolished in the court of public opinion and its no accident that its share price has been stubbornly stagnant since.

Microsoft has continually sort to make itself relevant in the online world with varying degrees of success over the past few years; reinventing MSN as Windows Live, doubling down on search with Bing and expanding services on to new platforms (like the Xbox) and spending large amounts of money on lobbying to try and use legal and regulatory authorities to get a leg up on the online ladder, or at least kick a few steps out from under Google.

Yahoo! Inc – is an American company with a range of wholly-owned and joint-venture businesses across the Americas, Europe, the Middle East and Asia. It provides a range of services in over 20 languages ranging from news to communications and sharing consumer moments. The company has a minority shareholding of the most promising businesses: in China and Japan. The company was the proto-valley start-up success with two co-founders founding the business at Stanford University in 1994. Over the first few years Yahoo! grew at a rate of knots and lent its brand to a number of offshoot products including a magazine called Yahoo! Internet Life.

The company grew by acquisition, notably paying $ 5.7 billion in stock for web radio pioneer Broadcast.com. This was before broadband was commonplace and the deal is now considered an episode of foolishness. It was also notable for being close to the high point of Yahoo! as a company. Moving forward to today, the US is still the country that delivers the vast majority of Yahoo!’s revenue, but Asia is the only region which showed growth in their Q3 2010 numbers. The company has an audience of over 500 million every month according to a recent press release boilerplate.

The plot

When the first dot.com bubble finally burst around about 2001 online advertising spend dropped by about a third.  Yahoo! looked for a seasoned media executive to take over the business and found it in Terry Semel. Semel did well out of the company and return Yahoo! saw its shares grow at 40 per cent per year. However the company performance compared unfavourably with Google whose search business model up-ended online marketing. Yahoo! bolstered its own search offerings and bought some key web 2.0 companies including Flickr and Delicious as part of a plan to take search in a new direction. Under performance relative to Google, a failure on two occasions to purchase Google and what was considered to be an excessively large compensation package where the main sources of continued shareholder pressure that encouraged Semel to resign in 2007.

Co-founder Jerry Yang took over and his efforts were largely focused on efforts by Microsoft to takeover Yahoo!. Criticism of Yang focuses on his rejecting an offer of $33-a-share from Microsoft. I personally think this criticism is largely unfair. Something that is not mentioned but should be would the likely regulatory environment for the combined Microsoft-Yahoo! business.

I think that there are a number of factors which would suggest that Microsoft have had problems making the deal a reality. I am not convinced that they were serious about it.

Microsoft would be eviscerated by the European Union and probably regulatory bodies elsewhere. The reason for this is that Yahoo! relies on and was a main contributor to, a number of important open source projects  that happen to compete with Microsoft’s highly profitable server and tools group, notably Apache, Hadoop, Debian distribution of Linux and PHP.

In addition, the Japanese government would have likely stepped in because Yahoo! Japan is probably the best homegrown internet success, driven largely by Masayoshi Son, one of the richest men in Japan and his company SoftBank. It is likely that the Chinese authorities would have looked at the deal very closely as well due to any likely effects on Jack Ma’s Alibaba group.

Why Yahoo! didn’t drop this regulatory grenade in Microsoft’s lap is something that we’ll likely never know. In my opinion, this was a valuable communications opportunity that Yahoo! failed to capitalise on.

The proposed deal wasn’t exactly popular with many of Microsoft’s shareholders who couldn’t see the logic in blowing lots of money adding more assets to Microsoft’s online services business when it was losing money hand over fist anyway. In addition, you would have the challenge of integrating the two businesses which would only likely benefit competitors. None of these other factors were any of Yang’s problem.

Instead Yahoo!’s board was taken over by a couple of financiers with experience in shareholder activism. Yang went back to his previous co-founder position and Bartz was appointed CEO. During this time there has been a couple of reorganisations and a number of senior management changeovers. For instance Blake Irving was the third person in four years to have the chief product officer role.

Yahoo! is now competing in a much more complex competitive environment and both Irving and Bartz need to plot a path forwards. They will have sat down and asked themselves questions like:

  • What does Yahoo! bring to consumers?
  • How can it attract younger and more affluent consumers to attract an increase in advertising | marketing services spend?
  • Is Yahoo! viable as a public independent company?
  • If not, how do you unravel some of the complex relationships that it has internationally in order to give you freedom of action?
  • Who is likely to buy the business?

From a product point of view the management decided to focus on the company’s portal roots, together with preparation for ‘sunseting’ a number of products outside that area of focus. One of the companies on the list was Delicious. There are some things about Delicious that are notable.

Delicious is a bookmarking service. Instead of you having a set of bookmarks on your work computer and home computer, you can have the one set of bookmarks online that you can use wherever you are. It also searchable, and you can ‘follow’ Delicious accounts of experts. So for instance, my friend Dave Rout is a keen photographer; any articles that he has bookmarked around photographic techniques are likely to be good. The Swedish Tourist board has a Delicious account full of useful websites related to visiting Sweden from education to culture and reference resources.

Once you start using the product, it becomes a habit; if you don’t use Delicious already, think about how often you use Google search or check your Blackberry to get the idea.

So it means that whatever users you have are highly engaged with your product. As a user the service holds a lot of valuable information both in your own links, but also in that of your Delicious network. I use it in my personal life and business life, it has proved invaluable for helping me to write blog posts and presentations. In fact, many of the links in this post have been pulled from my Delicious archive (which I now have at pinboard.in under the user name renaissancechambara). In fact it becomes so much of a habit that bookmarking items becomes almost subliminal and I get feelings of anxiety when I can’t access them. Even now a week or so after moving away from Delicious and adopting Pinboard I keep going to the wrong part of the browser chrome to bookmark a page which is a jarring online experience.

This means that whilst Delicious may not be the most popular service; users have a deep psychological bond with their account. The information embedded in that account is as invaluable as their Facebook friends or their email account – this requires a secure service and a high level of trust placed in the provider. When news of Yahoo!’s plans to sunset Delicious leaked, the creative classes became an insurgent force against Yahoo!.

The creative classes influence what other people think and the kind of services that they buy, so what they felt was a breach of trust by Yahoo! has far reaching consequences. For instance, I wouldn’t recommend that clients look at Flickr as a social media tool as I don’t trust Yahoo! to continue to provide the service. I am not likely to look at PPC or display advertising from either Yahoo! or Bing because I no longer trust Yahoo!. I will be moving the friends and colleagues that I recommended Delicious and Flickr to, on to rival services and will be thinking about how I manage image hosting for my blog in the medium to long term.  My parents need an email account, whilst I dislike some aspects of the GMail service, it is likely to be recommended over Yahoo! because I have more trust in Google keeping their data around rather than it being sunset at some later date.

The bottom line on this is what digital media planners already know: not all unique users are created equal and trust is fragile.

Yahoo! has said that they are not looking to close Delicious, but instead would like to provide a new home for it. This is likely to be a more difficult proposition than IAC’s recent transfer of Bloglines to a new owner. Bloglines sat on infrastructure that wasn’t tied into Ask.com; whereas Yahoo! recoded much of Delicious to sit on the Yahoo! infrastructure. Delicious relies on the Yahoo! federated identity system for authentication of many of its users.  Providing a clean break is going to be difficult. It would be hard to hold a product team around Delicious in this time of uncertainty and there would be a temptation for Yahoo! to strip the winners out of it if they found a willing purchaser for Delicious.

Many of my current circle have looked to move their data elsewhere, it will be hard to bring them back. Any purchaser would have to be trusted by the existing community otherwise they would be paying for a ‘dead’ web service. To give you an idea of the migration problem, prior to the Delicious news breaking it cost just over $4 to set up an account at pinboard.in; that cost goes up by $0.0001 for every new user that joins up. At the time of writing this post is $8.93. That means that well over 400,000 people signed up for an account. Some of these people may have been made aware of the advantages of social bookmarking by the subsequent furore online, but an appreciable number of them are refugees from Delicious. And that’s just one bookmarking service, there are many more out there like Mister Wong, Evernote and Diigo who had serious performance issues due to the influx of new registrations.

In an ironic way Yahoo! may have made a market for social bookmarking services by sunseting Delicious.

The timing is very interesting on this move as curation of social media is starting to gain real interest amongst developers and the media industry. If you think about services like Newser or Flipboard on the iPad you can see how the media industry is thinking about curation. I get a regular audience on this blog for my Links of the Day posts. One of the key questions that businesses looking at curation need to ask is how Delicious didn’t manage to make a sufficient profit that Yahoo! couldn’t fail but to keep it in the fold?

How it ends for Yahoo!?

This is the question that no one knows, but every one of you reading this have the answer to. In order for Yahoo! to thrive it needs audiences; people like you caring enough about it to use Yahoo! as a central part of your online life: to follow your stocks, get the latest sports news, indulge in the schadenfreude of celebrity gossip and sharing moments with friends online.

At the moment there are lots of sites which allow you to do this: Google has been very good at covering a lot of these bases and Facebook tackles sharing moments with friends online. In the western world, these sites have managed to cherry pick the more valuable users resulting in great advertising revenue whilst Yahoo! has stagnated. So what would Yahoo! have to do in order for you to care enough to make it a central part of your online life? What do you want your Yahoo! to be? For former Delicious users, Yahoo! is likely to have its work cut out.

Amazing fractal animation | 神奇的分形动画

Animation created by the distributed computing programme of a digital artist. If you want to be part of it you can download the relevant software here.

Thanks to @bloodybigspider for the heads up.

Merry Christmas | 圣诞快乐

Service is going to be a bit slow for the next few days, I have a tripped out post going up later today and a bumper post dropping tomorrow which should keep you all going for a bit. All the best for Christmas and the new year.
Star - outside view

Christmas greetings Hong Kong style

Donald Tsang is the chief executive and president of the executive council of the Hong Kong government. If Hong Kong were a separate country to the People’s Republic of China he would be a head of state. He has released this Christmas greetings video in association with MC Jin; an American-born Chinese rap artist who used to be on the Ruff Riderz label.

As well as a Christmas message, it is also a political message the ‘Hey Larh’ shout means ‘Act Now’ a political slogan relating to Mr Tsang’s position on electoral reform affecting forthcoming elections in 2012. I’ll hold up my hand at this point and say that I don’t understand the full position as it has been a subject that been up for constant debate and political activity since the early 1980s under British rule. Donald Tsang and his colleagues have adopted social media as a profile-raising political vehicle earlier, and with greater enthusiasm than most of their British counterparts – which is why his Facebook page gets a shout-out.

The ‘bow-tie’ reference is Mr Tsang’s nickname as he is famous for wearing them and being a bit of a dapper don.  There is no way that I could see Mary McAleese getting down with the House of Pain | La Coka Nostra or David Cameron getting down with Blade; but then Hong Kong is a bit unusual that way – you can see a whole issue of style magazine Milk dedicated to 24-hour service at McDonald’s restaurants.

I like: 7Up China advert | 中国广告的 7Up

Awesome spot by 7Up that is currently doing the rounds in China. It was watched online over three million times in just three days.

It’s a very different take on the 12 Monkeys idea of time travel.