Five things that impressed me this week:
JUploadr – an open source alternative to Flickr’s own Uploadr software. Whilst Uploadr is great for pre-filling in all the details of your pictures it can get a bit flaky and I got tired of trying to complete picture uploads several times.
The Greatest Trade Ever – I purchased the book because I had a lot of time whilst traveling to, and around Korea. I finally finished reading this book after coming back from Korea. The book was interesting because it provides a bit of the back story on the US debt crisis that reverberated around the world in 2008/9
It was interesting to catch-up with the team at Hammerkit at The Hospital which is trying to provide a mass-production solution for web services by encouraging template reuse – in a similar way to the way that software development companies use common libraries
Wadds and Earl launched their book Brand Anarchy that distills the wisdom of numerous communications industry experts from journalists to marketers, PROs and spin doctors
The sun on Friday meant that I finally had good enough weather to justify trying Tutti Frutti Frozen Yogurt – which is a kind of automat for a variety of yogurts and toppings
I didn’t have time to try many of the independent coffee shops around Seoul but did try a few in Gyeongju and Ulsan. Here is a little about two of the best that I came across.
Cafe 737 is a family-run coffee in the tourist town of Gyeongju. I loved it because of the vibe; as a third space it has a homely vibe that Starbucks can’t emulate.
The coffee shop greeter is an elderly golden retriever.
The restaurant itself is bright and clean inside with some nice touches including bric-a-brac, both English and Korean books and a selection of pot plants.
They make a mean cup of coffee and had great food to accompany it. I would love this coffee shop as a regular hang-out.
They have their own page on Facebook.
Cafe 57 is in the old town centre of industrial city Ulsan; the city has tried to spur redevelopment of the area by promoting businesses aimed at, and run by young people. This means that the area is full of restaurants, fashion shops and small coffee shops.
Cafe 57 has a clean minimalist interior with a black ash counter area and coffee bean roasting apparatus on the floor. What made Cafe 57 unique for me was the unswerving focus on making a great cup of coffee. It is not about a third space or a lifestyle expression of the consumer – it is just about making the very best cup of coffee available.
Watching the cup of ‘hand drip’ coffee being made by the owner was the experience of watching the craftsman at work. This was the best cup of Ethiopian coffee I have every had.
There was a great article by former Guardian journalist Bobbie Johnson on technology site GigaOM that I read this morning which talks about the inevitable censorship of online social media services like Facebook and Twitter. On the one hand this is potentially good news for law firms like Schillings who do reputational work but it isn’t good for the UK’s world reputation.
Yes the UK already has censorship; such as the D-notice, cinema classification board and the chilling effect of libel laws on old media.
But censorship for the good of (usually well-off) individuals rather than the national good puts the UK in a new category quite separate from more authoritative countries and will have a chilling effect on brand Britain in the eyes of many people abroad.
When one thinks about an aspirational Chinese middle-class or the very different legal structure and culture of American citizen; this will likely affect their view of the UK as a modern progressive state – which will then adversely affect UK economic activity. And if this isn’t important then why on earth do we have the huge carbuncle of the Olympics in the east end and the UK government investment over the years in the British Council or the BBC World Service?
Google and Twitter may struggle to resist UK censors – GigaOM
Archived from my blog for PR Week.
Korea has a lower minimum wage than the UK, like China, when you pull into a filling station your fuel is pumped for you by an attendant. However this doesn’t mean that you get table service in a coffee shop. Instead you buy your drinks and food, find a table and when your order is ready to collect a wi-fi pager usually shaped like a hockey puck starts flashing letting you know that you can collect your order.
This relies on a certain amount of social trust as you will have already put your bag down at your table may not want to take it with you to collect your order. Generally, Korea is much safer in the UK so this isn’t too much of an issue. It an example of how technology has mediated a semi-table service experience.
I noticed this on Dominos Pizza’s UK site and it spells out what we all really think when we hit the the terms and conditions whilst still being helpful.
It was just a small thing that gave the brand some humanity in its personality.
I got this chart from a report into US consumers by Experian. The 2011 Digital Marketer: Benchmark and Trend Report looks at a wide range consumer usage patterns. One chart that really caught my eye was how the internet came to rival television amongst all generations. A second aspect was the way 18-34 year olds relied to a greater reliance on mobile connectivity than television.
It is remarkable to think how much the US has become a mobile country in the space of a decade. It used to be that the US was big in instant messaging and Europe was big in SMS – we are all mobile now.
Disclaimer: Experian is a client, though I only pulled up this data because I found it interesting, not because I was paid to. You’ve been warned.
I had been in Korea less than 24 hours and already the number and diversity of coffee shops had surprised me. Whilst some people may call Seattle the home of the coffee shop, Seoul seems to have far more at least in terms of raw numbers.
The quality of them seems to vary enormously and they seem to be very segmented in terms of their offering. Whilst Starbucks is in the Korean market with a substantial footprint – it hasn’t managed to achieve total market dominance in the way it has in the UK.
From the small mom-and-pop shop feel of Mr Coffee to the mega-chain to Tom Tom Coffee there is something for everyone:
- Coffee Bean – Korea’s oldest successful coffee shop brand isn’t as trendy as Caffé Bene. It has a mix of coffee and tea drink alternatives similar to Starbucks. It uses wi-fi enabled buzzer to let you know when your order is ready. Coffee Bean is much better quality coffee than many of its competitors including Caffé Bene
- Caffé Bene – the shop aims for a third-space type feel similar to Starbucks – but with a Korean modern design aesthetic. The restaurant has a range of coffees on its menu including Ethiopian blend. Generally the coffee is milder than Starbucks. It also is known for its food; which is a grade above Starbucks. Caffé Bene uses wi-fi enabled buzzers to let you know when your order is available to pick up from the counter. Drip coffee is about two and a half times the price of the UK. Despite weak coffee, Caffé Bene has grown to 700 branches throughout Korea
- Angel-in-us – aimed more at female customers, apart from the cute mug designs is is very similar in terms of its product and feel to Caffé Bene
- Mr Coffee is a kiosk operation found at local mass transit stations – it makes a passable cup of coffee
- Tom n Toms: ubiquitous chain, not known for the quality of its coffee. Inside it is very similar to an American style family restaurant like Dennys
- Twosome Place – aimed at women. It has a selection of beautifully presented cakes as an indulgence. . Advertised with a good-looking male celebrity selling a fantasy experience. It is also the chain with the best coffee. if you can handle the smooth marketing alongside The Coffee Bean, A Twosome Place is probably the best major chain to frequent
Things to watch out for:
- Prices are generally a third more expensive than Starbucks in other countries such as the UK, Hong Kong and US
- Forget the flat white, the trendy coffee to order here is the ‘hand drip’ served in a lot of the independent coffee shops
- People generally don’t understand what a black coffee is; they call it an americano even when its a filter coffee
- Paid for wi-fi – this maybe due to the ubiquity of LTE | 4G networks and wi-fi bundled into domestic cellular deals. There is one variety of milk available – diary | full-fat. If you don’t have Internet Explorer | PC chances are that you won’t be able to sign up for a temporary account due to Korean reliance on ActiveX for online security – insane, but true
- Milk – if you are on a diet or lactose intolerant go for black coffee, as milk generally doesn’t have any choices that you can make to customize your drink
Interesting presentation by Lisa Li of China Youthology which looks at the media habits of young people in China.
I wanted some light reading as I traveled and Zuckerman’s account of how John Paulson bet against the US housing market seemed as good a read as any. As a non-financial person I found some if it very illuminating:
- Like innovations such as the the light bulb there were a number of people trying to make this trade work, some of them like Michael Burry had the trade messed up by his own investors who were withdrawing funds as he was making money killing the trade in the water. Quite why Burry was a zero and Paulson was a hero wasn’t clearly articulated
- The banks not only packed toxic investments that drove the market but also developed the interests that could hedge against it in a cost-effective manner, with many of them screwing themselves
- Banks actively screwed their customers, even when they were being paid for advice. If I did that as an agency person I would leave myself open legally and would also likely get censured by the CIPR
- There was generally a lack of critical thinking and what-if scenario planning at the banks involved. On the one hand some of the most numerate people I have known come from an investment banking background. On the other hand investment models are often kludged together with massive Excel spreadsheets and macros – which I imagine plays hell with trying to get a helicopter view of an institution’s financial position
- The key problem was one of timing, with investors essentially continually betting on black until the roulette wheel swung in their favour. They had no sense of the when beyond a vague ‘soon’
Zuckerman managed to make the subject matter accessible and understandable. One gets the sense that Paulson was fortunate rather than immensely talented as there didn’t seem to be a lot separating him from other people making the same bet until he rolled the dice one last time.
I noticed this on a Seoul taxi-cab manufacturered by Samsung. Samsung makes cars in Korea (as part of the joint venture with Renault). And this mirror is sold after-market option for taxi-cabs (fitted by the drivers rather than the car manufacturers). The mirrors are made by a lighting manufacturer called Samjung Inverter.
if you’ve ever been on the business end of a militant bike messenger, you’ll immediately understand the value of being able to see behind you as you want to exit a taxi. Thanks to Samjung Inverter’s Younam Ha who got in touch and told me a bit more about the product.
CACI mirror – Samjung Inverter
Whilst the UK government flights with the major carriers including Vodafone over 4G whilst simultaneously wanting universal broadband for rural communities, Korea has a real-life working LTE eco-system.
So what’s it like?
The handsets come with a spare battery and desk charger as realistic battery life is somewhere south of an iPhone 4S.
The devices sport big screens and other features like a built-in mobile television receiver that allows you to watch the five main TV channels – so its hard to just blame the network.
Call quality was an issue, primarily because of the way the calls are handled, the Korean careers were using 3G networks to carry voice calls. This means that calls are affected by network handover issues and the complexity of the chip architectures needed to do this.
Network coverage is patchy, which is why the 4G networks have bolstered their offerings with wi-fi roaming. You can’t go into a coffee shop or a department store and not find a paid for wi-fi service.
The key thing for me was that there wasn’t a key application that demonstrated the real-world superiority of LTE over 3G services. And this means that its hard to drive sales beyond the early adopter community unless carriers use bundle-based price promotions and subsidised handsets. One thing that did strike me whilst on the road was that laptop users didn’t bother using 3-or-4G dongles at all – which is where I thought LTE would be able to demonstrate superiority.