Graphic novelist Alan Moore interview footage

The awesome Alan Moore doing a live webchat as part of an effort to raise money for a statue for a public library in Cleveland.

Alan Moore chats with Harvey Pekar statue contributors (FULL) from Chris Thompson on Vimeo.
This is hosted on Vimeo so may not be available to all readers.

Silicon Valley seems to think its better to ask for forgiveness rather than permission

Mobile social start-up Path isn’t on the radar of the general public in the same way as Facebook or Twitter but it has been gaining traction with a number of London’s PR digerati given the amount of friend requests I have received over the past few weeks. It made the tech press headlines this week for rather different reasons; scraping the address book of iPhone users and transferring it to their servers. That provided people with a number of concerns, to name three:

  • What was Path using the data for?
  • How would be protected against a hacking attack a la Anonymous?
  • Why wasn’t permission asked?

The reality is that Path fits a wider behavioural trait within Silicon Valley start-ups that privacy was a concept to be broken. The reality is that Facebook, Zynga and Airbnb have gotten away with it already has opened the doors for others to take liberties with their customers. There has been a curiously muted response that just wouldn’t happen if it was traditional brands like British Gas, BT or Vodafone. Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of their privacy and online image so it is only a question of how long before this goes from beyond the digerati getting upset to a wider consumer concern.

This consumer concern maybe precipitated by the work being done by Microsoft to take advantage of Google’s new privacy policy; and Google could be an unwilling new pioneer despite not being the worst offender on privacy violation.

Archived from the blog I used to write at PR Week.

Links of the day | 在网上找到

Which countries have the most Twitter users per capita? | Trends in the Living Networks

Used MP3 Music Files Legal To Sell Says Federal Judge

New Registrations For Sina Weibo Appear To Have Fallen Off A Cliff | DigiCha – real-world ID requirements affects Weibo

Siri to get Chinese, Russian and Japanese Support Next Month | gizchina.com

Study shows climate sensitivity to CO2 less than extreme projections

Nokia on smartphone strategy: We don’t have a Plan B

New whitepaper – Trends in Digital Gaming: Free-to-Play, Social and Mobile Games – interesting research by Parks Associates

French luxury giant buys into mainland firm | SCMP.com – first investment like this from LVMH. Ochirly is a mid-priced brand aimed at trendy female office workers (pay wall)

Apple Requires Retina Screenshots From iOS Devs – this is good as reduces platform fragmentation

UK Report Blames The Internet For Terrorism, Says ISPs Should Take Down Content | Techdirt – Jesus wept

Private Equity: Fact, Fiction and What Lies in Between – Knowledge@Wharton

Apple trademark may hint at processing improvement for next-gen A6 processor

40+ Apps & Tools To Customize Your Facebook Pages

Themes from MIDEM – Mint Digital – interesting comments on Facebook

Toyota Lets You Become A Sportscar  – brings out the inner 5-year old

Max Schrems: The Austrian Thorn In Facebook’s Side – Forbes

Samsung aims to sell 25 mil ‘smart TVs’ this year ‹ Japan Today

Panasonic, Fujitsu, Renesas eye chip merger ‹ Japan Today

Japan’s current account surplus smallest in 15 years ‹ Japan Today

Pachinko addiction a growing problem for Japanese women ‹ Japan Today

Trust in Japan – Sixty Second View – amazing destruction of trust

Students voice privacy concerns with Facebook | ZDNet

Toyota Engineer Speaks on Advantages, Disadvantages of SiC Power Devices — Tech-On!

Made Better in Japan – WSJ.com – interesting how attention to detail is causing a surge in low end | high price Japanese products

Three Lessons for Social TV – Amy Jo Martin – Harvard Business Review

LongReply to swissmiss – finding duplicate files

Woody Harrelson turned into meme after spectacular social media fail | TechEye

News Corporation pushes tablet title: News from Warc.com – but is closing down the London based tablet experiment using entertainment and sports content from The Sun

I, Cringely » Blog Archive » Zuckerberg’s Complaint – Cringely on technology – interesting take on the likelihood of the Facebook IPO

Korea: January Social Media News Update | Asia Digital Map – interesting data on LINE and Kakao Talk mobile messaging applications – think a cross-platform version of iMessage

Black SMS Encrypts and Decrypts Your Text Messages – interesting application, wonder how robust the encryption actually is

Five Trends: How Brands Integrated Social, Mobile, and Web into 2012 Super Bowl Advertisements « Web Strategy by Jeremiah Owyang | Social Media, Web Marketing

Nokia reveals polarizing secrets of ClearBlack display — Engadget – would this work for televisions?

mariclaro – great recycled bags

Marketing, HSBC: The World’s Local Bank no more, GLOBAL, ADVERTISING, Campaigns, Branding, Brand reputation, Competitions, | Market-interactive.com – have a new conversation with our customers and the markets we operate in about the future, yet get rid of a customer focused positioning?

An Ex-Zynga Engineer Is Ripping The Company Apart In Plain Sight – or why Zynga is crap to work for. Not particularly surprised by this

Boeing finds problem in tail section of 787 Dreamliners ‹ Japan Today – problem is with shims between the carbon fibre skin and supporting framework

Beijing tells airlines not to pay EU carbon tax | SCMP.com – expect the EU to come off the worst with this Mexican stand-off

The Facebook IPO post

Facebook finally filed its paper work for a forthcoming IPO and I was asked for my impression on it by David Moth, you can read his full article here.

DM: Facebook’s revenue was less than $4bn last year. What justifies a $75bn – $100bn valuation?
GC: The valuation is based on people’s perception of future earnings. It reflects a confidence in the investment and that the investors think the business has a substantial amount of potential for growth.

The question is what are those limits to growth and what is the financial glass ceiling that Facebook has ahead of it. I don’t know what that will be but I have some ideas about the limiting factors:

Context: one of the great reasons why Google is successful is because we are looking for something when we are on there, so chances are if you are looking for a plumber in London on Google you may want to click on an advert for a 24-hour call-out emergency plumbing service. More contextual data can be derived from mobile search: specifically location and further data could be mapped on top by plugging into other services – temperature, weather conditions, propensity to use facilities in that area  to offer more precisely-targeted content.

Contrast with Facebook which is very much about a social context; you can do a greater degree of targeting based on profile data (marital status, job title, stated location, age etc); I am not likely to click on job ads, mobile phone deals, get a new credit card or move over to a cable broadband provider when I want to see photos of a friend’s night out or details of their new-born child. You could map mobile information on top of all this, but because of the basic lack of context advertisers would have to work harder to earn a click and turn that into a business action. So given this, I would propose that Facebook inventory isn’t likely to fulfil its full revenue potential in comparison to Google.

Geographic expansion: a simple law of math is that Facebook will find it harder to continue to grow at the same pace as it has done already. The company is the social network for much of the western world, so it needs to grow next in China and the developing world. In China, Facebook would have to do a lot of work to comply with government regulations and it would face fierce competition from established local companies who continue to innovate and evolve at a great pace. The only reason why Facebook did so well recently in Korea was because of hacking attacks by an alleged state sponsor on Cyworld and other Korean web properties that stole critical information including national ID numbers. Prior this Facebook found Korea slow going due to hyper-competition from entrenched domestic players. In Japan, its a similar story. Mixi, social gaming company DeNA and other domestic players are making Facebook work very hard for each customer.

Facebook’s real identity principle made it very hard for the site to be accepted by a number of different cultures: Japan being a prime example.

Finally in terms of geographic expansion, not all consumers are created equal. Advertisers are more likely to pay more to get clicks from consumers who are likely to spend more money, so consumers from the developing world are likely to reduce Facebook’s ARPU (average revenue per user), whilst the cost of hosting their profile is likely to be comparable to a member from a developed country. Financial growth means harder work and greater expenditure.

Engagement: there are already some indicators that consumers maybe active on Facebook but may not be that engaged, how will this filter down in terms of how much advertisers will be prepared to pay and what they likely click-through rates are they likely to enjoy? Brand sentiment towards Facebook in mature markets shows that consumers are dispassionate about the brand and like it less than companies like Microsoft.

Legislation and regulation: As Facebook has gotten bigger it has undergone increased legal scrutiny. The European Union are already concerned about privacy issues relating to Facebook advertising, these issues are only likely to increase over time.

None of this takes into account things that may disrupt Facebook’s business like say Zynga losing its game mojo, risks that Facebook addresses in their IPO filing paper work.

DM: In your opinion, is it a good investment? Why?
GC: Well I won’t be looking down the back of the sofa to find money to invest. This IPO is likely to be aimed at and bought by large financial investors, they won’t be letting it go to ‘Joe Public’ until they have made a decent return from their investment.

Many of Facebook’s major investors like DST are locked in for at least 12-18 months so there is likely to be an under-supply of shares to meet likely market demand. In this case, large institutional shareholders will be at the front of the queue, it just isn’t a viable investment opportunity for smaller investors.

DM: Are we headed towards a new tech bubble?
GC: I don’t think so. Since Sarbanes Oxley, an IPO is no longer the easy step it used to be for technology companies. In many ways tech CEOs would find it far less desirable. Look at the way Amazon goes up and down on share price as Bezos makes long term investments.

Sarbanes-Oxley: Back in the day, technology companies used to go to IPO with small (tens of millions of dollars in market capitalisation), with Sarbanes-Oxley the increased compliance overhead was estimated to cost upwards of 5.1 million dollars per year back in 2004 and increase the costs of going public by 130 per cent. If you were a company that was barely profitable because of a focus on growth or wasn’t yet profitable like Netscape; those compliance costs could be better spent elsewhere within the business or saved to reduce the company’s burn-rate.

Competitive advantage: Secondly, not going public for as long as possible can provide a competitive advantage. When Google finally went public rivals were bowled over by their profitability and the cost efficiencies that Google was managing per search – information that Google had sought to mask for as long as possible from rival Microsoft. They managed to achieve a cost-per-search that is a third of that achieved by Microsoft, provide a better consumer search experience and do a better job at monetising its audience.

If we are going to see a bubble it is likely to be in secondary equity trading areas like SecondMarket.

DM: Which other companies will Facebook’s IPO affect the most?
GC: Zynga is the one that stands out because it accounts for something like 12% of Facebook’s revenue. Its share price bottomed out post IPO and only recently reached the floatation price again.

Since many people won’t be able to pick up Facebook stock, Zynga might be viewed as a good proxy, but there are flaws with this argument for various reasons.

I was surprised how right I was in this call. Zynga’s share price went up by 20 per cent.  I don’t think that Zynga is a particularly good proxy for Facebook. Zynga’s business is selling virtual goods; though it does some brand promotions inside the likes of Farmville. By comparison, the bulk of Facebook’s revenue comes from advertising. Zynga could lose its gaming mojo and go down in flames. Whilst this would hurt Facebook it wouldn’t affect 80 per cent of Facebook’s revenue; unless another games company was luring Facebook users to another platform for social interaction.

A change in Facebook’s advertising business will not reflect in a corresponding rise in Zynga’s revenues

More information:

Ed Cotton: Facebook’s Dangerous Game @PSFK
Facebook’s Real Problem in Just 44 Words
Zynga Shares Jump On Facebook IPO Connection | TIME.com
What Facebook isn’t telling you about its risky ad business | VentureBeat
Analysis: A sobering look at Facebook | Reuters
Here’s The Real Problem For Facebook’s Stock Valuation
Is Facebook peaking in the US? – FT.com
Why Facebook is a dead man walking
Why Facebook is a dead man walking part II?
Why Facebook is a dead man walking part 2.5?
Risk Reduction Strategies on Facebook – danah boyd
Teens Find Innovative Ways to Control Their Facebook Presence – All Facebook
On Facebook deactivations – Jillian C. York
Is Facebook peaking in the US? – FT.com
Facebook (Kinda) Disputes Slowdown Estimates, But Declines to Give Actual Stats – AllThingsD
Facebook Is Losing Users In The Countries Where It Took Off First
If growth in the US is flatlining then where is Facebook’s growth going to come from? « excapite
Report: Facebook Grew Only 1.7 Percent in May, Dragged Down By Losses in Oldest Markets – AllThingsD
Has Facebook Peaked? | WebProNews
Thoughts on Facebook’s apparent decline in the developed world
Facebook, privacy and consumer behaviour
Facebook fatigue

Throwback gadget: Trinitron

It is hard for anyone who can’t remember back to the original PlayStation, but back in the 1980s and the 1990s Sony was a technology company that held the kind of stature that Apple currently holds in consumer minds.

In fact, Sony used to do a fair bit of industrial and product design for Apple. The initial Apple PowerBook range was designed by Sony and the 3 1/2 floppy disk that was the hallmark of the original Mac was down to Sony engineers who collaborated with the Apple team to get the product ready in time. Steve Jobs self-imposed uniform of black mock-turtleneck jumpers and Levi 501s was inspired by a conversation he had with Akio Morita about the use of corporate uniforms inside Sony Japan which created corporate cohesion. (Sony had implemented these, because workers in post-war Japan struggled to afford clothes). Jobs cited  Sony, alongside Cuisinart and Braun as companies that he would like to emulate in terms of product design.

Part of Sony’s pre-eminent position was down to their amazing electronic, electrical and mechanical engineering chops combined with great product design and an attention to detail which churned out a succession of small high-performance products including high-end personal tape cassette players (the Walkman), personal compact disc players (the Discman) and camcorders (Video8 and Hi-8).

Often consumers couldn’t afford the high-end designs so the mid-and-low range products that they bought had the Sony quality and design ‘halo’ around these products.

The second thing that supported Sony was the high quality of their televisions. This was due partly to the industrial design that Sony perfected – particularly in their portable television sets.
Sony Trinitron TV
The deal closer was Sony’s display technology called Trinitron.
Trinitron logo
Trinitron signified the technology that Sony had inside its screen, and the logo became a mark of quality. The story of Trinitron goes back the mid-1960s, Sony had bet the farm on a great display technology called Chromatron which it had licenced from a small American company. The problem with Chromatron was that it was really hard to make the displays commercially, Sony was getting about three good displays for every 1,000 they made on their production line. The televisions that the displays went into cost twice as much to make as Sony could sell them for. By 1966, Sony was facing financial ruin.

So they took a look around at the other technologies pioneered by the likes of GE and RCA to try and work out how they could come up with a unique patentable product. In double quick time, Sony came up with a display with an electron gun at the back of the cathode ray tube with three electrodes (for the red, green and blue composite colours), permanent magnets to focus the electron stream and an aperture grill made up of tiny wires hung vertically connected by one or two tungsten stabilising wire going horizontally across them.

This gave Trinitron displays a bright, high contrast, high-colour display with no gaps between the colour phosphor dots on the screen. I still use a Trinitron set to watch DVDs because it provides a superior colour and contrast to more modern LCD screens. Modern LCDs have to use a lot of power; up to 1,000 watts to try and match the contrast of the Trinitron set. In 1996 Sony’s patents ran out and technological change with copycat designs from Mitsubishi and ViewSonic, followe by LCD displays eroded Sony’s advantage in the market. Prior to bowing out of the market Sony made its WEGA sets which feature the best consumer Trinitron screens to date – and can be picked up on eBay for a song. In 2008, Sony stopped selling Trinitron televisions in the developed word (though WEGA sets continued to be sold in China).

It still has a production line in Singapore making Trinitron displays for professional use, in particular video monitors. Sony’s television business is now bleeding cash as it no longer has a best-of-breed display technology advantage and so consumers will no longer pay a premium price because it’s a Sony. A Sony BRAVIA LCD television is a Sharp or Samsung panel display with Sony electronics and packaging.

Efforts to commercialise OLED displays have so far proven to be unsuccessful so far; though Sony does offer a Trimaster branded version of these for high-end video monitoring. Presumably the Trimaster brand is allusion to the gold standard that Trinitron provided.