China Leads The Way

America historically has led the Internet, by setting many of the technology standards and being home to many of the main companies whose technology underpins and makes use of the Internet.

A small geeky announcement on ChinaTechNews.com indicates that the balance is shifting. The announcement is significant; think of it this way, how many extra phone lines could you have if you added an extra digit to the area code of a phone number? Well imagine that jump but much, much bigger to understand the leap forward that the Chinese are making with the Internet by adopting IPv9.

This also marks a profound future social, economic and information shift to the East; especially when considering how the most brutal and naked form of capitalism since the Robber Barons of the 19th century America is reshaping the country. The futures red, the future’s China; get ready for video on demand Shaw Brothers Classics.

Barcode turns 30

The Boston Globe online has a mildly interesting article about the UPC (universal product code) or bar code that graces all our groceries. They give a potted history of the code and mention the various urban myths that rose around it including:

– it represented the Anti-Christ

– it was a corporate plot against consumers (though the lack of technology before the bar code had not stopped collusion).

The article goes on about the inventory savings items, but neglects to mention other add-ons that came out of it including:

– Near-real time sales data, which could be datamined for purchase paterns, this allowed Walmart to famously increase beer sales by putting a six pack and nappies (US Eng: diapers) together for stressed fathers

– Increasing the power of retailers who can provide research companies and suppliers with data on product sales faster, fattening the coffers of AC Neilsen

– Dramatically altered store design by being able to trial changes in layout or promotion and see the results through the tills, this was as dramatic as the spreadsheet allowing senior business folk to run what if scenarios

– Loyalty cards, when you can analyse purchase patterns and inventories, match them both together to decide how to influence consumer behavioiur

– It revolutionised kick-backs for music shop workers. When I DJ’ed far more (and had more time), I used to hang with a number of record shop assistants who worked in ‘chart shops’. By being signed up to promo agencies for white labels, the specialist shops for my imports and underground vinyl and the small chart shops I got the freshest music cuts. The smaller independent chart shops got a lot of support from the major labels:

– Cheaper records to sell on to the public

– Items often arrived in their stores first

– Exclusive access to limited edition remixes

– Instore band signings (often at the expense of big chains like HMV)

– Promotional record label items: jackets, bags, gig tickets

– One high selling record for free with every two hype items they put through the scanner (note that I did not say sell)

I remember Jez and Tony of Penny Lane Birkenhead well. Tony had been with the firm for time and was a seasoned ligger, Jez was a quiter dreadlocked skater kid who used to work in a secondhand dance vinyl shop in the Palace – a trendy shopping complex on Wood Street L1.

This barcode revolution did not happen overnight, I still remember being in primary school in Liverpool and seeing sticky price tags and the guns being used in the local Tesco and Asda supermarkets. Bargain bucket department story chain TJ Hughes, only implemented a stock management system utilising bar codes less than five years ago after new owners discovered stock in their warehouses that may have been over ten years old. The local supermarket to my Uncle living in rural Western Ireland still uses sticky price labels with no barcode scanner in sight, a nod to our modern times came when the labels changed colour from white to fluorescent yellow.

Jargon Watch: counter-googling

Interesting article on Trendwatching.com about businesses using Google to research customers and better tailor their offering to their needs – Google as a kind of ad-hoc CRM solution. Trendwatching label this counter-googling.

An interesting example they cite is “The Bel Air Hotel in LA already Googles first-time guests upon arrival, based on their reservation details (name and address), leading to personalized services like assigning guests a room with morning sun if Googling shows the guest enjoys jogging early in the day (source: http://blog.outer-court.com).”

Sell your Siebel Systems shares NOW! :-)

B-Boy Bulletin: Freestylers ‘Raw As F**k’ album out Monday!

Live and Direct from Supercharged Music

From: SuperCharged

To: Ollie Lewis Date: Fri Jul 02, 2004 01:40:59 PM BST

Subject: Freestylers ‘Raw As F**k’ album out Monday!

After over a year of blood sweat and beers Against The Grain are very proud to announce the release of their first artist album…

Freestylers ‘Raw As F**k’ released this Monday 5th JulyAvailable of CD and triple pack vinyl

“We chose the name Raw As F**k, because it was brash and would stand out,” continues Aston. “We released the track ?Punks? and it was meant to be a one off, but the reception was so good we just kept going. We ended up with three number one breaks tunes in DJ magazine and won a best newcomer at the International Breakspoll Awards. Before we knew it, we had an album that we felt was our strongest to date.”

From the slavering bass-carnivore Slammer, to the purple-rain phunk of Push Up, from the off-wall vocals of Reprazent home-girl Onnalee on the album?s first single Get a Life, to the break-neck toasting of dapper-one Million Dan, Raw as F**k is an ambitious album, aimed at more than just hardcore breaks fans. Over thirteen tracks it plays an exhilarating game of genre hop-scotch, the traditional Freestylers sounds on the raga-laced Boom Blast and jungle stylings of Punks, sitting perfectly alongside more poignant moments like the epic Too Far [“It’s a slightly more chilled record,” smiles Aston. “Well ? we had to have one!”]

“We?ve got some great collaborations on there,” adds Matt. “Mostly just people we know and respect who are all into what we are doing. At the end of the day,” he concludes. “We just really enjoyed making this album. We?ve got to a stage where we don?t feel we have anything to prove anymore. We can concentrate on having fun making music that people can dance their fucking ass off to.”

Raised on a diet of Public Enemy, Afrika Bambaataa and, erm, The Jungle Book [“That soundtrack was the first record I ever bought,” laughs Aston. “I was the original junglist!”], the Freestylers sound is rooted in hip hop but has evolved into a unique British concoction, taking in everything from dancehall to reggae, electro to soul and breakbeat to drum and bass.

“It?s pretty tricky trying to sum us up,” admits Matt. “Our sound is pretty raw, raw and?”

“Voluptuous?” chips in Aston helpfully.

“No! You’re not allowed to write that down!” Matt laughs. “We can’t go around saying our music is raw and voluptuous it’s just very instant. Basically it?s like breaks for the masses, but as we?ve both got pretty eclectic tastes we bring a whole spectrum of influences from the seventies onwards.”

“Hip hop heads come to see us,” continues Aston. “But so do ravers, reggae fans… it?s quite mad really – two funky white boys bringing all these people together.”

Back in the day their debut single Drop The Boom soon saw a Stateside release [renamed AK48], and The Scratch City and Uprock EPs followed swiftly on its tail. But it was release of the jump-up breakers? anthem B-Boy Stance and the boys subsequent brush with the Gallagher brothers, that firmly put them on the media map. MC Tenor Fly’s vocal appropriation of Wonderwall didn?t go down to well with the simian siblings, the Freestylers were forced back into the studio to re-record their masterpiece and the hype was enough to send “B Boy Stance” soaring into the Top 20. It was only when all the fuss had died down that everyone realised it probably would have got there anyway.

Things moved pretty quickly after that. Their debut album We Rock Hard sold over 250,000 copies, the boys got a MOBO nomination and picked up the late Muzik Magazine?s Best Band accolade. “We had a few drinks at the award ceremony,” remembers Matt fondly. “There was this girl who I was sure I recognised from my school. I went over and started trying to chat her up, giving her all these lines. She didn?t seem too impressed ? it was only later I found out it was Kate Moss!”

But aside from spectacular drunken failures to pull celebrities, it’s the Freestylers live performances that really set them apart from other dance acts. When playing live they have a band of up to eight people on stage with them ? guitarists, DJs, MCs, vocalists and a full rhythm section. “The sound we get together can best be described as a 3D effect to our albums,” explains Matt. “When you listen to our albums then come to our shows, you?ll see the sound literally come out at you – everything is dynamic.”

And it was one of these electric live performances that caught the eye of rock lothario Lenny Kravitz, who was so impressed he personally chose them to open for him. The popularity of their debut album meant Matt and Aston could really take the Freestylers on the road, playing not only the biggest clubs and UK festivals, but also touring America. “We?re pretty big in the States,” admits Aston. “It?s great because it means we get to go over there a lot.”

“The last time we were there, we stayed with a friend in LA,” Matt recalls. “He knows a few celebrities out there and we found out that Anastasia was having a barbeque. We thought it would be really LA to crash it, thinking it would be this plush pool party.”

“It turned out that it was this intimate meal for just her family and a few close friends,” chuckles Aston, picking up the story. “There we are on her doorstep without even a bottle of wine to offer! She let us in though and we ended up chatting to her mum for about two hours it was all very surreal.”

The band soon capped a series of stunning live performances, with their legendary gig in front of 23,000 screaming fans on the World Jazz Stage at Glastonbury. The crowd was so blown away they clapped and cheered solidly for over fifteen minutes after the set finished and Time Out declared The Freestylers “the highlight of the entire festival.”

A second album Pressure Point followed and went on to sell over 100,000 copies. “We didn?t want to just make a We Rock Hard Pt. 2,” explains Aston. “We wanted to do something in our own distinct style, so we used influences that we had hints of on the first album, but made it harder and clubbier.”

But after touring the new album, the boys decided to take a short break from the studio to recuperate and began to feel it was a time for a change of direction. “Our label Freskanova had stopped functioning,” explains Matt. “We were feeling a little disillusioned, so we decided to get back to our grass roots and started doing some tracks for Krafty Kuts and Skool Of Thought’s Against the Grain label . We began to work on a project we called ?Raw as F**k? ? it was great because no-one had any expectations of us. There was nothing to live up to and we feel the music became stronger as a result.”

Buy now!

For the LP click here

For the CD click here

Oprah Time: Ugly Americans by Ben Mezrich

This is not about: the Bush administration, torture, detention, obesity, Michael Moore or Hollywood plastic surgeons.

Instead Renaissance Chambara has decided to go all Oprah and bring you our book of the moment Ugly Americans by Ben Mezrich. Ben previously wrote Bringing Down the House, a book about a group of maths geeks who take on the Las Vegas casinos by team playing with a gambling system and making a killing at poker.

In Ugly Americans, Ben turns his attention to hedge funds exploiting the economic collapse of Japan in the 1990s. There are many similarities with the books:

– they both are written in the same style, paced with film in mind

– they both alternate chapters of action with ‘expert testimony

– they both claim to be true, however I have my doubts (names have been changed to protect the innocent et cetera)

– both are a ripping read regardless

3G Phones Make You Sick

Today’s link, a report by a Dutch research organisation TNO on the adverse health effects of UMTS (3G in geek speak) mobile phone masts. If they think that is bad they should try using my Three phone, the service is enough to make you as sick as a parrot.

Are mobile phone companies the next big tabacco?

Right to Bear Arms


Be very afraid link to the Something Awful forum where Roland Tower has made a flame thrower from everyday parts available from a B&Q. The only thing stopping being as good as military one is that it uses too light a fuel and does not have a heavier sticky base (though a quick trip to the kitchen or returning to B&Q would do the trick).

About five minutes thinking about alternative materials and you have a dummy’s guide to hardcore weaponry.

The Shiznitz on Social Networking


Fantastic overview on the overhyped technology trend of the moment social networking. Don’t get me wrong I am a member of some of them, its just that the net is not paved with gold and there are only a finite number of opportunities. By the time you get around to organise a high-level conference about them or Wired do an eight-page spread to explore the issues it’s over.

Ged Carroll’s guide to the new-new thing:

Info-imaging: digital is the new film, but there still hasn’t been a truly easy way to manipulate and store pictures online that is as easy as a photo album, why? Also people like Fuji, Kodak etc are used to having continuing revenue from film sales, how do they adapt for the 21st century when the market for cameras that are good enough for you and I saturates in the next few years, whats the sticky app. How can business take advantage of this technological change in a risk-free, cost effective manner and still take home the benjamins

Communities for broadband: Question why was AOL so successful? Not because of its content, nor its direct marketing technique learned from the Luftwaffe. It was two things ease-of-use and communities. With broadband network providers are obsessing about content, in reality they don’t have too much of a clue they are using a fast failure model to try and find out what works. I know because I promoted a survey done at the end of 2000 by Capgemini with Ernst & Young that reached out to about 100 CEOs in telecoms and media. The survey concluded that everyone knew that broadband was needed but not the why. If we look at what has driven net adoption so far is communication and being a part of a community. Email was the killer app. The question to be answered is how can a community be enhanced and made more engaging to sell broadband services and differentate the next AOL from just another pipe-merchant. VoIP won’t do it because its a commodity product and need to be ‘open’ in order to allow it to become useful through gaining ubiquity.

I’ll leave it to David Hornik to put the hype in prospective with a summary of a Churchill Club event Social Networking Who Cares?

“Welcome blah blah blah relationship capital blah blah blah social contracts blah blah blah media businesses blah blah blah identify the rabid fans of the iPod blah blah blah utility media blah blah blah this is the future of the web blah blah blah RSS blah blah blah Spam blah blah blah killer app blah blah blah social networking is blogging dumbed down for the masses blah blah blah tribecaster blah blah blah widget blah blah blah what is the connection between social networks and blogs blah blah blah the most efficient media platform ever blah blah blah read-write, not read-only blah blah blah all software is about people blah blah blah put this stuff in context blah blah blah monetizing relationships blah blah blah a new dimension to the web blah blah blah I met my wife on Match.com blah blah blah wiki-based community blah blah blah collective action, common good … blah blah blah I’ve been monetizing my social relationships since my bar mitzvah blah blah blah blah blah it’s group voice blah blah blah social context blah blah blah the entire web is a social network blah blah blah join me in thanking tonight’s moderators blah blah blah goodnight.”

V to the A


On Saturday, I continued my sporadic tour of London’s cultural highpoints: Fabric, Smith of Smithfields, The End, Flying Records, Phonica, The Science Museum and now the Victoria & Albert Museum.

The museum is very disorientating despite the map that they provide you with on the way in. In fact the map was an offence against design to my co-explorer Steve, a design agency owner who came along. The exhibits on Japan were very interesting and made Europe look like a bunch of savages. The Victorian silverware looked crass and tasteless, the plunder of robber barons from an empire that spanned a third of the world (sort of like Kenneth Noye on a grand scale).

There were lots of activity areas and it should get a high rating for being child friendly. It was way cool and both Steve and myself took some time out for learning activities. The café wasn’t as swish as I had thought that it would be, however it is still very good. My expectations had been distorted by the ‘V&A café with museum attached’ descriptions of it in the media. (Their 1 1/2 cup pot of coffee is actually good for two cups).

In addition, they had The Other Flower Show art exhibition and Tracy Emin’s work in particular had a very dark sense of humour in it with a ouija board and knife in the centre of a children’s wendy house.

One of the things I found out was that it was Architecture Week, judging by their materials and handouts both RIBA and the Arts Council had invested heavily in it. However beyond mentions in the design press about activity in Clerkenwell to celebrate the event we had not seen any press coverage. If you were involved in Architecture Week and want to get more publicity give me a call :-))

The V&A area suffered from a dearth of fast food suppliers so Steve and myself had to decamp by foot to Leicester Square in order to support a heinous global corporation that tears down the rainforest and provides gainful employment to sociology graduates in the fast-food industry.

Viral Craic-er

Southwark Council reinvents Frogger with an anti-drug abuse message here courtesy of my colleague Lucy

Gates Courts Blogger


Bill Gates wrote to me regarding the latest thinking by Microsoft (ok so its a Microsoft marketing ploy to make me think that Chairman Bill cares even for heretics like me) and some of their partners to curb spam. The mail is interesting, however I have a few concerns:

– the industry initative lacked networking manufacturers like Nokia, Juniper or Extreme Networks

– no computing powerhouses like Sun Microsystems, Oracle, IBM, Apple

– there was no reference to non-windows PC users (Mac, Unix, Linux, Symbian smartphones, PalmOS etc)

– there is no independent experts on the panel like Phil Zimmerman

From: billgates at chairman.microsoft.com

Subject: Preserving and Enhancing the Benefits of Email – A Progress Report

Date: 28 June 2004 21:47:34 BST

To: gedcarroll at mac.com

During the past year, Microsoft has taken a number of important steps to help curb the epidemic of junk email, which is a major headache for computer users worldwide. We’ve made significant progress, including blocking more than 95 per cent of all incoming junk email – an average of 3 billion messages a day – on Hotmail. But more work remains to be done. We’re committed to finding additional ways to counter this costly nuisance.

Over the next 12 months, we will begin to introduce several additional innovative technologies and processes that should further reduce the volume of junk email reaching customers’ inboxes. Because you’ve subscribed to receive executive emails from us, I’d like to update you on what we’re doing in this area. On the Web at www.microsoft.com/execmail, I’ve posted an in-depth explanation of Microsoft’s technology vision and strategy for ending the junk email epidemic as a major problem. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to read it.

Thank you.

Bill Gates

Apple Puts a Tiger In Its Tank


Steve Jobs live keynote presentation at Apple WWDC laid out by MacObserver here.

For those of you too young to remember the put a tiger in your tank reference try here and here. My old man used to have an Esso tiger soft toy (which were common in the 1960’s and had it attached to the parcel shelf having wired its eyes with christmas light bulbs connected up to the brake lights and indicators on his Ford Anglia in order to get them to light up). In these days before fire retardant fabrics and safety standards on toys it remains a miracle to me that he did not die from the smoke of an electrically ignited faux tiger fire.

Wise Words For PROs


I have abridged Lord Chadlington’s recent speech (June 15, 2004) to the Guild of Public Relations Practioners. In his speech Chadlington outlined the following rules:

– Everything is possible. Everything good and everything bad! Most things are uncontrollable – particularly in our business. Events will always upset the best – laid plans. In that context, rule one, is to be positive. That does not mean you have to be a joke-cracking comic when the world is collapsing around you. Nor do you have to be Polyanna! It means that you must face bad news, full frontal: face reality as it is. Do not hide. The solution to problems is not pretending they are not there. The answer often lies in the analysis of the problem itself. Dissect it. Do not shy away. Be positive. Above all else, be positive by grasping and taking responsibility. Do not allow yourself to be sidelined. Make yourself and your skills the driver that makes things happen by being accountable and responsible

– Never give up. Ours is a very difficult profession. We tend to be – despite the public image – remarkably sensitive, creative people. And were it not so – then we would be no good at our jobs! The result is that we are more hurt by the unpredictability of events, by the buffeting of clients and journalists, than we care to admit. Being resilient, robust, bouncing back – these are all the essentials of success

– Read. Yes read – and I do not mean the papers! For an industry that wishes to be regarded with esteem, our practitioners often seem very ill informed. If we aspire to be more than what we are, then we must stay ahead of what is going on in the world, in industry, in the arts, in politics, in literature. An evening reading Trollope is certainly a more constructive way of advancing your understanding of human nature than almost anything else

– Think. Reading and thinking go together. I have never met a PR professional who thinks too much! Learning to think is the most difficult part of education. Clients do not want the same solutions you gave to the last client – except the name has been changed. They want you to solve their particular problems. Think. Close the door for a few hours and think. Blackberries, emails, mobile phones and the like are the enemies of this process. What did Russell say? “ When all others options have failed, man is thrown back to the painful necessity of thought”

– Be much more questioning.Very often we are so keen to hear the good news: so encouraged that our client has good financial results to put out: so delighted by the client relationship we are developing – that we just do not want to upset the apple cart. Interrogate the clients. Argue with them. Make sure that they are running businesses in a way that enhance your reputations as advocates. What is the Washington quote? “Associate yourself with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation, for ‘tis better to be alone than in bad company”.

– Never mix business and pleasure. It is much more difficult to be objective, ask difficult questions, be independent, if your clients step over that line into friendship. Neither can you judge the performance of a colleague if that line between civility and friendship is crossed – and it is even more difficult if your families know each other socially as well! I agree with most of the rules, his never do business with friends statement I think needs to be more flexible, some of my best friends are former colleagues and they are the kind of people that I would trust with my PR programme. I would modify it to be cognisant of the effect your friendship may have on business and be professional about it.

– Pay well. Get the best people on board. Have clients pay well too. If your clients pay you top dollar then you can give them the best people you have and you have the time to think about their problems. The best work I have ever done is where the client has been generous in his fees. I have made money and the client has either saved it – or made it – many times over!

– Honesty is vital. Not just about the big things but the little things too. Best practice is so important. Every tiny deviation from being whiter than white undermines your credibility – not because you are found out – but because you are more likely to bend the rules next time

– Always manage expectations. Exceeding expectations by the tiniest margin is viewed as a great success. Failing by the tiniest smidgeon is always – what it is – failure! What is Maurice Saatchi’s famous equation? Satisfaction = performance – expectation.

– It is the small things that matter: the research you do for a meeting, the care you take, even the way you dress – all these things build up a cumulative effect and determine how your client or your boss view your performance.

I would add the following:

– Banish the word never, absolute blinkered thinking doesn’t have any place in PR. Keep things in prospective

– Contingency plan – at least think about what ifs and try to reduce risk of catastrophic failure

– Never leave home without business cards, every social or business meeting is a prospect

– Make like a union – get organised. Most people have a circle of contacts including work of about 150 people. With PR its is much wider (I’m up to 3,500+), together with juggling diaries, keeping track of prospects, doing client work and managing a multi-client work balance thing. My mentor Kirsty swore by lists and Excel spreadsheet workplans. I am a great believer in the Palm PDA, iCalender, iSync, critical path analysis and the use of project managment software (I recommend Intellisync Project Desktop). Archive business cards as they are a great visual cue to jog the memory even when you have gone electronic

– If you have more bad days than good days in a three month period, fix the situation, if you can’t change the people around you, change the people around you by resigning and go to a better role

Don’t Call Us We’ll Call You


New regulations come into effect on the 25th June 2004 in the UK that will allow businesses to opt out of receiving unsolicited sales calls by registering with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS).

– Registration takes 28 days to take effect. From the 25th June it will be an offence to make an unsolicited cold call to any number on the TPS list.

– In the case of sub-contracted cold calling, the legal liability for ensuring no calls are made to numbers listed lies with the Client.

– Another legal requirement under the legislation is that all businesses must hold a “do not call” list of telephone numbers of people who have contacted you directly and asked that you do not cold call them, even though they may not have registered with the TPS. They are legally required to hold this list and we will need a copy of this “do not call” list.

– At present, approximately 20 per cent of the companies called do not put sales calls through, either blocking calls or routing to voicemail.

– DMA press release (Word document)

– TPS website