Friday, November 18, 2005

Autumn leaves

London this week has seen a transformation of the weather straight from summer to winter, completely bypassing autumn.

One week we were enjoying some of the highest November temperatures on record and then this week the frost started with piercing blue skies and icy winds.

Given the weather extremes that there have been around the globe this year, is this a further evidence of the effect of global warming? Certainly in my 30 odd years living in the south of England, I have noticed a gradual warming over time and an increasing number of freak weather occurences.

Getting slightly back on topic for a blog on internet communications, as ever, ask and the internet will provide. A quick search brings up a number of sites with historical UK weather data, one of which provides statistics on the changes in the UK's climate to back up my more anecdotal evidence.

It confirms that the 1990s were the warmest decade on record in the UK, with four out of five warmest years ever recorded occuring in the 1990s. For the real anoraks out there, you can even check a UK place's temperature on a given day from 1982 onwards and confirm your own theories.

Fascinating, yet worrying. Truly, the internet is the world's reference library.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Hitch

In the age of consumer-generated media, virtual word of mouth provides a way of evaluating just about any product or service. Little wonder that brands are finally waking up to the potential benefits and risks of the general public as publisher.

After waiting months for Screenselect to deliver the Will Smith vehicle 'Hitch', I was looking forward to finding out for myself why the film caused such mixed reactions.

I'd seen the trailer and the film looked great. Hip, original, witty and Will Smith looking in great form. I'd read the critics who offered some decidedly mixed reviews very much at odds with the hype put out by the film's publicity machine.

I decided to let the usually accurate consumer reviews decide it for me. Apart from a few (better informed) cynics, the typically well informed Screenselect film junkies were decidely positive with many claiming it was the ideal rom com. They should have known better.

The first hour lived up to the trailer. The second lived up to the print reviews. To watch the demise of such a promising and well produced film was a crying shame. I could understand it if it had been a money-chasing sequel, but not within the same film.

From an original take on the business of dating, it ended as saccharine nonsense with one of the least believable endings I have had the misfortune to sit through. I can't help wishing the DVD had jammed half way through and I could have that half hour of my life back.

A boost for traditional media. One in the eye for consumer-generated media.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

It's Goodfellas, but not that good...

The contenders to the title of best ever film are a topic of endless debate. It is also a cheap way to get publicity for your magazine title when you publish your list.

Far from discouraging the cheap publicity Netcoms dot com is happy to add to the debate, with the news that Total Film had added its two admission tickets to the debate. While controversy over choices, helps the publicity, Total Film have made some particularly strange choices.

The top 25 is below:
  1. Goodfellas
  2. Vertigo
  3. Jaws
  4. Fight Club
  5. The Godfather: Part II
  6. Citizen Kane
  7. Tokyo Story
  8. The Empire Strikes Back
  9. The Lord of the Rings trilogy
  10. His Girl Friday
  11. Persona
  12. Chinatown
  13. Manhattan
  14. Taxi Driver
  15. It's a Wonderful Life
  16. The Apartment
  17. Once Upon A Time In The West
  18. All About Eve
  19. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
  20. Apocalypse Now
  21. Crash
  22. Sunrise
  23. The Godfather
  24. Rear Window
  25. Sunset Boulevard
Among the more dubious elements to this list:
  • How is filler The Empire Strikes Back the top Star Wars film rather than the ground-breaking original?
  • And on that note, how can the me-too Goodfellas top its inspiration, The Godfather?
  • Why is the Lord of the Rings in as a trilogy wheras The Godfather is not?
  • And how did Crash and Fight Club even make the list?
I could understand it if it was compiled by the general public and subject to the inconsistencies of fashion and good taste, but apparently the list was compiled by the editorial staff.

In truth, if the top 5 contained all the usual suspects (in fact, where is The Usual Suspects in this list?), such as Citizen Kane, The Godfather and Casablanca, it would be less newsworthy and wouldn't be the subject of posts like this extending its reach online.

Ever feel like you've been had?

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

No more, no less, that's the Magic Numbers

Mercury Music prize nominees the Magic Numbers made history when they became the first band to walk out of Top of the Pops. The band is made up of two brothers and two sisters, two of whom are a little larger than your average pop star.

Presenter Richard Bacon introduced the band with the quip: “What do you get when you put two brothers and two sisters in a band? A big fat melting pot.”

Insulted, the band walked off at the gibe about their weight. Bacon has since said that he was 'mortified' and that 'big' referred to their status not their weight.

Who is he trying to kid? The joke is typical Bacon humour, the former Blue Peter presenter who went onto star on the firmly tongue-in-cheek big breakfast and the ever sincere art form that is commercial radio.

Ironically, the furore over the walk out has done the band no harm both in terms of publicity and credibility. It has become a major talking point over the web, showing once again the internet's ability to extend the shelf life of a story and provide those that missed it with the ability to search for all the juicy details.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Perhaps I could be a contender after all

After my not so recent post on helping this site to reach 'contender' status on Marketleap's link popularity checker, the site's number of incoming links has continued to grow unabated. Despite a shameful absence of recent posts, the site has now gone over the 'magic' 2,000 links mark.

This has resulted in a noticable increase in traffic and no doubt readers concluding that the blogger has gone AWOL (ahem). Of particular fascination to my recent visitors has been the traffic banker that is Janet Jackson's breasts, despite this being one of my oldest and silliest posts.

While concluding that writing less posts has resulted in more traffic is really not healthy to the continued existance of this blog, it has been interesting to see how existing links proliferate over time. Much of this is due to this blog appearing on the blogroll of several long suffering bloggers. As they continue to post at a comparatively prolific rate, so the number of links has increased. No doubt this post will return the favour somewhat to those regulars on my blogroll.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Spam bloggers

Blogger has a handy feature for exploring other blogs in the blogosphere. On the top right of the blogger navigation bar is a 'Next blog' function (see above).

I'm not aware of how scientific Blogger is in terms of whether the next blog is related or random. Certainly it looks random as you jump from business blogs to personnal blogs to the inevitable spam blogs.

Netcoms dot com truth no. 1: Wherever there is a communications tool, there is a spammer.

If you want to see what I'm talking about, a few clicks of 'Next blog' will reveal a spam blog stuffed to the gills with keywords. I fail to understand how the spammers believe this will yield them results. Judging by the pure repetition, many of the blogs look auto generated and are certain to set the search engines alarm bells ringing. The scale of keyword stuffing will most likely lead to an automatic ban and certainly to a manual ban if spotted.

Tellingly, I have yet to come across a spam blog in the search engines and have only stumbled across them through the random 'Next blog' function. A quick analysis of a couple of the spam blogs I found revealed no inbound links on the first and one inbound link on another from, guess what, another spam blog - talk about a bad neighbourhood (more SEO alarm bells).

Even if they manage to get someone to stumble across the spam blog, they are so obviously gibberish that any visitor would be very unlikely to click on a link and earn them some affiliate revenue.

So why bother? Please stop (I wish).

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

When it comes to viral marketing, simple is often best

A campaign from Milwaekee's Best Light shows that a very simple idea well executed can make an effective viral.

While hardly the most PC of virals, 'Lust for Bust' is clearly targeted at its demographic and is curiously addictive (slap!).

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

"I coulda been a contender"

Cyberspace can be a big and lonely place, particularly for the humble blogger. This humble blog has been in existance for just over two years and started out as a tiny blip on an unknown server with not a single link to its name.

Links are the lifeblood of websites and a good source of traffic both direct and in terms of increasing search engine ranking.

Among the ways to investigate the number of links through to your site is Marketleap's link popularity checker (one more link for them then) which divides sites into broad categories based on the number of inbound links.

- Limted presence: 0-1,000
- Average: 1,001-5,000
- Above average: 5,001-20,000
- Contender: 20,001-100,000
- Player: 100,001-500,000
- 900lb Gorilla: 500,001 and up

Netcoms dot com has this year moved into the 'Average' category with around 1,500 links and rising. Much of these are through blog directories which I suspect carry little weight in terms of PageRank, but gradually over time, this blog has made it onto blogrolls, niche websites and the odd traffic-busting appearance on Fark.com which have been having a noticable effect on traffic.

The rise in links has led to a rise in search engine traffic on terms from the logical Netcoms to the bizarre Janet Jackson's breasts. This has also coincided with a steady rise in PageRank from the white bar of anonymity to a respectably green varying 4-5/10.

Feel free to link to this article at the usual address and help me reach Contender status!

Thursday, July 14, 2005

London stands in silence

It has been quite a few weeks since my last post. The birth of my first child has diverted resources from all non-essential activity and this has taken its toll on this blog which recently celebrated (or not) it's two year anniversary.

I am moved to post again after the terrible events of last week in London. Today marks a week since the suicide bombings turned the highs of winning the Olympics into such lows. London (and other parts of the world) observed a two-minute silence at 12pm.

We left our office and found a space among the crowds in Soho Square. I looked around me waiting for the bells to chime 12 and was met by the curious sight of an awkward looking Sir Trevor Brooking being filmed by a lone cameraman. The crowds were so packed in that the cameraman could not turn to film other people, making Sir Trevor and indeed the cameraman increasingly uncomfortable.

Despite the strange sight, the silence was impeccably observed by those around me, no doubt reflecting on the 'what if's' and the stories of friends, colleagues and strangers.

While the bells announced the start of the silence, there were no bells to announce its finish. After the two minutes were clearly up, there was an awkward shuffling as no one dared to be the first to break the silence. It was finally broken by a spontaneous round of applause that spread around the square to mark the shared experience.

We milled back to our offices unsure of what to say. Sir Trevor's bizarre cameo seemed the easiest thing to talk about. Life, in all its strangeness, goes on.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Coldplaying a blinder

Coldplay have achieved the kind of success that breeds envy. With the launch of their new album, the amount of sour grapes in the UK media has hardly been surprising (international readers, how was it for you? Let me know in the comments section).

A fitting album title may have been 'Damned if you do, Damned if you don't' rather than the obscure chromosone reference of 'X&Y'. No wonder it took them nigh on two years to release the thing.

Perhaps the boys need a little praise to stem the flow of bad press.

As a subscriber to their 'In my Place' newsletter, I have been impressed of late with their understanding of how to operate in the digital age. Their website has been the epitome of talking directly with their fans and contains valuable lessons for those seeking to market on the internet:
  • Early bird concert ticket deals for subscribers, so the fans get there before the e-bay touts
  • Exclusive audio of the new single 'Speed of Sound'
  • Exclusive video of 'Speed of Sound'
  • Teasers for the album tracks
  • Backstage concert footage
  • 'What the band are listening to' featured on the 'Coldplayer'
The combination of teasers and exclusives worked a treat and they've managed to squeeze concert tickets and an album sale out of me (as well as this endorsement, non-paid unfortunately).

Remember people like to buy, they don't like to be sold.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Sipping Google Bourbon with GoogleGuy

No, not another Google Gulp drinks launch, but instead the latest algorithm update.

Within the search engine community the mysterious, yet knowledgable, GoogleGuy provides the kind of positive PR that Scoble has been doing for Microsoft. He demonstrates a degree of openness that can only benefit the SEO community and the perception of Google within it.

He has been commenting on the recent Google Bourbon update advising the SEO community that the update is not yet complete:

"Take a break from checking ranks for several more days. Bourbon includes something like 3.5 improvements in search quality, and I believe that only a couple are out so far. The 0.5 will go out in a day or so, and the last major change should roll out over the next week or so. Then there will still be some minor changes after that as well."

GoogleGuy has also demonstrated his openness in a new Questions for GoogleGuy thread with interesting responses on topics such as reinclusions (suggests allowing 4-6 weeks) and why they are not planning on going down the pay-for-inclusion route anytime soon (avoidance of conflict of interest).

After a mammoth Q&A session on the boards, he hints that maybe there's something in this blogging thing after all:

Maybe I ought to get me one of these blog things; I hear they're really popular with the kids these days. :)

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

No follow, no fair!

If I am discussing a point raised in another blog, I will try and be a good netizen and set up a trackback. These are by no means automatic for a Blogger.com user and require you to make the effort to perform a manual ping from the Haloscan website.

If blogs do indeed drive 'global conversation', then a blogger should use the tools available to them, such as enabling comments, trackbacks and maintaining a blogroll.

I have also noticed that depending on the calibre of the site you are linking to, trackbacks provide reasonable levels of quality visitors who generally contribute more than the average search engine visitor.

However, on a recent link popularity check of my inbound links, I was surprised to see that the trackbacks do not appear, even though the direct link to my blog appears in the source code.

A quick search of the source code on some of my blogroll revealed that the majority of trackbacks (including those on this site) contain a 'nofollow' tag which will prevent the search engines from following that link. Clearly, this is done to prevent people abusing the system to obtain 'free' links from high PageRank websites.

Trackbacks are a diluted form of link exchange and the 'nofollow' barrier doesn't exactly encourage you to link to others. The problem is that setting up a trackback whitelist would be more trouble than it's worth and the hassle of comment spam is worse than the joys of interlinking.

Perhaps it is better to give than to receive.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

It's what you do with it that counts

Interesting statistics on Steve Rubel's blog about how many of those with a blog actually blog. These are the blogs that are not just for Christmas with figures from Technorati showing 800-900k daily posts and BlogPulse between 350-450k - quite a discrepancy and indicative of the need of more coordinated metrics (as well as their differing measurement methodology).

Irony aside given the recent squirrel posts, I would argue that it's not that you blog, it's what you do with it that counts (I'm looking forward to seeing the searches I get through on that phrase).

The real metrics of interest are those of conversation - both talking and listening: trackbacks, comments, RSS subscribers and, let's face it, recognition from the offline world. Now there's a combined metric I'd like to see...

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

May the Farm be with you

Someone mentioned something about a new Star Wars film being released...?

As ever with any major event, this provides the cue for individuals and brands to launch their own viral to try and piggyback the event.

Among the lettuces are a couple of gems:
  • A surprisingly well produced Store Wars movie from The Organic Trade Association, featuring the likes of 'Ham-Solo' and 'Chew-broccoli'
  • Burger King's latest viral smash the Sith Sense where a hilarious Darth Vader taunts you as he tries to read your mind
Let me know of any other (decent) ones in the comments section.

Friday, May 20, 2005

A guide for London's pedestrians

As someone who regularly scoots through London's West End, I am amazed on a daily basis by quite how little the average pedestrian values their limbs and lives.

So, in the interests of the public good, here's my green cross code for next time you cross the road:

1) When you're on your mobile phone, the world of cars and bikes goes on. I've lost time of the amount of times I've nearly ran into pedestrians staring vacantly into the distance as they waft across the busy roads.

2) Road users do not just consist of cars and buses. Bicycles are shooting up the inside lane and motorbikes and scooters shooting down the middle lane (most of the time). At least on a scooter you'd think people could hear you coming. Nope; they stride confidently through the traffic looking in the opposite direction leaving you with 3 options:
  • Emergency stop and hope you can keep upright
  • Plough into the oncoming bus at 30 mph. Ouch.
  • Pedestrian meets scooter. Ouch all round.
3) When you cross at a pedestrian crossing, red man or green man, we can at least anticipate you'll do so. Cross at random and we have no idea you're coming. This is really important if you ignore points 1) and 2)

4) Note for our American cousins: we drive on the left, guys. Keep an eye out for those little arrows they paint on our roads and that's the way we're coming. Better yet, let's just all drive on the left, OK?

Friday rant over. I decided to get the train in today.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Squirrels - have I really gone nuts?

Yes, OK, the previous squirrel post was a very strange one, particularly after such a long time since my previous post. Time to come clean...

Statcounter has been revealing some weird keyword searches through to this blog. Who'd have thought that of the millions of websites out there, this blog would be site of choice for terms such as 'Google dot com', 'Janet Jackson's breasts' and most suprisingly 'Britney virginity'.

As a blog that primarily writes about online communications, with the odd celeb mention along the way, I'm sure there are better sites out there to provide the kind of details and imagery that I imagine those searching are looking for.

My view is that these kinds of visits are a result of the search engines' love of blog results. Think about it - regular content, keyword rich urls, inter-linking paradise and the kind of opinions that makes the web interesting. If you can add to this a decent PageRank, or equivalent, then this is one of the reasons that the humble blog can reach such elevated search status.

I will of course be keeping an eye out for squirrel-related visits after my previous post and if the number of visits starts to add up, I will be sure to keep my readers up-to-date with all of the latest squirrel news.
Squirrels on the line

No, not another rant about commuting into London, but instead it seems the Rail companies have been passing on some of their more dubious excuses onto a certain BT engineer. The 'squirrel problem' has resurfaced with the furry-tailed pranksters gnawing through phone lines and cutting off this blog's readers.

As a BT Broadband subscriber, with a garden full of squirrels, perhaps I shouldn't be tempting fate by covering this 'story'. However, according to Silicon.com, the culprit is an over-creative BT engineer and the rodents will be relieved to hear that they have been cleared of any wrong doing by head office and I can keep my fingers crossed that my current problem-free service will continue.

Monday, April 11, 2005

The Podshow must go on

Back in March, I suggested that Virgin Radio's pioneering, if flawed, Podcasts could be a major step forward for the nascent medium.

It looks like investing in that crystal ball was worthwhile with news that Podshows.com is launching offering the listeners the chance to pay (49p upwards) to download a custom show.

While the quality varies, with some dubious careers resurrections (literally in Kenny Everett's case), this is an interesting new model for radio, especially as, unlike Virgin Radio's Podcasts, you will be able to listen to most of the music.

However, the model does raise several questions:

- Can the public be persuaded to pay for a medium that has always been free (bar listening to a few ads)?

- Do the likes of Tony Blackburn and Terry 'The Word' Christian have enough of a cult following among Podcast users to pay for the service?

- Is there a big enough audience out there given recent debate over the actual number of people downloading Podcasts? Perhaps not yet.

- How long before they start appearing on the P2P networks? (That's a whole other question...)

As an advocate of Me, Me, Me media, I welcome such developments and expect this to be one of many models in the search for turning Podcasting potential into profit.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Arise Sir Webcam

Long the preserve of lonely souls and indiscreet soap stars, the humble webcam now comes with royal approval. This follows news that royal enthusiasts will be able to follow this week's second, or third, most important event live on the web.

Before you get too carried away at the thought of a CamillaCam or a Subservient Charles, the 'powerful' cams in question will be placed on the roof of the hotel across the street from the civil ceremony offering, I quote, 'the best seats in the house'. Let's just hope they're pointing in the right direction, after PigeonCam has finished with them.

As ever E-bay is getting in on the act with characteristic good taste by offering a Windsor shopfront up for hire, no doubt to sell all of that wonderful memorabilia.

There's nothing quite like a Royal wedding in the Internet age...

Friday, April 01, 2005

More April Fool you

A skirt around the main news websites reveals a worrying absense of the traditional April Fool's spoof stories. The BBC, Telegraph, Sun and Independent have either not yet bothered or have hidden them in the digital equivalent of column 5, page 17. This has made for an enjoyable guessing game of whether today's main stories are in fact made up by some enterprising hack...

However, the spoofs are slowly emerging, some admittedly better than others, as we have learnt today that:
- Furnitureless Steve Jobs of Apple is to join Ikea
- Towering Saints striker Peter Crouchinhio is in fact still growing and could top 7ft by the end of the year
- There will be a worrying new tax on blogging

And, to top it all, could Toon idol Alan Shearer finally be showing that he does have a sense of humour and is quitting after all (yawn)?

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

For people who've REALLY got too much time on their hands

Find an empty room. Turn it upside down. Become a minor internet celebrity.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Caught a nasty viral

Adrants has been ranting about viral marketing. While there's much to agree with, I have to disagree with the final paragraph:

There's not much a marketer can lose using the viral medium. The stakes are low. The potential return, very high. The worst thing that can happen is no one will see it. No problem. Try again. It's cheap.

The worst thing that can happen is not that no one will see it. That's pretty bad, as it's hard to get clients to invest in viral campaigns and a failed campaign doesn't make it any easier to secure budget for next time. Fine if you're in traditional advertising and the viral is an add-on, not so fine if you specialise in digital.

Worse is that in the attempt to be edgy you misjudge the content and create a consumer backlash against the brand that makes all the wrong headlines. Those kind of mistakes are expensive. Just ask Ford about their headless cat (they say it was not a sanctioned release). Some argue that the controversy made it successful, but the tone of their 'wasn't us' denials suggest those at HQ wouldn't agree.

Successful virals are a delicate balance between the 'underground' nature of the Internet and branding requirements and the two are not a natural fit. That's why all virals need the moment of genius that Adrants' rant alludes to. Get it right and achieve the kind of reach per cost that only the Internet can provide. Push it too far and, sometimes, it's better that no one sees it.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

We're not in right now, please take your business elsewhere

In the heady days of the Internet boom, countless companies were born and subsequently died on the advertising-based revenue model. The bursting of the dot com bubble showed that business fundamentals still apply and that over optimistic advertising forecasts just did not materialise.

Thankfully for the industry, things have largely stabilised with better balanced business models, based on a careful mix of advertising (especially the saviour paid search), subscription services and e-commerce. However, the case for digital media is still being made and the arguments have still to be won in convincing the major advertisers to apportion ad spend commensurate with consumption of the media.

Given this background, I was amazed when putting together a media plan this week at the lack of responsiveness among certain prominent sites.

- To begin with, when it's such an important revenue stream why make it so difficult to find out who to contact? Some sites hid the information in 'About Us', one 'Advertise' link was a dead link, others resulted in a form to submit (I'm sure I'm not alone in finding these too impersonal and wondering who actually answers enquiries and when...)

- One website helpfully listed three contacts and their direct lines. All were on voicemail. I left a message for one of them and sent a cc'd email to the two others and await a reply more than 48 hours later

- Of those I emailed, I am still waiting more than 48 hours later for even an acknowledgement of my request for information having said I had a deadline to meet

With a big name client and money to spend, the response across this range of sites gets a 'must try harder' on the half-term report, especially as we're not talking about one-man sites with limited resources.

The exception that proved the rule, was the site that published a direct line from a prominent 'Advertise here' link, answered their phone and sent through a proposal in the time requested. Guess who's more likely to get the business?

Friday, March 11, 2005

Who leaked the Doctor?

With the new series of Doctor Who about to be released, it was hardly a surprise to read that the first episode had been leaked onto the Net.

Material ranging from the recent U2 album to the dire Matrix sequels have done the pre-release rounds to much media hype and outrage from the producers in what seems to have become the sign of must-have content in today's peer-to-peer age.

While I'm by no means suggesting that the prematurely returning Doc was deliberate (and I'm sure the BBC lawyers would back me on that), it does make me consider how risk-taking marketers with the right product could use the peer-to-peer phenomenon wisely by actually releasing limited content through this channel.

It's increasingly commonplace for artists with an album to market offer limited free downloads of their tracks and a natural extension would be the right P2P networks, some of whom are slowly moving down the road to a legitimate business model.

The problem is that such networks are hardly respecters of copyright once the full versions are released, but perhaps engaging with this huge community of potential customers can help begin to address the major challenge that content producers are facing.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Light at the end of the tunnel for mobile rage

Nice to see I'm not alone in my mobile rage with Jeezidunno giving Gapingvoid's cartoons a run for their money...
Podcasting for Virgins

In a wake-up call for the commercial radio sector, Virgin Radio's Pete & Geoff breakfast show (yes, hoho) has announced that they will be creating a Podcast of the show (almost).

However, with the RIAA and BPI in particularly litigious mood of late, it's hardly surprising that there's no music allowed, as this would apparently constitute illegally downloading.

As a regular listener to the show and a fan of technology, I would surely be in their target audience, but I won't be subscribing anytime soon.

Firstly, while their banter is better than most, it's the music that I, and I suspect the majority, commercial radio listeners tune in for and this places the content firmly in the decaffeinated camp for me.

Secondly, while I appreciate the flexibility of being able to listen to the comedy duo at my own convenience, the 'popcorn' instant hit value of commercial radio hardly makes it worth keeping for posterity or even taking up valuable storage on a rapidly becoming out-of-date MP3 player.

However, I can only applaud Virgin Radio for helping Podcasting take a major step forward into the mainstream, and even if it does just end up as a nice bit of PR, the importance will be in the others that follow their lead.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

No run of the mill mobile usage

Now this blogger has returned to two wheels for the daily commute, I was expecting to leave the annoyances of inconsiderate mobile phone users behind me. However, a recent experience has shown me that this form of communication is truly ubiquitous.

Anxious to run off the excesses of the festive season, I joined the thousands enrolling in the guilt-powered new year gym renaissance. As I pounded away on the treadmill, I was treated the peculiar phenomenon of the Crazy Frog ringtone (if you don't know what that is, consider yourself blessed) as a mobile went off in my vicinity.

Suprisingly, it belonged to the jogger next to me, who, without breaking stride, answered her phone and starting mumbling panting banalities into her phone, issuing the immortal line: 'HELLO, I'M ON THE TREADMILL'.

Is nowhere sacred?

Friday, February 18, 2005

Sometimes the simplest ones are the best

My award for this week's top viral goes to those crazy kids that have been Photoshopping a touching airport scene.

The 'Airbus landing' shot is winning the office straw poll...

Monday, February 14, 2005

Blackberry your head in the sand

Blackberrys have replaced the mobile phones of a few years ago, as the ostentatious communications item of the day. It has become a peculiar status symbol to sit in a café or meeting, furiously tapping away to clients and friends.

I witnessed this phenomenon on a recent stag do, where two of the merchant banking fraternity spent all day long 'Blackberrying' (surely there's a verb for this by now?) in bars in what seemed to be a vain attempt to impress the local beauties. However, given the lack of technology in the host country, an enquiry to said beauties revealed that they assumed they were fiddling with pocket calculators (seriously). Well, quite.

With echoes of mobile phone usage in the classroom, Silicon.com reveals that Blackberrys (or any other electronic devices) are being banned from use in the House of Commons - a development no doubt linked to Alistair Cambell's 4-letter Blackberry faux pas to the BBC.

Readers will of course be able to tell that this is a green-eyed monster of a post and that Jason Benali's alter-ego wishes he was important enough to qualify for a company one.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

A Tale of Three Bloggers

An interesting exchange has been brewing between El Blogador and the former apples of his blogger's eye, Johnnie Moore and Hugh of Gaping Void fame.

El Blogador started it with his public renunciation of the unfortunate duo with a rather direct Flushed down the Blog post stating:

"I have unceremoniously removed mssrs Hughtrain and Johnny Moore from my blogroll today. They've spent the past couple of weeks frenziedly banging nails into coffins and I just can't stand the racket any more."

As a man who takes a healthy interest in the blogging of others, Johnny Moore replied with a to-the-point, if tongue-in-cheek, Ouch:

"Oh. El Blogador has had it with me:

Wow, I didn't realise I was making that much noise. And I'm sorry El Blogador won't read my thanks for having listened in the first place as I'm no longer in his reader. It's the "unceremonious" part that stings, surely a flag ceremony and bag pipe jig (or lament) would be justifed?"

A quick look at the growing list of comments revealed a riposte from fellow cast-off Hugh:

"heh. i saw that a while ago. was going to post, but... it's hard enough finding time to post the good bloggers."

As a subscriber to all three blogs, I wonder whether I should take sides and pledge my allegiance to one or Moore?

On a more serious note, is this exchange indicative of my buzzword for 2005 'RSS fatigue'? Both the pleasure and the pain of RSS is being able to keep up with all the latest posts as they happen. It is inevitable that given the niche viewpoints that make many blogs interesting that a repeated theme may end up as a series of 'nails' to an information-overloaded subscriber.

The growth of RSS among regular blog readers makes me wonder if there will become an accepted level of posts, similar to the way we advise people on getting the frequency of email newsletters right.

In truth, most blogs are dependent on the individual's blogger proclivities and some feel the need to do it much more regularly than others. Such a train of thought medium is not suited to a 2-3 times a week limit, as, well, you're not always in the mood, are you? So, it's inevitable that the likes of El Blogador will fall in and out of love with his fellow bloggers.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Mobile Bingo!

As a regular commuter on the trains into London, one of my pet hates is inconsiderate mobile phone users. Last night, I was the victim of a mobile sandwich as I sat sullenly trying to block out the loud, inane drivel from either side.

The only thing that kept me from mobile rage (surely the buzzword of 2005?) was creating an idea to help such beleagered commuters such as myself - mobile bingo.

To play, you write out a bingo-style card with classic phrases, such as:

- 'I'm on the train'
- 'I'm going into a tunnel'
- 'Can you hear me?'
- Double usage of 'Hello'
- A bizarre personal revelation, e.g. 'I've got this itch'
- An argument
- "I can't talk now" but keep going for more than five minutes
(Add your own in the comments section)

When you've ticked off a row, simply stand and shout 'MOBILE BINGO!' to the carriage. Even better, give out cards at the start of the journey, so you can play with your fellow commuters.

However, help may be at hand for those not able to play. On a recent visit to the airport, I noticed noise cancelling headphones in Dixons and indeed a quick Gooogle revealed detailed instructions on how to build your own (all you need is a degree in electronic engineering).

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Build it and they won't come

It is easier than ever to publish your content on the web. Whether to set up a blog, post a comment or a review, or even to make the effort to learn some HTML and set up your own site, the technology is there to hold your hand and doesn't require an advanced degree in geekdom.

However, the flip side of this liberation in content publishing is that there is not enough thought given to how to actually get people to visit your content, nor, to be fair, knowledge about how to do it.

Given the expansion of the web and the increasing ability to personalise web consumption through RSS feeds and improved web search, it is all too easy for anything from a personal blog to a corporate website to lie undisturbed on a server with only an author and a webmaster to care for it (or about it).

So, what should you be doing about it? A blog post is not the place to write a detailed guide, but here are some pointers:

- The web is full of useful/useless information - make use of it! Google to read up on the basics - learn about how search engines work, about directories, link exchanges, advertising... (If the thought of all that research sends you dizzy, then Web Marketing Today is a good place to start.)

- Research your competitors and peers. What are they doing to promote their website, can you help each other and who links to them? (To check who is linking to any url, you can do a link popularity check.)

- A website is for life, not just for one visit. Consider how you will encourage repeat visits. Think newsletters, reader interaction (e.g. comments, forums), RSS feeds...

- Track, track, track. Use web tracking tools, ask for feedback through polls and surveys and act on the information.

Friday, January 14, 2005

I'm on the train. HELLO, HELLO...

As a regular commuter into London on the train, I have become increasingly sensitive to the decibel-fueled Dom Joly school of mobile phone conversations. Part of the problem has been the unfortunate demise of a Christmas 'Ministry of Sound' MP3 player which, true to brand, finds it impossible to function in daylight.

With all of the hype surrounding Macworld this week, from the launch of the Mac Mini to the iPod Shuffle, I recall with great fondness the first Walkman that I bought some fifteen years ago. By some strange combination of consumer abuse and state-of-the-Ark engineering, one of the side effects of its increasingly erratic performance, is that it blocks out mobile phone signals within a short radius. All I need to do is to find some old stock, bury it in the garden for 11 months and it will be Christmas 2005's top commuter gadget.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

The blogger is back in town

Niall Cook's New Year resolution to unsubscribe from every email newsletter to switch to RSS feeds is laudable. At this time of year, information overload is at its worst, as you return from the New Year excesses to a mass of emails as impenetrable as the weather outside. The convenience of RSS feeds, such as Bloglines, helps to manage information overload by having access to your news sources in one place and allows you to keep bang up-to-date with new articles published.

The pressures of the New Year have made it difficult to keep up with the blog, so I can only admire the prolific output of fellow blogger Johnnie Moore, who has managed not just one, but four posts today. Whether he can maintain this output over the rest of the year or in facts works to a different calendar to the rest of us Brits, only time will tell.