The most stationary of all stationery items, scissors hate to be hurried. I learned this as a child. You did too, probably. Don't run with scissors. A clear and simple instruction. Pencils, glue, staples... no problem. For them, like us, it's a finite existence. Time is short so don't dilly dally. But don't run with scissors.

Sunday, 30 September 2012

september 2012 word cloud: "people like apple"..?

September 2012 saw the greatest volume of traffic to my site/blog since I started this version of it in February 2009 (it replaced an older iteration of the blog, which dated back to 2007).

Judging by the evidence below, it appears I may have focused on the fact that "people like Apple" - but I somehow doubt that was the case.

September 2012 word cloud

Sunday, 23 September 2012

the iphoney war and apple’s transformation into the AOL of mobile

Two kinds of queue form in the run up to a new launch from Apple.

The first is, of course, fanboyz who cannot wait to be among the very first to own the new iPhone, iPad or iWhatever.

The second is the nay-sayers, typically Android-owners who cannot wait to be among the first to mock said new and shiny Apple hardware. Although it’s generally the software they take issue with.

Thus it was this last week when the iPhone 5 came out and iOS 6 was released.

It’s as dull as it is predictable.

I used an iPhone for about three years and have been an Android user for the past year. Each has their good and bad points – like most things, really.

The ideology underpinning these two platforms is very different though.

There’s an excellent piece about in this GigaOM, which reports on a talk given by RIM’s Sebastian Marineau-Mes last week on the need for curated openness

Hat-tip to @craigdeakin for tweeting about it and bringing it to my attention.

Apple increasingly reminds me of AOL, something I think I first said in 2010. Surely I ought to have an original thought, but anyway...

Back in the mid 1990s AOL made getting online really uncomplicated and non-confrontational for its users. But the internet they were accessing wasn’t like the internet the rest of us were playing and working in. Eventually the walled-garden, where you were allowed only what your provider wanted you to have (or just the bits they thought you needed) suffered a breach.

In droves, AOL users defected to less tightly-bound online environments. You can track similar patterns in many early online communities and groupings – great at first because they were easy, they failed to keep pace with the changing needs and tastes of their users, who soon outgrew them.

I’m not saying the same thing could happen to Apple.

But that’s only because the main alternative in the mobile world – Android – looks like a cross between 'Lord of the Flies' and a food fight in a soft-play centre by comparison with the order and control Apple instills – despite it’s cool counter-culture image, Apple has become the man in recent years. Massive financial success tends to make one want to protect ones interests, after all.

With each new iOS version Apple has seemed, in recent years at any rate, to be clawing back control and I have to admit part of me really admires the slow steady way in which that's being done. Like so many frogs in pans of gently warming water, iPhone (and iPad) users probably won’t realise they’re being cooked until it’s too late.

Try migrating from iPhone to Android and continuing to carry your music around with you like you used to have it in your iTunes library. Oh hai digital rights management. Now, where did I put my iPod?

At the moment, Google is too busy grafting additional fingers on to its hands so it can make friendly with all the pies. This cannot continue indefinitely.

Once it has reached sufficient critical mass in its key operations, markets and offerings, there will be a move to consolidate what it’s doing. At that point, I wonder if someone at Google will decide its time to stop pissfarting around and offer Apple customers a safe and enticing alternative, with no walls but plenty of garden for everyone.

I got a tweet from Charles Arthur, the technology editor at the Guardian. I was flattered that he'd read my piece. Here it is:

Well, I worried that I may now look a bit of a prat. While it wouldn't be the first time, it's not a state-of-being I like having thrust upon me.

To that end, here (below) is a screengrab of the sync history from when I synced my phone and laptop at around 2:30pm.

You'll learn two things from this. 

The first is that the term DRM is used and given as a reason for the failure of certain things to sync, thereby mitigating the risk of my looking like the sort of prat who mightn't know that "apple (sic) hasn't had DRM on music for years."

I should stress, I am not arguing with Charles. I am merely drawing your attention to the fact that the piece, which is written purely as opinion not fact, is drawn upon my experiences not my assumptions.  It may well be the case there's no DRM on music via Apple. Yet it appears here in an error message.

The second thing you'll learn is there's right old motley collection of stuff to be found a-lurking in my iTunes library. From "My Sharona" to "Finn Family Moomintroll", from "Psycho Killer" to "Brideshead Revisited".

To Charles's other point, yes there are ways around this stuff, but I think the ease-of-use aspect of my piece was apparent. This piece is a comment on how Apple make it easy for you to stay and (relatively) hard for you to leave - hence the analogy of frogs being slowly cooked. It is not a "How to..." guide, which is just as well really, as I'm sure you'd agree.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

spinach, start-ups, and bloated tech companies

Dear Tesco, what is the point of this?

I’m referring to the pic of two baby spinach leaves with a speech bubble asking “what am I like?”
 At first glance, and maybe because I lived in Manchester for a time, when I see “what am I like” in my head I hear an annoying voice going “what am I like, eh? I’m just dead mad I am.

But no, the baby spinach is asking a straight question which is subsequently answered. For this is an attempt to tell anyone who has never tried baby spinach what it’s like.

“Young and tender dark green leaves…” is the first thing we are told. It’s also the first thing I have issue with.

“No shit,” one of the unfiltered voices in my head cries out. Baby anything tends to be young and tender.  And I can see there are dark green leaves, because much of the bag is transparent.

Next we are told the leaves come “.. with a distinctive flavour.”

I see.

A distinctive flavour.

Dog shit has a distinctive flavour (sorry, same unfiltered voice as above). So does toothpaste. Everything that isn’t a compound of other flavours has, by definition, a distinctive flavour.

Describing the flavour as distinctive doesn’t tell me anything useful.

So, what’s the point?

I’m not on some there’s-too-much-information crusade. I see this as yet another symptom of marketing departments populated by people with no real clue how to communicate with other people – well, with real people; they probably manage just fine talking utter garbage to other dullard marketing managers.

Anyone in PR will at some point have had to work with one of those people at a client. A mid-to-senior level marketing manager who is only in a position of responsibility because everyone better than them was either made redundant in the post-2008 downturn, or left to do something more rewarding.

These people don’t understand concepts like communicating effectively. They talk almost exclusively in jargon. Can’t cope with being challenged and have no frame of reference outside the impossibly narrow confines of their pointless job and equally uninspiring dimwit colleagues.

They add no value and, by and large, the only skills they have acquired are sufficient political nous to dodge the redundancy bullet and a few knife-wielding chops, but only when people’s backs are turned.

While so much of the tech sector is currently experiencing paroxysms of joy over the incredible talent of our burgeoning start-up communities, the heavier weight tech companies remain bloated by people who were hired during periods of rapid growth and who ought to have been jettisoned long ago.

In case you were wondering, yes I do feel better now thanks.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

tweeting while naked

Not literally naked. Good lord, no.

But figuratively speaking – as in the Emperor’s new clothes.

There was a story circulating last week about how few CEOs of Fortune 500 companies are active on twitter – 19 of the 500 have accounts and only nice actually tweet regularly.  This low take-up of twitter can be linked to $1.3 trillion of missed revenue opportunities, apparently.

Unlike one member of my family, I am not a mathematician. But even I know a trillion of anything is a lot. So, when someone starts talking about $1.3 trillion and links that with tweeting, you can be certain lots of publicity will follow.

Wow. Only 19 of the Fortune 500 have a CEO on twitter, and only nine of those are active.

Wow. $1.3 trillion in missing revenues.

Wow. What a bunch of bozos those CEOs must be. It’s a wonder they haven’t all gone to the wall, isn’t it..?

It’s all nonsense. Furthermore, its misleading, dangerous and self-serving.

What I see from this report is that 491 of the Fortune 500 are getting along nicely without their CEO being paraded around like some superannuated Aunt Sally.

I can’t think – off the top of my head – of any other genre or sector where research can be so blithely turned on its head in an attempt to convince us all that black is white. Nor a sector where so many seemingly bright and capable people are duped so easily – and so frequently – into believing social media will save us all… that if we tweet a bit more, like a bit more, somehow businesses will gain a financial reward.

Maybe… if they’re in the business of charging simpletons for wafer-thin research and hokey advice on social media. Otherwise, nah.. there’s no direct causal link between tweets, likes and sales.

There’s more to social media than Twitter and Facebook, I hear some of you cry. Well, of course there is. But we all know where the concentration of traffic, investment and attention lie.

I saw something else recently that said the ‘marketing function’ within businesses was now redundant because of social media. I can only presume that was written by someone who once had marketing explained to them briefly and promptly forgot most of what they’d heard.

Which brings me back to the naked thing.

There are so many flaws in these kinds of report they remind me of sixth form magazine journalism. All posture and opinion, no facts and bugger all evidence.

If you recall the childhood fable, the reason you can see the Emperor’s bum is because he’s not wearing any trousers. Not because you aren’t special enough to be able to see the magic cloth.

The continued insistence by some in the comms world that social media (note, ‘social media’ not ‘digital communications’) and in particular the use of Twitter is one of the great business transformers of our age, is misguided.

Social, in all it’s multi-platformed glory, might be relatively new, but it’s not so new that there hasn’t been time to try it out, use it and see what it’s good for.

It’s good for chatting to people, sharing stuff, issuing vouchers or running competitions. It’s amazing for cat videos going viral, and for giving customers a variety of ways with which to broadcast how much they hate your shitty products and crappy customer service.

It’s good for off-piste online dating activities, and for pretending to be something you’re not.  (hello bored married people wherever you may be).

Not so good at helping any kind of business-to-business transaction though. I'm not saying it has no role at all here but it ain't no paradigm-shifter, that's all I'm saying.

Otherwise it wouldn’t be so hard to find actual case studies of businesses (that you’ve heard of) deriving actual ROI (that you can measure) from their use of Facebook, Twitter and gawd knows what else.

Before you say anything, yes… I know it works better for businesses selling to consumers. But even then, it’s generally acting as an adjunct to existing marcomms tactics and the extent to which it is used well depends on the creativity of those responsible for its use.

The more of us that push back on the nonsense and deploy a little critical thinking, the better.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

ANDREW'S BEEN FOUND!!! help find my friend's missing brother

At 12:46pm (BST) Andrew's sister Sarah tweeted that Andrew had been found and was on his way back to hospital.

Thank you so much to everyone who read and shared this post, and others, in the effort to find him.

Andrew McArthur is a vulnerable young man who went missing yesterday and was last seen in West Wickham – the Bromley end of south east Greater London.

I’d like you to take just a couple of minutes out of your day to read this post and help us find him. Please could you also share this post with people you know, or tweet about it... anything really.

His sister, Sarah, is a friend and former colleague. So I felt compelled to try to do something to help. I can’t do much, but if I can help spread the word (and I appreciate it’s a big if) maybe that will contribute in some small way.

Here’s a recent pic of Andrew.  When he was last seen he was wearing a black Bench waterproof, a grey T-shirt by Penguin, and jeans. He has light reactive lenses in his glasses.

Andrew McArthur
He went missing from The Maudsley Hospital in Beckenham on Monday 3 September.

Andrew was last seen at around 5pm by the hospital staff. If you live or work in or near Beckenham, Bromley, Croydon or any of the areas near Bethlam Royal Hospital, please keep a look out for him.

Andrew seemed to be OK to the staff at the hospital, so he was allowed out alone. He went missing once before back in 2009, so we're really hoping that he turns up safe and sound.

Andrew suffers from schizophrenia and by 10pm Monday was due to take his medication. Obviously, the more time passes when he’s not medicated, the harder it will be for Andrew to think and act rationally. So it’s really important he’s found.

Please share this with as many people as you can.

If you see Andrew please call Sarah (his sister) on 07890 105 089 or let the Metropolitan Police Service know by calling 101 and quoting the reference number: CAD8123.

Thank you.