Piccadilly Circus, March 2003

I acquired a new mobile ‘phone earlier in the week and it has a tiny camera in it which I used to take a picture of Piccadilly Circus at night

Piccadilly Circus At Night
From A Mobile Phone

I acquired a new mobile ‘phone earlier in the week. I didn’t actually choose the model because I was sent it. It’s bigger and heavier than my previous mobile and it doesn’t have a radio – which I really liked when I was walking to work. It does, however, have a calendar function which I am finding quite useful and it does have one of those built-in cameras that people rave about.

It’s not the greatest camera in the world but it is quite cool having a camera that you carry with you all the time. For no real reason, on Tuesday night I decided that I wanted to take a shot of Piccadilly Circus (I work just round the corner). I have just pulled the image off the ‘phone. It’s not a great photo (in fact it’s a pretty poor one) but I am really quite happy with it. There is something about the colour and the light that suggest the real buzz you get from walking across Piccadilly Circus at night. Now, let’s see how many more photos I post.

Obviously, I am not the only person in the world to have a camera in a ‘phone, I am not the only person to get excited about it and I am not the only one to blog it. Guess there’s very little unique about me!

Has the tide turned for free online content?

I don’t think we’re about to see the death of free. Once you don’t charge it’s going to be hard to charge because there’ll be somebody else with a free carrot.

Has the tide turned for free online content? AOL Time Warner has announced that a number of its properties will move away from offering free web-content. Much of that content is to move onto AOL:

We are making the move from the content being available for free, and (instead are) making it so you have to have a relationship with us, said Peter Costiglio, a Time Inc. spokesman [Source]

I’d love to see all web content free but it’s not practical and I take it as a sign that the industry is growing up and getting real. It will be interesting to see what happens in a year from now when, hopefully advertising revenues are up a little. Will it swing back in favour of ad-revenues?

Luckily, I don’t want to read them!

Small Screens Look Good

You know, I am really impressed by the new version of Opera (which has always been a browser I have used).

You know, I am really impressed by the new version of Opera (which has always been a browser I have used). I love many features while others, like the new M2 mail client, I am not too sure about. I think they may have something in the different approach to mail but I may just be too stuck in my emailing ways. Still, if you want to check out how your pages may look on smaller screens (phones, pdas etc.) if the vendor has selected Opera then boot up Opera 7, go to your site and SHIFT F11 for Opera’s small screen rendering. Left is my site as it looked the other day. I think it proved the power of style sheets as the whole thing is still quite browsable (is there such a word) and readable in the reduced format. I may even browse all the web like this!

Online Advertising is a Nuisance

43% of users think that online advertising is a nuisance. But will they pay for content. Isn’t that the question?

According to MSNBC earlier this week, 43% of users think that online advertising is a nuisance and, in another survey, 53% respondents said online clutter was a problem [both via Marketing Fix].

Of course, consumers do not like advertising. Nobody likes being advertised at, just as everybody believes that they are not swayed by advertising (but they know people who are!). Is this a big deal? Well, of course, no advertiser wants to believe their advertisement gets in the way and no advertiser wants to annoy users to the extent that they are turned off the product by the commercials. Yet, as noted in many places, TV advertising is the most intrusive advertising – the programme physically stops so they can show you an advertisement. So, why does online advertising come in for such a hard time?

Badly designed advertising can be a nuisance but I think advertising isn’t generally too much of a problem. What I am interested in is the concept of clutter. So many sites these days surround you with advertisements. Banners at the top, buttons down the left, a skyscraper on the right and some kind of rich-media thing walking across the middle. There’s a very large portal who does this kind of thing all the time. They’re making money but it’s very frustrating.

I’m sure cleverly designed advertising in the right place works – in all mediums. The online challenge is to make it work and make it profitable, at least profitable enough to pay for the sites we like.

To Be A Politician

On Iraq, I believe that the prevailing mood of the British people is sound. They do not doubt that Saddam is a brutal dictator, but they are not persuaded that he is a clear and present danger to Britain.

It must be an odd career being a politician – whatever you do somebody will disagree. After all, there is there is always somebody with a different coloured rosette. If your opinions are not being shouted down in some debating chamber due to political differences then you run the risk of being called self-serving. It’s one job where you know you will not be popular everywhere.

So is Robin Cook, former Foreign Secretary and now former leader of the House of Commons, a man of integrity or self-serving? I don’t know him so I can’t answer that. What I do believe is his resignation speach last night was one of the best speeches I have ever seen by a politician. It wasn’t bitter (although there was a sadness to it) and there were no personal attacks (even though he resigned because he disagreed with Government policy). He is not leaving his post because of some scandal but because he feels he can’t continue to serve in a Cabinet that supports a war he does not. With it he loses the trappings of office (house, car, staff?) and returns to the back benches.

I don’t know much about Robin Cook. I know that last night’s address was remarkable. He was eloquent and appeared to speak with a sincerity and conviction you do not see often in the modern politician. His argument (regardless of your stance) was delivered with a calm clarity that is, also, unusual. I admired the fact that he spoke to the House of Commons before the press and seemed, genuinely, to respect the workings of the British democracy. Isn’t it a shame more politicians don’t do that?

Now, some have suggested throughout the day that he was positioning himself for a role if all goes wrong for Tony Blair. But doesn’t taking a stance and having the integrity to declare when you believe something is right or wrong mean that you are positioning yourself. You can’t do anything about that. If he is proved to have been right then it’s only proper that people turn to him in the months to come. If he is wrong at least he has his integrity intact. If more of our elected representatives cared more for the policies than public opinion or their image and more spoke with the passion that Robin Cook did, I think British politics would be a better place.

Perhaps Claire Short should take another night to think about it.

Continue reading “To Be A Politician”

Dreams of the Downsized

Today I understood how the internet was built up and how it failed to deliver on those dreams for many people. What was sad were the changes that have happened to the online group over the last year. Gone are the product managers, most developers and many of the other staff. They are now much, much smaller than they were.

I went to see a client this morning: nothing too unusual in that fact. It was a client I have worked with over several years – the internet arm of a well-known organisation. Again, nothing too exceptional. Nice chat, coffee and new product overview (from my part). As I had not seen them for a while, I thought it would be nice to go back. Now, don’t get me wrong, it was great to see people there. What was sad were the changes that have happened to the online group over the last year. Gone are the product managers, most developers and many of the other staff. They are now much, much smaller than they were.

Again, nothing to unusual in this but today it struck me as sad. The ideas and the passion, the desire to make something happen and be part of it that all those people had – gone. How many people in so-called new media industries have been through it (some, several times)? I have been through the cut-back mill as people around me are “downsized” in order to allow companies to survive. Yet, today – I think – was the first day the scale of it struck me. I can’t really explain it and I am not sure that I want to try but today I think I understood how the internet was built up and how it failed to deliver on those dreams for many people.

The “why” of it all is a different story for a different day. Today is about the good people who have moved on. Hopefully, they’re doing better.

Thoughts on Blogspace

I believe I might be attaching a purity to the weblog concept that is misplaced. I wouldn’t place those same ideals on population as a whole, so why should I do it to the blogged world? Freedom to write whatever I want is a fine thing and, perhaps, I imposing concepts of integrity that are incompatible with this freedom?

Yesterday’s post has started a whole train of thoughts about the concept of blog integrity and why should we care? I am sure it’s the idealist in me that is attaching a great deal of importance to the billions of words blogged on a daily basis. Perhaps I shouldn’t care because the power of blog-space is that people write opinion and thought in an way that they want to. It’s not for anybody else to say that I shouldn’t be allowed to promote a new mobile ‘phone because either I want to or the company sent me a free ‘phone.

I believe I might be attaching a purity to the weblog concept that is misplaced. I wouldn’t place those same ideals on population as a whole, so why should I do it to the blogged world? Freedom to write whatever I want is a fine thing and, perhaps, I imposing concepts of integrity that are incompatible with this freedom?

I’m not sure where these thoughts are going but they are challenging my blog ideals. I mentioned in one of my posts yesterday to the UK Bloggers list that, perhaps, blogs were just catching up with other media. I suspect that is true but in a way I hadn’t thought – the fact that they are as exploitable, commercially, as any other media.

Where does this leave my online ideals?

In related reading, Rebecca Blood talks about these issues in Weblog Ethics.

Elsewhere: Blogging & Advertising

Over on the ukbloggers-discuss at Yahoo Groups, we’ve been having a discussion about advertising, prompted by Tom Coates asking, “Did we ever come to any conclusions about the appropriateness of advertising?” in the context of blogging. In essence we’re saying that blogging is personal and, if you decide that your audience will accept advertising, what does this mean and how iwll it work for a blog?

Over on the ukbloggers-discuss mailing list at Yahoo Groups, we’ve been having a discussion about advertising, prompted by Tom Coates asking, “Did we ever come to any conclusions about the appropriateness of advertising?” in the context of blogging. In essence we’re saying that blogging is personal and, if you decide that your audience will accept advertising, what does this mean and how will it work for a blog?

I started quite open to the concept,

I believe advertising is a compromise. Are you comfortable with a reader questioning your independence? I know it’s a very grand term but, nonetheless, it’s at the heart of the advertising debate. It may not matter to the vast majority of readers but it could (should?) to some. I don’t think anybody but me cares about my independence but it is the reason why I wouldn’t want any advertising on my blog.

But is it that simple? Blogging generally costs something – hosting, bandwidth, time and effort. Should a blogger be entitled to get a little something back? I don’t think advertising is a bad thing on blogs,

When typing my previous post I was being very careful not to say that I felt the acceptance of advertising is inappropriate (because I don’t think it is) but I do believe that while it shouldn’t change what you do or what you say, it may very well change the way you are read. And for some people, that’s a consideration (admittedly, probably not for many).

Or am I putting an undue emphasis on editorial independence for bloggers? Perhaps I am. Is it a silly notion to (try to) apply to weblogs in all their forms?

But then Tom introduced me to projectblog.com, a site aimed at recruiting bloggers with reasonable audiences “who would be willing to help advance their marketing efforts”, and introduced the concept of blogging about products you may have been sent as freebies or paid to write about. I think I turned cynical,

My first reaction was that it proved my point about editorial independence. Then, I was going to cite traditional broadcast media. There are some rules there to ensure clear distinction between programme and advertising content.

However, when you think about it, how many morning DJs talk about having seen new blockbuster that’s not released yet? Many of them. And most of them went for free. You do not consciously think their opinion is biased.

Perhaps the online world is playing catch up with traditional media. And I can’t decide if that a good thing or not.

Maybe it’s sad that I cling to the notion that connected networks somehow empower people. I am not against the commercial web but weblogs are a great example of a (generally) positive use of the technology. When the marketers get involved it changes my expectations. It’s not a surprise but the next time somebody raves about something new won’t you question it (even a little bit)?

Is it possible to turn into a world-weary cynic in the space of two hours?

And now? Well, I stand by my thoughts that you should be clear about what you write. Blogging to me is the fulfilment of the web’s promise of personal publishing for everybody. But, of course, money always gets in the way and there’s nothing wrong with advertising online. After all, it’s what I do, isn’t it?

Commercial Free

Should Blogs carry advertising? When it’s not clear if an opinion blogged is really paid for commercial content being passed of as something else. It’s not a problem unique to the blogsphere but it’s something that I haven’t pondered a great deal until today. It is a problem other media have had to deal with for years – some have done it better than others

There’s been an interesting discussion on the UK Bloggers discussion list today regarding online advertising and if it’s appropriate in the blogging world.

I need to put my position into context. I came to the web (and, therefore, to employment) because I truly believe that personal publishing can empower people. To me the pull of the medium was access to views and interests outside the mainstream. The ability to publish what you had to say without an editor’s red pen. That doesn’t mean that you can ignore laws of the land but, within an existing legal framework, it is relatively easy and cheap to publish. It’s not easy to guarantee the audience but that’s a different story. The message is out there and that’s a starting point (and should be a right in a democratic society). This is a good thing.

I also believe there is a need for a commercial web. The fact that we buy things online, read content paid for by subscription or advertising etc. helps pay for the infrastructure that allows the rest of us to publish. The commercial web is a good thing too.

Advertising is also a good thing, it pays for things so I don’t have to. I’ve made a career out of working in advertising-related industries. I have no objection to advertising.

Where it starts to blur for me is when the three points above mix. When it’s not clear if an opinion blogged is really paid for commercial content being passed of as something else. It’s not a problem unique to the blogsphere but it’s something that I haven’t pondered a great deal until today. It is a problem other media have had to deal with for years – some have done it better than others.

I honestly believe that giving marketers access to a weblog audience (and you can see why they would want a mass of referrals) starts to compromise the reason why weblogs/journals etc. are so successful and such an important part of the landscape these days. Any media with access to an audience is bound to attract the attention of marketing men. Let’s face it, that’s how Amazon grew – lots of affiliates making small amounts of money and we’ve been linking away to them for years. Is the integrity of a weblog at risk? Well, readers should be asking if a link to Amazon is bourne out of genuine appreciation of the book or if it was placed purely for profit.

The idealist in me thinks the freedom to publish personal opinion shouldn’t be mixed with commercial interests. The realist believes people have to pay for server space and bandwidth so a little commercial involvement may help allow people publish what they want to say. Thus the two are intertwined.

As always, it’s difficult to come down on one side of the arguments. I would honestly like to believe not everything in the world needs to carry a commercial message. I would like to believe that bloggers did it because they had something to say, even if, like this site, it’s not earth shattering. The world, however, is much more complex.

UPDATE: I’ve written a second piece that includes more of the quotes from the mailing list, mainly for my archive but it may as well be posted.

UPDATE 10 March 2003: Tom Coates – who sparked the discussion – wrote (as always) a great piece on this subject.

A Quieter Life

It’s time for my friends to give me a quick injection of reality.

Thank goodness that tonight I am going out with a group of friends. They are some of my oldest friends in London (by that I mean I have known them longest and not that they are all ancient). I’ve just decided that I am quite relived as I am having one of my “why do I stay here” days?

I love London. There is no doubt that it is one of the most vibrant and wonderful cities around. I love the dirt, the pollution and the travel chaos. I love the way the British put up with congestion with some quiet mutterings. There would be riots in some counties.

I don’t use London as much as I should. I work and I travel home to my little zone three house. Sometimes I go out with friends and visit a much larger range of bars than I ever would in a smaller town. I see films before they hit the screens in the rest of the UK and, even, get to see films and theatre that never make it outside the West End. Occasionally, I will visit a gallery or museum or wander the historic sites. I adore the view from The London Eye, think St Paul’s is a great place for quiet contemplation, the South Bank is a wonderful place to relax and believe the Thames Barrier is one of the finest structures around. Oxford Street, Covent Garden and surrounding areas have every shop you could ever dream of – and many you couldn’t (or wouldn’t). If I lived here for the rest of my life I probably wouldn’t have time to see and do everything I would like to.

Yet today I am having a “get me away from here” day. Take me somewhere were the pace is slower, people are friendlier (but not as pushy), where I can see the sky and not commute an hour each way on an over-crowded train. I think it started last night when I watched one of those programmes about people who give it all up and set up home in France or Italy or Spain. They seem to live off the land and suddenly develop gardening talents that would make Alan Titchmarsh proud. They rebuild old barns and turn them into holiday accommodation that pays for their entire existence. They spend all their days on the land with the one they love and are at peace. Wouldn’t it be idyllic?

I imagine I would be bored. It’s not really a life for me – yet. I would miss Theatreland and Soho but today I feel I want that stillness and peace and that de-stressing lifestyle. I know it’s a lie but I want the dream. And that’s why I am glad I am off to the bars of Soho tonight. It’s time for my friends to give me a quick injection of reality.

Eggs and Spam For Breakfast (No Eggs)

The first time I have ever received all spam and nothing else to my office in-box on a Monday morning.

I have spent a great deal of my working life involved with advertising online. I guess that online advertising includes the ability to mass-market by e-mail.

I have no problems with legitimate, professional marketing from reputable companies. For years I’ve never objected to direct postal correspondence – to a certain extent I don’t mind opening junk mail. Occasionally, very occasionally, it’s quite interesting (even if I am just trying to work out how the hell I got on the mailing list).

So, e-mail direct marketing is OK. I don’t mind getting the odd circular or if people I’ve encountered before in an online environment send me mail. I don’t mind those lists that I have signed up to. But, like many people I abhor spam. I use mailwasher to delete spam before it reaches my inbox and have always felt this is the best way of dealing with it. I am careful which e-mail addresses get out and have a couple of e-mail aliases which are just used on mailing lists etc. and therefore the spam does not collect in my most oft-used mailboxes.

Today, however, I noticed my work e-mail address is suddenly getting clogged with spam. Now I rarely sign-up to anything with work e-mail addresses (and they are only professional newsletters if I do). But I’ve only been at this e-mail address for a month and haven’t signed up for any lists at all yet. In fact, so few people know I am on this new e-mail address that I wouldn’t have thought it possible to be signed up to anything. Regardless, all this morning’s e-mail in my office e-mail account was spam. Every one. This is the first time that has happened to me at work. What would it say about my life if I responded to this motley collection of marketing messages:

  • Do you have problems with your septic tank
  • GET OUT OF *-DEBT-* TODAY
  • Hundreds of Lenders… WILL COMPETE For Your Loan!
  • SIZE AND STAMINA DO MATTER
  • Reduce the amount of sleep you need
  • The Truth About Gold And Silver
  • F*r*ee s*e*x on the web
  • Helping You Get A MOrtgage Loan
  • If you’re interested in *eliminating* up to 100% of your unsecured credit card debt, read the rest
  • Do you want for a prosperous future, increased money earning power, and the respect of all?
  • If you want to see a SERIOUS Opportunity then you need to check this out

Honestly, it should be fascinating. It really should. And every single one appeared to be from a US-based company targeting US consumers. I really wanted to reply to the lot explaining how they ware wasting their time but you know what that will result in!

Ben Affleck In Tight Leather

Ben Affleck in tight leather – why are you looking for those pictures?

Ben Affleck in tight leatherLooking at the referrer logs for this site, a lot of people are getting here thanks to my mention of Ben Affleck in tight leather (I assume in my Daredevil review). If you really want a picture of Ben Affleck in tight leather, go here, here or here.

The official Daredevail site is here. Enjoy