Being Beta

Exercises in the higher banter with One of 26. Elsewhere called 'poet of adland'. By a whipple-squeezer. Find out why being beta is the new alpha: betarish at googlemail dot com

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Editorial: On English despair

Of the cricketing variety. Mike Selvey in The Guardian this morning does it best:

Watching England was a painful experience yesterday. Extracting your own pancreas with a knife and fork could not be more so. The promise of an opening stand of 68 ended unfortunately when Andrew Strauss trod on his stumps - as if England have not discovered enough ways to get out in recent times - and was followed by a decline and fall of the middle and lower orders of such magnitude it might have been recorded by Gibbon.

Which could be the best opening para to a sports report. Ever.


"The most shocking day I've ever seen"

Please, no. It can't be true. The Daily Telegraph never tells the truth.

Does it?


Commercial: The new sommelier

According to Wordsmith, there's now a sommelier for beer. That person is called a 'cicerone'.

Wikipedia says

The word Cicerone (pronounced sis-uh-rohn) has been chosen to designate those with proven expertise in selecting, acquiring and serving today’s wide range of beers. The titles “Certified Cicerone” and “Master Cicerone” are protected certification trademarks. Only those who have passed the requisite test of knowledge and tasting skill can call themselves a Cicerone. To date (June 2008) there are only five certified Cicerones. The five are: Rob Gerrity, Sierra Nevada Brewing Company; Scott Kerkmans, Four Points by Sheraton; Ron Kloth, Papago Brewing Company; Neil Witte, Boulevard Brewing Co. and Andrew Waer.

If I was a cunning, London-based restauranter, I'd be looking to train and/or hire some similarly skilled people asap. It'll be a good differentiating point.


Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Presidential data overload

Every mention of Obama and McCain nearly everywhere. It's scary. Via Comment Central.


Commercial: Lost tunes

I'm wary of crying wolf, as a) I haven't tried this yet, and b) it comes from 'the music industry', but new Universal website Lost Tunes does look like it will be worth a shufti, offering as it does digital downloads of rare and hard to find records on the Universal label.

Of course other people have been doing similar for donks, but the significance appears to be a major player finally getting its act together, in terms of proposition and positioning at least. One drawback appears to be the fact that it's limited to Universal artists for now, but hopefully that will change over time too.


Editorial: On writing shorter

Blogs/interweb/things digital. All reducing. Attention spans.

So is it any wonder that people want their non-fiction to be shorter?

But whatever happened to style through long, layered and lazy sentences eh? Does this mean David Foster Wallace will be the last of the long prose stylists? I hope not.


Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Commercial: Why do we bother?

You spend millions rebranding the bank that you've bought. And then The Times business pages online go and do this...


Commercial: On pasties

So. Pasties then. Lovely. Haven't had any in a while. But I might have to now, since soon the Cornish variety could be geographically protected.

And woe betide any of our Yankee friends who think that such a delicacy is a pastry. Like Stephen Dubner. Who, in making that error, also made the error of trying to correct the subeditors at The Economist.

Uh oh.

And a new law to note as well, in Dubner's post of repentance:

Muphry’s law states that “if you write anything criticizing editing or proofreading, there will be a fault of some kind in what you have written.”


Monday, July 28, 2008

Editorial: On attention spans

Quote of a yet to be determined time period, from this Rory Sutherland blog:

Fletcher seems to think ads have become shorter and faster because young people want messages in a telegraphic form. Yet is it not also possible that ads are now shorter because nobody in any media buying outfit seems capable of justifying any length greater than 30 seconds, nor has any incentive to do so? Do young people really have such fleeting attention? The hormonal little bastards seem perfectly capable of playing Grand Theft Auto for five hours straight without even taking a piss. That doesn't look like wandering attention to me.

See, games really are the comms media du jours, nes cest pas?


Commercial: This is an ad

The Fentiman Pig

For The Fentiman Arms, a pub close by me. Lovely touch, isn't it?

(Cross posted at This is an ad.)


Friday, July 25, 2008

Editorial: What next?

Ethan Zuckerman (via WorldChanging) succinctly summarises a debate you will need to familiarise yourself with in the next few years: who will pay for journalism? Not gawker stalker 'I saw ZA Nobody shlurping a milk cocktail in TriBeCa' journalism, but proper investigative, foraging, digging, ruminative, agenda changing, government breaking journalism.

Nobody knows yet. We need to start thinking. Fast.


Commercial: Service service service

David Pogue on Apple's MobileMess. However good a brand is, it has to deliver. And keep on delivering.


26 recommendations for July

Can be found here. And the Vox Pops are here.


Thursday, July 24, 2008

Editorial: gibbr 2.0

is making me giddy.


Editorial: On the perils of subbing

Monkey at Media Guardian draws attention to Giles Coren's somewhat intemperate email tirade to a sub regarding a minor change to one of his reviews.

I pass no comment on the story itself, but the email, reproduced below, is worth reading as it has some good lessons on how to write. And lest we forget, he does have a first in English. So mess with him at your peril.

Not sure why he ends it 'all the best' though, as the preceeding paras suggest anything but.



I am mightily pissed off. I have addressed this to Owen, Amanda and Ben because I don't know who i am supposed to be pissed off with (i'm assuming owen, but i filed to amanda and ben so it's only fair), and also to Tony, who wasn't here - if he had been I'm guessing it wouldn't have happened.

I don't really like people tinkering with my copy for the sake of tinkering. I do not enjoy the suggestion that you have a better ear or eye for how I want my words to read than I do. Owen, we discussed your turning three of my long sentences into six short ones in a single piece, and how that wasn't going to happen anymore, so I'm really hoping it wasn't you that fucked up my review on saturday.

It was the final sentence. Final sentences are very, very important. A piece builds to them, they are the little jingle that the reader takes with him into the weekend.

I wrote: "I can't think of a nicer place to sit this spring over a glass of rosé and watch the boys and girls in the street outside smiling gaily to each other, and wondering where to go for a nosh."

It appeared as: "I can't think of a nicer place to sit this spring over a glass of rosé and watch the boys and girls in the street outside smiling gaily to each other, and wondering where to go for nosh."

There is no length issue. This is someone thinking "I'll just remove this indefinite article because Coren is an illiterate cunt and i know best".

Well, you fucking don't.
This was shit, shit sub-editing for three reasons.
1) 'Nosh', as I'm sure you fluent Yiddish speakers know, is a noun formed from a bastardisation of the German 'naschen'. It is a verb, and can be construed into two distinct nouns. One, 'nosh', means simply 'food'. You have decided that this is what i meant and removed the 'a'. I am insulted enough that you think you have a better ear for English than me. But a better ear for Yiddish? I doubt it. Because the other noun, 'nosh' means "a session of eating" - in this sense you might think of its dual valency as being similar to that of 'scoff'. you can go for a scoff. or you can buy some scoff. the sentence you left me with is shit, and is not what i meant. Why would you change a sentnece aso that it meant something i didn't mean? I don't know, but you risk doing it every time you change something. And the way you avoid this kind of fuck up is by not changing a word of my copy without asking me, okay? it's easy. Not. A. Word. Ever.

2) I will now explain why your error is even more shit than it looks. You see, i was making a joke. I do that sometimes. I have set up the street as "sexually-charged". I have described the shenanigans across the road at G.A.Y.. I have used the word 'gaily' as a gentle nudge. And "looking for a nosh" has a secondary meaning of looking for a blowjob. Not specifically gay, for this is soho, and there are plenty of girls there who take money for noshing boys. "looking for nosh" does not have that ambiguity. the joke is gone. I only wrote that sodding paragraph to make that joke. And you've fucking stripped it out like a pissed Irish plasterer restoring a renaissance fresco and thinking jesus looks shit with a bear so plastering over it. You might as well have removed the whole paragraph. I mean, fucking christ, don't you read the copy?

3) And worst of all. Dumbest, deafest, shittest of all, you have removed the unstressed 'a' so that the stress that should have fallen on "nosh" is lost, and my piece ends on an unstressed syllable. When you're winding up a piece of prose, metre is crucial. Can't you hear? Can't you hear that it is wrong? It's not fucking rocket science. It's fucking pre-GCSE scansion. I have written 350 restaurant reviews for The Times and i have never ended on an unstressed syllable. Fuck. fuck, fuck, fuck.

I am sorry if this looks petty (last time i mailed a Times sub about the change of a single word i got in all sorts of trouble) but i care deeply about my work and i hate to have it fucked up by shit subbing. I have been away, you've been subbing joe and hugo and maybe they just file and fuck off and think "hey ho, it's tomorrow's fish and chips" - well, not me. I woke up at three in the morning on sunday and fucking lay there, furious, for two hours. weird, maybe. but that's how it is.

It strips me of all confidence in writing for the magazine. No exaggeration. i've got a review to write this morning and i really don't feel like doing it, for fear that some nuance is going to be removed from the final line, the pay-off, and i'm going to have another weekend ruined for me.

I've been writing for The Times for 15 years and i have never asked this before - i have never asked it of anyone i have written for - but I must insist, from now on, that i am sent a proof of every review i do, in pdf format, so i can check it for fuck-ups. and i must be sent it in good time in case changes are needed. It is the only way i can carry on in the job.

And, just out of interest, I'd like whoever made that change to email me and tell me why. Tell me the exact reasoning which led you to remove that word from my copy.

Sorry to go on. Anger, real steaming fucking anger can make a man verbose.
All the best


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Linkorama for 23.07.08

I know! Loads and loads to have a look at:

1. The perfect transparency afforded my mobile technology could finally lead to a more equitable distribution of income, according to this chap. He also reckons the suburbs are now rocking.

2. Another wisdom of crowds problem solver.

3. The best things always start on the back of a napkin, envelope or pad.

4. Simpler computing. TechCrunch want it so bad, they're gonna do it themselves.

5. 2012 logo still crap shock.

6. Belgique? Dutch? You decide! (If you live here, that is.)

All via PSFK unless otherwise noted, dudes.


Listorama: Facebook status updates vol 8

BetaRish (is)...

has got the tri-state blues

has indulged. Which is nice

doing something

watching the Foo Fighters blow Wembley away

all of a flutter about the weekend

not wearing a Rolex

says good day sunshine

as Fire Man

at The Diner. Again. Really, it’s so predictable

as Para Medic

will be out and about today

now enjoying a very messy chocolate milkshake. Sadly, it is not bringing anyone to my yard

says it’s cool to hate the singer

slightly bleary eyed

more than slightly bleary eyed

says if you love me, won’t you let me know?

has two spare tickets for My Bloody Valentine at Manchester Apollo next Saturday, if anyone’s around/interested

likes the new word he learnt last night: cutscenes

flatter than a pancake squashed by a steamroller on Dutch farmfields

has been motorik in SW1

wants to make it special, make no loss and cover the cost

deaf, but has just seen the greatest gig of his life

still deaf. ETA on hearing restoration is Wednesday

has made two false attempts to fill this space, and still isn’t happy

the other woman

discovering that enforced slowness doesn’t really suit him

on the way to Granadaland. Back online later

thinks that ‘You Made Me Realise’ is more intense when wearing earplugs

was surprised that The Verve managed to make him moist eyed when watching Glasto on the telly last night

going blank again

going to be busy today

wants you to be crazy, ‘cos you’re stupid baby when you’re safe

all the things he has done

needs to get moving

has new health rock

a bit of an animal

damp, not dashing

wishes he was in the dark of the matinee

on the way to Bruges. Yay Eurostar!

still rocking away

welcomes one and all to somewhere or other

what the world has been waiting for. Perhaps

not, repeat, not Samuel Johnson

says fuck idealism – it won’t make you rich

missed the memo where 9am became an optional start time

has proved the hypothesis: girlfriend (drunk) + bed/5% = 0 sleep

didn’t think he’d be missing the kitchen

has aspirations to be working as an art star

nw bginning to tumble in virus lcatins


Editorial: Police arrest Batman

Police arrest Batman
Originally uploaded by SgtRock333
You know, there was rejoicing on newspaper back benches across the globe yesterday. How often does the chance to run these sorts of headlines come along?

And by the way, more of a giggle in the Guardian URL for the story. 'Ukcrime.actionandadventure'? Don't tell me a bot came up with that....


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Editorial: The end of the business meme

According to Gawker. Quote:

It was only a matter of time before the next crop of counterintuitive pop business theorists — from Malcolm Gladwell to James Surowiecki to Chris Anderson — were doused with the cold waters of cash flow.

But surely there must be someone out there writing 'The bankruptcy of genius, the genius of bankruptcy', a countercyclical guide to making money in busts. Isn't there?


My future

Of course I'll be one of these old blokes videoblogging. More here.

(Hat Tip: Comment Central via Gawker)


Commercial: A new breakfast

Coming soon

So a new cafe is coming to Charlotte Place, just round the corner from work, promising something new for brekker. I'm intrigued.

Even better, you can follow Shelagh's progress on her blog, Scrambling Eggs.

I'm getting hungry already.


Monday, July 21, 2008

Linkorama for 21.07.08

Two things which are worth your attention, from the New York Times:

1. How advertising can help to foster good habits, especially when it comes to changing behaviour in the developing world.

2. How having a fixed mindset can hold back your career.


Friday, July 18, 2008

Commercial: iPhone/iPod Touch App Store

David Pogue calls it a candy store. I think its addictive effects are closer to crack. It's given me so much fun to install AIM,, NY Times, BA to name a few.

But the killer? iTunes Remote. I get to play mobile jukebox everywhere in the flat? Happy happy, and if it pleases you, joy joy.


Editorial: The dangers of openness

Below, my introduction from last night's Innovation Reading Circle, on Jonathan Zittrain's The Future of The Internet. Things we touched on the subsequent debate which I don't mention below included tethering of devices, data portability and tinkering. More to be posted at the event site in due course.


In its calm and reserved way, The Future of the Internet is a call to arms. In it, Jonathan Zittrain argues that the point is rapidly approaching where we will need to take positive steps to preserve aspects of the internet’s character that he argues has powered its success, its widespread adoption and, as a result, has positively influenced wider society.

His core argument is that we have experienced and benefitted from a ‘generative internet’; that is, ‘a platform that invites contributions from anyone that cares to make them’. However, the seeds of the platform’s destruction are sown in that openness: ‘the generative features that invite contribution and that worked so well to propel the first stage of innovation begin to invite trouble and reconsideration, as the third-party contribution destabilizes it’s first set of gains.’ (p18). One of the counters to this destabilization is the rise of ‘sterile appliances’ and an ‘appliancized network, that incorporates some of the most powerful features of today’s Internet while greatly limiting its innovative capacity’. (p8) Appliances such as the iPhone; tethered and generally difficult to tinker with.

In the main, Zittrain views this shift as negative, and the concern of the book is to show how this state can be, if not reversed, stopped; and if not stopped, at least entered into with an awareness that we are entering into it.

He is not blind as to the reasons as to why this shift is happening; after his opening chapters outline how the internet came to have the current character that it does, he shows how the crisis in cybersecurity is causing assumptions to change as to what and can should be permitted. Generally, a combination of less technically able users in the mainstream and corporate interests mean that there is less willingness to run the sort of risks that a generative environment implies. Which is, of course, an opportunity cost.

For Zittrain, a generative environment is analogous to – but not the same as – ideas and movements such as theories of the commons, the Free Software movement and network neutrality. But as he makes clear in his discussion of the latter, it is not the same as these, as for him generativity has to have ‘participation’ at its core, relative to the layer of the internet one might be involved with at that given moment.

And it is that principle of participation that underpins the majority of his solutions. In the main his evidence for them are drawn from his analysis of Wikipedia. He writes:

The elements of Wikipedia that have led to its success can help us come to solutions for problems besetting generative successes at other layers of the Internet. They are: verkersbordvrij, a light regulatory touch coupled with an openness to flexible public involvement, including a way for members of the public to make changes, good or bad, with immediate effect; a focus of earnest discussion, including reference to neutral dispute resolution policies, as a means of being strengthened rather than driven by disagreements; and a core of people prepared to model an ethos that others can follow. (p146)

These ideas are based on what I’ll pretentiously call a Lessigian framework. Let me unpack that. In Lawrence Lessig’s ‘Code’, his seminal book on cyberlaw, he sets out a general theory of regulation, explaining how objects can be controlled. One means is recourse to law and legal instruments. But there are others: price and market mechanisms, social norms and the architecture and designs of systems themselves, giving rise to the notion of ‘code as West Coast law’.

For the majority of his recommendations, Zittrain is concerned to bolster social norms and the design of systems – and social norms through the design of systems – rather than market-based remedies or legal tools.

Frankly, his recommendations are buried in the text, and difficult to discern – even when tentatively applied in his concluding discussion on the future of privacy – but follow this broad thrust, best summed up in this quote from early internet network engineers: ‘We reject: kings, presidents and voting. We believe in: rough consensus and running code.’ (p 28)

Zittrain uses the example of ‘robots.txt’ code, a voluntary, but generally accepted means of publishing material online but preventing it from being indexed by search engines. ‘Through robots.txt, site owners can indicate preferences about what parts of the site ought to be crawled and by whom.’ (p 223) He goes on to say that it is ‘a simple, basic standard created by people of good faith can go a long way toward resolving or forestalling a problem containing strong ethical or legal dimensions.’ (p 225)

For me, this hope that change can be affected at all layers of the internet via two out of the four of Lessig’s modes of regulation is optimistic to say the least. In this sense, it is the market that is driving the rise of the appliancized network, and at the moment I can’t see – and the book didn’t persuade me how – social norms can overcome, trump or even move in a more progressive harmony with this development.

And I was also left with a nagging question: how bad will the internet as a non-generative system be anyway? The parallel I drew was with cars. There are hobbyists and tinkers in the automobile market, for sure, but innovation and creativity haven’t necessarily been stifled by the absence of a wider ability to get under the hood of all vehicles. How do we value future possibilities that we can’t know about?

Overall, The Future of The Internet is a dense, supple and subtle book, but one that doesn’t ultimately fulfill its subtitle. Sometimes steel is needed to persuade.


Thursday, July 17, 2008

Google on how to be better

In this post to people aspiring to work for them. Pretty damn useful life lessons all round methinks. Highlight:

It's easy to educate for the routine, and hard to educate for the novel.


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

French is easily the best language

In evidence I cite this email, sent as part of this afternoon's endless internal spam chain:

Envoyé depuis mon blackberry

Pure poetry, non?


Describe advertising

A thought experiment: can you actually *define* what advertising is? I'm not as interested in dictionary definitions; more ones about process. Something like:

* Clients decide they need a message to reach current and potential customers
* Planners decide what that message should be
* Creatives make the message pretty
* Media people decide where the message goes
* Account handlers get the client to pay for everything
* Customers receive and then act on the message

Sound fair? What is missing?


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Commercial: Squeeze my whipple

Oh, ok not mine, but Lolly and Nat's, who've now returned from Cannes and are blogging proper big charlie style n' everything at Brand Republic.

Of course you want to meet them properly. You can do so below:


Linkorama for 15.07.08 - extended reading special

1. If you haven't already discovered hipster paradise This Recording, well, you should. It takes a wee while to get used to the self-involved and discursive style, as befits cool dudes in Brooklyn, but it's well worth sticking round for. As an example, this post about marriage vows which segues into a rumination about Mad Men. It shouldn't work, but it does. Oh, there are plenty of MP3s up there too.

2. Reading Jonathan Zittrain's The Future of the Internet in preparation for the upcoming Innovation Reading Circle, and the section on Wikipedia threw up these gems:

a) Wikipedia Barnstars - aren't they sweet? Has anyone out there got one yet?

b) 'laws of the internet' - as in Godwin's, Nielsen's, Moore's etc. A new one to me was Postel's ('Be conservative in what you do; be liberal in what you accept from others.'). There's a whole host of laws, internet and otherwise, named after their 'framers', here and here.

3. Jason Calacanis, a prominent internet entrepreneur and blogger, announced last week that he would no longer be blogging, but instead sending an email round robin. TechCrunch doubted how likely it would be that his musings would remain solely within his email list. But his analysis of why it's time for him to stop blogging is acute, as it summarises some of the problems with the channel:

From: “Jason Calacanis”
> Date: July 13, 2008 11:16:15 AM PDT
> To:
> Subject: [Jason] The fallout (from the load out)
> Brentwood, California
> Sunday, July 12th 11:10AM PST.
> Word Count: 1,588
> Jason’s List Subscriber Count: 1,095
> List:
> Team Jason,
> Wow, it’s been an amazing 24 hours since I officially announced my
> retirement from blogging ( ). As
> you’ve probably seen there has been some of coverage of my retirement,
> most of it wondering if I’m joking or not (links at the bottom). To
> those who know me better than a couple of Valleywag headlines, am I
> ever not joking??!? I mean, Clark Kent asked a question in the faux
> Q&A session, I posted a photo of Michael Jordan’s retirement, and I
> spoke about spending more time with my family (as in my wife and two
> bulldogs).
> Clearly I was joking in the post, but I’m dead serious about the
> retirement from blogging.

> Most folks have no tolerance for ambiguity, and when faced with it are
> extremely uncomfortable. This lack of comfort makes them think, and my
> goal with the blog was always to challenge people’s thinking–most of
> all my own. Confusion is attention of the best kind–I long to be
> confused. I’ve become addicted to playing poker because your
> constantly faced with confusion, and winning is trying to make sense
> out of nonsense.
> Is blogging dead?
> ————————-
> Yes, it is. Officially. :-)
> Actually, I’ve been thinking about this question and while blogging is
> clearly booming, there has been a deep qualitative change in the
> nature of the ’sphere. There are so many folks involved in blogging to
> today, and it’s moving at a much quicker pace thanks to “social
> accelerants” like TechMeme, digg, Friendfeed and Twitter. Folks are so
> desperate to be heard–and we all want to be heard that’s why we
> blog–that the effort put into being heard has eclipsed the actual
> hearing.
> Bloggers spend more time digging, tweeting, and SEOing their posts
> than they do on the posts themselves. In the early days of blogging
> Peter Rojas, who was my blog professor, told me what was required to
> win at blogging: “show up every day.” In 2003 and 2004 that was the
> case. Today? What’s required is a team of social marketers to get your
> message out there, and a second one to manage the fall-out from
> whatever you’ve said.
> Think: Nick Denton has reworked the bloggers pay at Gawker Media to
> reflect not the quality of the words but the number of page views
> those blog posts get. He doesn’t pay by word count, he pays by page
> views. He’s closed the loop between editorial and advertising, turning
> the Chinese wall into a block party. It’s the publishing promised land
> while simultaneously being the death of publishing. Gawker is growing
> page views while simultaneously destroying it’s brand equity. This
> will either result in an implosion, or the perfect id-driven magazine
> where our core desires are synchronized in relation to their
> marketability. It will be fun to watch, but I wouldn’t want to be one
> of those bloggers in the cage, running on the Denton’s wheel.
> Excelling in blogging today is about link-baiting, the act of writing
> something inflammatory in order to get a link. Many folks say I’m
> responsible for link-baiting–these people are absolute idiots. I’ve
> never tried to get any of these insecure, lonely freaks to link to
> something I’ve said. :-)
> Truth be told, I’ve always written the way I talk–honestly and
> without a filter. John Brockman explained to me at one time that some
> of the most interesting folks he’s met have, over time, become less
> vocal. He explained, that there was a inverse correlation between your
> success and your ability to tell the truth. When I met John I was
> nobody and I promised myself I would never, ever censor myself if I
> become successful. My friend, and one of the few folks I’d consider a
> mentor, Mark Cuban laid a path for me to follow in this regard. I wish
> I could say I’ve succeeded, the best I can say is I’ve tried.
> My good friend Xeni Jardin, who I had the pleasure of working/playing
> with for a couple of years in another life, faced massive assault from
> the audience she herself built at These folks were not
> attacking her because of what she did (she deleted some old posts for
> personal reasons), they were attacking her because they could. They
> were attacking her because open-media (i.e. blogging) has turned into
> an excuse for bad behavior. It’s outrageous to think that an audience
> would turn on the author they love and built up for years over
> something so trivial as deleting some posts.
> Then again, they booed Dylan when he went electric in Newport and all
> along his tour of Europe. They called him Judas, but he didn’t believe
> them. I hope Xeni doesn’t believe them–they’re liars.
> Why email?
> ——————–
> In a word, intimacy. This message will go from my inbox to your inbox,
> perhaps from my Blackberry to your iPhone. From my sleepy garden
> office in Brentwood to your laptop perched on a desk in some high-rise
> hotel in Shanghai or your crummy little studio on the LES. I’m
> stopping my day to write it, and you’ll stop your day to read
> it–perhaps. Maybe you’ll save this, or forward it to some friends
> with certain sections in bold. There is zero tolerance for waste in
> personal communication, so if you don’t find value in this email
> you’ll delete it and maybe remove yourself from the list. You would do
> the same if someone started boring you at a cocktail party, no? Find a
> graceful way to get the hell out of there, and in email it’s one
> click.
> This platform puts a level playing field between us that is so
> different than me posting to my blog which gets swept up in the Google
> and Yahoo machine, sending thousands of visitors who haven’t made the
> email commitment.
> Also, there is an immediacy to this. At any point you can hit the
> reply key (or forward) and send your thoughts directly to me at
> This is much different than you posting to my
> comments section and subjecting yourself to the trolls and haters who
> have taken up residency there.
> Why should we all build our homes and give residence to the trolls
> under them? Comments on blogs inevitably implode, and we all accept it
> under the belief that “open is better!” Open is not better. Running a
> blog is like letting a virtuoso play for 90 minutes are Carnegie Hall,
> and then seconds after their performance you run to the back Alley and
> grab the most inebriated homeless person drag them on stage and ask
> them what they think of the performance they overheard in the Alley.
> They then take a piss on the stage and say “F-you” to the people who
> just had a wonderful experience for 90 or 92 minutes. That’s openness
> for you… my how far we’ve come! We’ve put the wisdom of the deranged
> on the same level as the wisdom of the wise.
> You and I now have a direct relationship, and I’m cutting the mailing
> list off today so it stays at ~1,000 folks. I’ll add selectively to
> the list, but for now I’m more interested in a deep relationship with
> the few of you have chosen to make a commitment with me. Perhaps some
> of you will become deep, considered colleagues and friends–something
> that doesn’t happen for me in the blogosphere any more.
> Much of my inspiration for doing this comes from what I’ve seen with
> John Brockman’s email newsletter. When it enters my inbox I’m
> inspired and focused. I print it, and I don’t print anything. The
> people that surround him are epic, and that’s my inspiration–to be
> surrounded by exceptional people.
> The Feedback
> ———————-
> Ted Leonsis, another mentor to me over the years, thinks I’m pulling a
> Brett Favre. Perhaps. Background: Ted is responsible for Weblogs, Inc.
> being bought by AOL, and he spoke at the *first* event I ever did
> called “Meet the Alley” in 1997. The event took place at
> and the air conditioner broke. It was August, and it was 100 degrees.
> Ted went on and gave an amazing talk. When Ted spoke about content on
> the Internet back in 94-96 time frame I was 23 years old and I knew
> what I wanted to do with my life: I wanted to be Ted. Weblogs, Inc.
> was version of his AOL Greenhouse, and Mahalo is a souped up version
> of AOL.
> Sarah Lacy says blogging is at a cross-roads and she gets where I’m
> coming from. I’ve known Sarah for a couple of years now, and she’s
> become a personality on the Web 2.0 circuit thanks to her book “Once
> You’re Lucky, Twice Your Good,” a book in which I get very few
> mentions (not that I’m counting them.. 384, really? :-). She too has
> felt the harsh mob mentality, also known as “the wisdom of the
> crowds.” For the record, crowds are really frackin’ stupid and to put
> your stock in crowds is about as bright as putting your faith in a
> dictator–they’ll love you for as long as they feel like it, then
> they’ll ripe you apart without mercy. Also, has anyone else noticed
> that women like Sarah and Xeni get treated 10x as harsh as men do in
> the blogosphere? Another reason to opt out.
> says: “It’s like he hit the nail on the head of
> everything that’s wrong with blogging today…at least for me.”
> A bunch of other folks have commented on the story, and you can see
> their reactions on TechMeme:
> Jim Kukal says it’s the death of the A-list:
> Scoble says it’s a farce:
> All the best,
> Jason
> ____________________________________________

4. On Sunday, Alex Ross of The New Yorker was cited - again - as one of the world's best critics. Which he is.

Having been recommended to read his 2001 feature on Radiohead, which I did on the bus last night, I think I can confidently proclaim it as the second best piece about any pop music I've ever read anywhere. (The first, Danny Baker's live review of Michael Jackson in NME circa 1992, is frustrating absent online.)

Count the ways Ross' piece is wonderful:

* the reminder that 'rock stars' don't have to be inarticulate. Of Colin Greenwood he writes:

Lavishly well-read, he can talk at length about almost any topic under the sun—Belgian fashion; the stories of John Cheever; the effect of different types of charcoal on barbecued meat—but he gets embarrassed by his erudition and cuts himself off by saying, "I'm rambling." He is not above wearing a T-shirt that says "Life's a beach and then you shag." You might peg him as a cultish young neo-Marxist professor, or as the editor of a hip quarterly. But he is a rock star, with several Web pages devoted to him.

* that they are more than a band, and closer to a 'composer-manque':

The five together form a single mind, with its own habits and tics—the Radiohead Composer. This personality can be glimpsed in the daily bustle of the group, but you can never meet it face to face, because it lives in the music. A lot of what has been written about Radiohead—there are six books, hundreds of magazine articles, and millions of words on the Internet—circles around an absent center.

* the reminder that being creative is difficult:

Yorke is the essential spark of the Radiohead phenomenon. Like all greatly gifted people, he is not always easy to be around. When a stranger approaches him, wanting unscheduled attention, he can be unsettlingly mute. He is, by his own admission, temperamental and chronically dissatisfied. But his fault-finding circles back to the music, which is why the other band members go along with it. When he is happy, it feels like history in the making.

* and the reminder that, still, ultimately, rock and roll is a physical act:

When someone asked him if he had got a sense of the crowd at South Park—it may have been the largest public gathering in the thousand-year history of Oxford—he rubbed his eyes and smiled. " 'Fraid not," he replied. "I was too busy looking at Phil's calves. That's where the beats are."

Oh, just do yourself a favour and read it. It's an incredible piece of writing.


Commercial: This is an ad

FWD Every sunday

For the Church of England. Or it would be, if the Synod had any sense. Instead it’s an ad for this dubstep/grime club night. Cross-posted at This is an ad.


Monday, July 14, 2008

Editorial: On how movies used to be

The incomparable Anthony Lane has this to say at the end of his short appreciation of The Last Picture Show in The New Yorker this week:

There was a time when movies themselves felt like small towns: rooted fast in their environments, and alive to the wistful chatter of minor characters as they crossed paths and then went on their way.

And apart from me making a) jealous - again - of his critical ability and b) ruminative, although I put that down to the Alex Ross piece I read earlier (more of which later), it's difficult to argue against.

I was about to try and cite a Pixar movie to try and disprove it, in the sense that they're the closest that movies now get to enivironments that are internally coherent and logical according to their own rules. But then you come up against the fact that they've had to *create* that environment - these are playpen worlds, dream worlds, not the world as we might have lived in it, experienced it as sentient, awake beings.

Maybe it's 'wistful chatter' that I'm getting snagged on. Because it implies an endless, knowing forever, the surface conversation actually full of depth precisely because of the accretion of years in a place. Which in turn suggests that movies, nay art, that open us up to the suggestion that a sense of permanancy is possible, are secretly and quietly more powerful than those that suggest we need to tear things up and start anew.

All of which is just a schmancy way of asking: isn't all that anybody wants is to live forever in Toddy?


Commercial: Three questions about branding

As asked by Shaan of Identiti. Answers to them below.


1. What will be the next big thing/trend in branding?

There are a couple of obvious trends that I think have already broken into wider consciousness, and will affect the way in which brands both are defined and interact with their customers. These are:

• How brands respond to the ‘green’ and climate change agenda
• How brands respond to a world of transparency, perfect information and, therefore, customers’ growing desire to take back control of some of their data
• How brands can better integrate themselves into the lives of their customers, eg through the phenomena of branded utilities.

With the current – and most likely ongoing – economic difficulties caused by the credit crunch, and the ending of the long boom, there are two further questions brands will have to address:

• If you are a mid-market brand, to what extent will you be squeezed, by people shunning you at the lower end of the market, and ignoring you at the luxury end of the market?
• Do you believe that, due to the green agenda, consumption will have to be lower to help save the planet? If so, how does that impact on your brand?

From the perspective of ‘branding’ as a process, the thing that most interest me is the decline of the ‘monolithic’ brand, eg something that looks the same all over the world, to be replaced by something with an infinite amount of flexibility in terms of expression and message, but with the same core underpinnings.

2. If you had to explain branding to a corner-shop owner, what would you say?

Branding is, at its most simple, the idea that someone has about you in their head – your reputation. Everything you do as a business can positively or negatively impact on this reputation. So, if you’re closed when you said you’d be open – that’s a negative impact. If you decide to give a regular customer a small, unexpected bonus in their shopping, that’s a positive impact. The more positive impacts you have, the stronger your brand is, and the more likely a customer is to return, return often, and spend more money with you.

I think that branding is especially important for smaller businesses like corner shops. There are so many out there, that if you can start to differentiate your corner shop in some way – through design, through stock, through levels of service, through price – then you stand a better chance of succeeding in the market. Whatever that method of differentiation is – that’s the core of your brand.

3. Is there a 'standard' branding approach as it seems everyone adapts the discipline with their approach?

No is the short answer – unlike law or accountancy, where there are agreed standards and rules to adhere too, there are none in branding. What there is, however, is an agreement that most brands have some sort of core idea, which is their point of differentiation, some sort of way of behaving that (over and above the way the business behaves) touches the customer in a positive way, and some way in which personality is expressed, through a logotype, design, writing and so on.

You get different approaches to branding when you go to different agencies because that’s their point of differentiation in the market. Some approaches are better than others, but at root the output should be simple even if the process isn’t always straight forward.


Deep thinking for branded utilities

If you're working in the branded utilities space, there's a recent talk/presentation that you should become familiar with. From April's Web 2.0 Expo, it's called 'Polite, pertinent and... pretty: Designing for the new wave of personal informatics', and was put together by Matt Jones of Dopplr and Tom Coates of Yahoo! Brickhouse.

It's long, it's thoughtful, and I suspect that it will be very influential in the years to come.

(Hat tip: Putting People First, the Experentia blog)


Commercial: How many iPods are you?

5 iPod household

I was slightly disconcerted the other day in realising that we've got five iPods at home: one second generation original flavour, one first generation shuffle, one second generation shuffle, and two 8GB touches. Three are hers, two are mine. There would have been another large classic, but I lost it at the cinema last year while watching Funny Games (US).


1) How many iPods does a home actually need?
2) To what extent do the earlier models just get left as redundant boxes?
3) For green consumption, less pressure on resources etc, should we ration iPod purchases to just one per person? I'd hate to think the impact on climate change these devices are having just because we can't make up our minds how much music to take with us when we're out and about.


Sunday, July 13, 2008


Originally uploaded by SgtRock333
If you ever see the words, 'on the one hand... on the other' anywhere on this blog, shoot me.


Commercial: This is an ad for re-branding

This is an ad for re-branding

The new Euronews. As seen at Brussells Midi station. Cross posted at This is an ad.


Thursday, July 10, 2008

Commercial: This is an ad

For the new Batman film, The Dark Knight, found on some random property blog. Isn’t it amazing how a death meant that the campaign for the film went less viral? Go figure.

Cross posted at This is an ad.


We fear change

Say people who are 'misoneists', derived from today's Word a day, misoneism. As a member of the Innovation Reading Circle, I was ticked to find that there was a sort of 'opposite' word. I wonder if they have a reading group too?


Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Commercial: This is an ad

I'm torn. I guess, as the party isn't banned, and is elected to office, it does have the right to public funding and therefore advertising. But really, should the Guardian be taking the advert? I don't think so...

Cross posted at This is an ad. Hat tip: Comment Central.


Commercial: Wodehouse does web 2.0

Taken from the comments section of this piece in today's Times:

Thanks for pointing out that 'bloggers' (ordinary people) should be acknowledged for expressing the frustrations of the victims of appallingly poor governance by incompetents and chancers. Now Downing Street has blocked the email channel to the PM and uses something called 'Twitters'. I rest my case

Um, quite. Imagine if it was 'Meebers', 'Tumblers' and 'Flickers'. Bring on the tweed networking revolution!


Tuesday, July 08, 2008

On self-publishing

At the latest D&AD forum last week, this time on self-publishing, there was lots of lovely work to be seen, but less in the way of ideas or inspiration as to why it might be worth taking the plunge and doing it yourself. Both Damon Murray of Fuel and Jonathan Ellery of Browns made printing your own books sound like something that, while worth doing, was difficult, time-consuming and ill-paying.

At heart, the graphic design book as object is probably the closest that the discipline comes to ‘art’, broadly defined – an authorial voice making some sort of intervention in the world around them. Often beautiful, it seemed that the strongest books have some sort of point to make rather than just being a collection of pretty work, graphic authorship, in Rick Poynor’s phrase, rather than just mere monographs. As Ellery said, “[the book] should have a disproportionate amount of quality... the art of building it is important, to make it an object.”

As Murray also pointed out, self-published books aren’t just about the aesthetic – they can be a “great way to build brands in a non-brand way, and gain recognition for it.”

You don’t have to be a designer, by the way, to participate: Eric Kessels of KesselsKramer has apparently published 45 books.


Commercial: This is an ad

Adobe cake
Originally uploaded by SgtRock333
for software. Cross posted at This is an ad.


Monday, July 07, 2008

Our hopes and fears for the web

As created by innovation edge's followers, in preparation for 'The future of the web' event that Nesta is holding tomorrow. On that score, this month's innovation reading circle is on a similar topic, with Jonathan Zittrain's book the main focus of debate.


Commercial: This is an ad

From The Idler's website. Cross posted at This is an ad.

You can download your own version of the manifesto here. And it's a great piece of writing too.


Commercial: Urban blues

An interesting piece in today's Media Guardian, about the demise of Touch magazine.

"What annoyed me was the attitude we were getting from mainstream brands," said former editor Paul McKenzie. "I would go out with my sales team to meet drinks brands, fast food brands and all we were told was, 'We don't have an urban budget', or 'We're not planning an urban campaign'." And this despite having a Nike-sponsored special edition in the can.

What caught my eye was this particular quote, from an unnamed brand strategist:

"The problem is, British celebrity culture has moved away from hip-hop. All the brands are moving to white rock now. It's that Primrose Hill set who are setting the cool mag agenda and they actively dislike hip-hop. If your brand throws a party and invites Pharrell Williams, you can bet nobody else will show up. Urban music hasn't been of much use to us for almost two years now."

Eh? Two things leap out here:

1) It has always been, historically, nigh on impossible to sell publications that focus strongly on black culture to the wider market. An example of that was the perennial compliant that NME did not/does not feature enough black cover stars. The main reason? Sales of said issue would generally drop off 30% or so that week. (On a side note, Caroline Sullivan makes the point that NME's 'approved' range of acts has got narrower over the years.

2) 'British celebrity culture' has moved on from urban music? Really? If that's the case, then these celebrities, and the brands that they are courting (and vice versa), are seriously out of step with their customers. Everyone has cited Jay-Z at Glasto, but for more concrete evidence, here's this week's singles chart:

1. Dizzee Rascal and Calvin Harris - Dance Wiv Me
2. Ne-Yo - Closer
3. Basshunter - All I Ever Wanted
4. Jordin Sparks Ft Chris Brown - No Air
5. Chris Brown - Forever
6. Ironik - Stay With Me
7. Coldplay - Viva La Vida
8. Rihanna - Take A Bow
9. Gabriella Cilmi - Sweet About Me
10. Busta Rhymes Ft Linkin Park - We Made It

So, by a very rough definition, five songs that are obviously urban in origin and intended audience, and one urban/rock collaboration.

This doesn't suggest that 'urban music' is dead. While there might be debates and grumbles that it isn't as creatively exciting as it was two to three years ago, it remains what it has been for the best part of nearly ten years now: the global lingua franca of today's pop music.

And it would be a foolish brand manager that was distancing themselves from that.


Party! Yay!

Moo. Summer street party. The Ambassador. Exmouth Market. London. Thursday 24 July.

Happiness all round, methinks. Who's coming?


Editorial: Fat, paranoid geek required

to edit marketing communications at IDEO in Palo Alto. Why don't more job adverts feature phrases like this?

To this role you would bring the ability to collaborate with various disciplines, an enthusiasm for imparting communications know-how, and a flexible work style that can fluidly shift from solo to group scenarios. If we had our druthers, you’d also have a stellar sense of humor, a food addiction, at least one neurotic family member, and a longtime live-in relationship with music.

And 'druthers'. The British equivalent would be, 'If we had our Wimpeys...'


Commercial: Everyone's better connected together

Time was, as a brand consultant, I'd try to advise clients to create as much blue water between themselves and their competitors as possible. While a position might be *right* for them on the brand spectrum, did make sense to muscle in to it while it was well occupied by someone else? Surely the big communications guns would make sense deployed elsewhere?

Well, fair play to Orange to utterly ignoring that advice and going after O2 with a new slogan - 'Together we can do more' - which the eagle eyed amongst you will see is not too far away from O2's recently unveiled 'We're better, connected'.

Orange have surrounded this with a far more verbally intriguing idea: that of 'I am everyone', which does show how these connections can add up:

I am who I am because of everyone.
I am my mate who never speaks and the one who won't shut up. I am my older sister and unfortunately my younger brother. I am all the girls I've kissed and all the ones I will.

which works better at illustrating the concept than more visually-led O2 execution does.

But still: If I was brand director at 3, I'd be looking to see if the aliens/squid/jellyfish could get another roll out. Sod connecting togetherness - what about the sheer unhinged joyous lunacy that technology can bring? There's a distinctive positioning that's not been taken yet.


Friday, July 04, 2008

Editorial: Internet euphemisms

From Gawker via PSFK, a great compilation of things that don't really say what they mean on t'internet. Top of the pile:

Update: Fix. On a blog or in a program, an update means something was broken.

And the one about 'beta' is, um, true.


Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Neologisms (3)

1. V.I.Poo (n): Taking a dump in luxurious, backstage toilets at a gig or festival (hat tip: MarcB).

2. In Sid Lowe's dissection of how the seleccion won Euro 2008, some from Luis Aragones: 'completely hatstand', 'arses like a prawn'.

And what is 'pliers-to wires-tomfoolery'? Electricians' high jinks?


Tuesday, July 01, 2008

More genius

1) London, for whatever mood you might be in.

2) Lexington in The Economist, grappling with hip hop. Sample quote:

Consider the hot album of the moment: “Tha Carter III” by Lil Wayne. Its central message is that if you are a rap star, you will get laid. The song “Lollipop”, for example, celebrates a young lady who treats Lil Wayne as she might a lollipop.