January 2006
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Month January 2006

Retail Business Show

On 2 February I’ll be visiting the Retail Business Show at Olympia. There’s an interesting set of people to visit so I’ll be there most of the day.

If you’re attending either drop me a note or SMS on the day and we can hook up for some of the (much improved, thank God) coffee now on offer!

“Le Google” gets a Latin name…

EUobserver.com covers Chirac’s pledge “to compete with Google”.

Dubbed “Quaero” (“I seek” in Latin) so as not to upset Germans (since when have they loved Latin? German wasn’t a Romance language last time I looked… Maybe Chirac has other plans?).

While it’s tempting just to lay into French cultural imperialism, and generally have a go at Chirac (behave…) we shouldn’t forget our gratitude to the French for the support they give their film industry. Where would the world be without French film?

That said, we also have French protectionism in industry and business which isn’t doing either France or Europe any good…

What most rankles with me is the separatist, competitive and exclusive approach. In a world of contributive effort, open source software and eroding barriers, why Monsieur Le President couldn’t have dedicated money to supporting online content – paying for good articles on Wikipedia; enhancing material for google.fr to find…

Bah non – time for some imperialistic hullabaloo, as well as a chance to feed some more state support (oops, I mean funding) to Thomson.

How better to end that with Chirac’s apocalyptic statement of the obvious:

Today the new geography of knowledge and cultures is being drawn. Tomorrow, that which is not available online runs the risk of being invisible to the world.
So now we know.

Giles Turnbull’s summary of the new Macs

Intel inside but not “Intel Inside (TM)”

I was going to pen something on this, but Giles’ summary is better. Plus, he was there :)

Commercial coffin nail for film?

Nikon to focus on digital: Digital Photography Review

So Nikon has announced formerly that it’s to focus on digital, dropping production of virtually all its film SLR bodies and manual lenses.

DP review summarises the press release so:

Nikon UK has made an interesting announcement titled ‘Nikon prepares to strengthen digital line-up for 2006′ that signals the beginning of the end of nearly 60 years of Nikon fllm cameras. Nikon Corp has made the decision to ‘focus management resources’ on digital cameras in place of film cameras, and is discontinuing most film camera bodies, manual focus lenses and accessories, and all large format and enlarging lenses. In Europe only the flagship F6 film camera will remain on sale.

This is news and not news, I suppose. On the one hand it’s been clear that the only film game in town was the professional F6 (lovely camera, even if it lacks the simple elegance of the F3); on the other that’s one heck of a game to have! The only modern, pro-specced film camera.

The manual (ie non-autofocus) lenses clearly were coming to an end: the more modern cameras needed the microchip in the lens to set aperture as well as getting distance information to assist with metering. The sadness over the manual lenses is that they feel so lovely: brass, rubber, glass… They have “heft”. They also weigh a lot and don’t focus for you (something I used to dismiss as unnecessary… Age is taking its toll!).

The real gap though is the fast, prime lens: the 50mm f1.4, or the 35mm f2 or even, if we’re being exotic, the 35mm f1.4. Given the multiplying effect of the DX sensors (which multiply the focal length by 1.5x) you’d need to have a 20mm f1.4 lens to get to the esoteric 35mm I mentioned above. I can’t quite conceive of such a beast – I certainly couldn’t carry one!

So the future looks in the medium term to have slow-ish lenses, mainly zooms and increasing amounts of megapixels and digital cleaning of the CCD output to compensate. This is a far cry from the simple, quiet photography of 15 years ago. Now we need a plethora of cables, chargers, batteries, spares etc, as well as a humungous chunk of whirring, flashing metal to take photos. No wonder there’s a renaissance of interest in rangefinder cameras like the Leica M6/M7. Small, quiet, discreet and with a build quality to drool over, these are tools for a more contemplative, involved and considered photography. The compact digital can cover the rest.

Now, it’s time to head over to ebay and pick up some prime lens bargains…

Altertbox: Search engines as “leeches”

Search Engines as Leeches on the Web (Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox)

Interesting and combative Alertbox above, arguing that in an ‘arm’s race’ with competitors to improve the levels of acquisition from search, the only winners are the search companies. His argument is nicely illustrated, but it’s simply saying what we know: in a goldrush the best money is to be made from selling shovels rather than prospecting one individual claim.

The real learning here is:

non-search users become the true source of added value from website improvements

ie customer acquisition may be at a cost (loss leader, investment, call it what you will) while customer retention (ie subsequent “free” sales) make you the profit over the customer’s lifetime.

This is a good illustration of the usual retention and relationship marketing arguments, however it misses two worrying points:

1) too many customers never return. They don’t want to return. They didn’t even know who you were. These are the “one night stands” of acquisition. Take the discount/promotion and run. No breakfast. No commitment. No calls.
2) too many customers think that the search enging is the shop. Even “on brand” customers will enter your business’ name into google – it’s as if they can’t be bothered to bookmark your site or enter your own URL directly. Much as the old portals were the ‘windows on the web’ so the search engines are the launchpads for shopping. When I see staff at work entering our own brand names into google rather than having a bookmark I despair!

The challenges to retailers are therefore to:
* make a profit on every sale
* make each product page a web site
* differentiate between ‘customers’ (who have a relationship with you) and ‘purchasers’ (who don’t, and do not wish to have).

Villifying the search engines is like chastising farmers for making hay while the sun shines…

Apple debuts Intel-powered Macs

BBC NEWS | Technology | Apple debuts Intel-powered Macs

… and mercy me, what power there is too! If you’re going to make a change from the venerable PowerPC then doing so with such panache is the way to go.

Now, I have a perfectly servicable G4 laptop, yet I’m already lusting after the new dual-core ‘pro’ laptops… I could excuse this (after all, tech-lust is allowable “boy foible”), but I know I’m just plain stupid, exploited and being laughed at when the new versions of iWork (er – isn’t this just AppleWorks 1990?) are offered without an upgrade price. Ah, the cost of Mac ownership. It’s like I imagine a mildly abusive relationship to be: some irrational attraction that defies explanation (or at least any explanation that’s palatable); the feeling that the attraction is not reciprocated; that you’re being mocked or disrespected and finally that you should be grateful for the occasional glimmers of kindness…

Still, I’m trying to think of a valid business reason to get the latest offering from the sans-serif smug contrarians… I wonder if “gullible obsession” is valid reason for tax-deductible expenditure…? :)

Galloway defends his BB appearance

BBC NEWS | Politics | Galloway reality TV move defended

Oh well that’s OK then.

t is his hope that Big Brother would provide the kind of platform that the media does not normally provide for him

… saith his spokesman.

Silly me for raising an eyebrow :)

Kennedy & Galloway, plus “Get Back to Work, George”

spiked-politics | Column | What Kennedy and Galloway tell us about politics now

An interesting and provoking article as ever from the good folk at spiked-online, talking about the two political stories of the week: Kennedy’s resignation and the storm over Galloway’s time in the BB House (see previously).

The thrust of the article is that politics in Britain is so without substance that the unimportant fate of two ancilliary players shows that we’re in the age of “presentational politics” – your demeanour and the show on which it’s exposed are more important that policies and, god forbid, delivery!

Do read the article, but some quotes are too good to miss! On Kennedy:

Kennedy can be seen as a politician for a time when politics lacks meaning. With no competing visions of the future, political life has been hollowed out. Without any wider sense of purpose in changing society, politics has become an end in itself – the aim of being in power becomes simply to remain in power, rather than to achieve political ends. Being a politician thus becomes another professional career, where one can get on as in other careers through personal characteristics rather than public actions – and can just as readily be brought down by character flaws.

And on Galloway:

It was odd to hear Galloway introduce himself to his fellow contestants as the leader of the British anti-war movement. After all, his appearance on the show only confirms that in reality there is no such movement to give him a platform, so he is going on ‘reality’ TV to advertise for one. For all his grassroots pretensions, Galloway has a good eye for today’s celebrity politics.


Mick Hume
doesn’t exactly spare those of us who’re campaigning to get George to pay some attention to our constituency, noting:

That said, many of Galloway’s critics only confirm the lack of meaningful alternatives available. They complain that the MP ought to be looking after the drains and other local problems of his east London constituents rather than gadding about on the box. It seems that the alternative to showbiz-style political posturing is now the small-scale municipal managerialism that passes for ‘real’ politics.

This is missing the point. The body politic is sick and tired of ‘initiativitis’ and the grand, sweeping gesture: life on the street is what matters. I’d have thought that the founder of Living Marxism wouldn’t appreciated the focus on drains, cleaning and making the many, small differences in people’s lives that add up over time to a noticeable and useful change.

If you look at the comments on the Pledgebank page to write to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards (go, Hana, go!) then you’ll see the view that it’s OK to have a crap MP just so that you can cast an ‘anti-Blair’ vote! One moment’s gratification = 4 years of non-representation! Is that a fair trade?

On a final, lighter note, check on the “Get back to work, George…” petition page :)

At least we know where Galloway is for the next month…

BBC NEWS | Entertainment | Galloway joins Big Brother house

Ah – showing either his ironic sense of humour and the ridiculous, or his disregard for the small matter of turning up in parliament to represent his constituents (he’s my MP, apparently) Gorgeous George enters the BB house.

Of course, I may grow the love his roguish charm. Or I might just remember his performance in parliament as a part-timer…

Interestingly, now that he’s a party of one he doesn’t rebel.

Highs and Lows: preview of play directed by Mark Espiner

Mark Espiner, who’s been doing very interesting work with his theatre company “Sound and Fury” has a new play in preview.

The play is written by Glen Neath, entitled The Highs and Lows of Owning your own Home.

Mark’s full announcement follows the ‘more’ button, but he introduced it as follows:

I had mentioned this to a couple of you and if you’re free you
might like to sample it. It’s a showcase of the first act of this
fine new Beckett/Pinter/Kafka-esque play with a bit of Magnus Mills
thrown in and is about three 30-something men struggling over a
property and a woman. With the writer I’ve cast it with some fine
actors in their late-70s which really adds to the petty squabbles –
which have a linguistic undercurrent of international politics and
the war on terror.

THE HIGHS AND LOWS OF OWNING YOUR OWN HOME
Directed by Mark Espiner
Performed by John Ringham, Godfrey Jackman and Patrick Driver
Designed by Lizzie Clachan
Costumes by Charlotte Espiner
Lighting by Chris Umney
Produced by Jo Carr

A house. A garden. Three chairs. And an ancient grudge.
Three men squabble over the ownership of a house, a woman and each
other’s attention.

PLACE: The Hackney Empire Bullion Room, Mare St, E8 1EJ
DATE : Friday January 13, 2006
TIME: 7.30pm
PRICE: £12/£8
Box Office: 020 8985 2424

For more details see www.rotozaza.co.uk/joyride.html