Skip to main content

Month: February 2006

“Electronic channels hitting store sales”. Surely not!

Electronic channels hitting store sales.


Some 50% of retailers at the Retail Business Show believe their e-commerce channels are cannibalising their in-store spend, according to the results of a survey conducted by platform integration specialists Glue4.

The surprise here is not that the online channel is no longer seen as ‘free’, purely additional sales, but that people naively refer to the change in the channel mix as “cannibalising”. This notion that there’s a ‘natural’ or ‘real’ sales channel and that ecommerce is somehow undermining it is quaint at best.

This is tantamount to retailers complaining that the new automatically-opening door is taking traffic away from the old manual doors next to them. Or complaining that the call centre is ‘taking sales’ away from the shops.

I’m sure that when retailers initially commit to the web all sales are seen as additive and free. As they learn more about their customers’ behaviour then they realise that customers see the web as a complementary part of the offering. People can research online, shortlist and then visit a shop to feel the ‘heft’ before committing. The web can also even out distribution anomalies – 12 pairs of size 7 shoes in Exeter, yet none in Aberdeen. An integrated stock system, linked to the eCommerce front end, can make that stock visible to the customer in Croydon, Camden or Lyon, take payment and get the shoes in the post.

Dining out on Robbery

Just had the best email from a friend – just made my evening!

You will all have heard/read about the robbery… here is the challenge: how do you put that amount of cash back into the system without being caught?

I propose dinner, 4 March 2006, at our place (or somewhere else if majority prefers it so) and everybody comes prepared with a ‘plan’… only condition is your plan has to ‘reintroduce’ at least £5million in no longer than 5 years… the group will judge who devised the best plan… who’s up for it?


Sadly, we’re already committed to dinner next week and won’t be able to make it (darn) but it has rather got me thinking…

Ordinarily my fantasies to do with large amounts of cash relate to finding a stray, winning rollover ticket, or inheriting from an unknown (but now much loved) Argentinian Aunt, that sort of thing. I don’t normally worry about how to offload or legitimise lots of cash…

Lots of ideas (eg cash-rich, high margin businesses) sprang to mind, but there was the issue of setting up bank accounts, the hassle of pretending to buy £5k of veg each week (where do you dump that amount??). Then I thought of “lifestyle deli” businesses – the sort that pop up, get painted like a Farrow & Ball showroom, have sparse Vitsoe shelving with overpriced goods and then go tits-up in 4 months. These always looked like money-laundering fronts, but it’s actually quite hard to kit out a whole shop for cash without arousing suspicion.

Buying 50million £1 tickets would yield, in all probability a jackpot of £10m if done in one weekend (doh – alarm bells) and that’d seem to be a good recovery percentage. Oh, and if you were later caught you could plead mitigation in sentencing because of the money you’d contributed to “chariddee” via the National Lottery!

Skipping the country with bags of folding notes has to be high on the list – hopefully to a welcoming swiss bank account. I have no idea though how to open a swiss bank account. Any suggestions (with opening deposit, natch) gratefully received.

Whatever I came up with though ultimately founders on traceability to my “real” identity. It’s quite hard to continue to be “me” and launder the cash. Admittedly, were I a dastardly and successful criminal I’d not be too fussed about my “me-ness” (indeed, I’d have many identities) and this is where finally I have to lay my plans… I’d buy up lots of identities from ‘people in pubs’ and use those to create legitimate sources/repositories for cash: savings accounts, post-office accounts, NS&I childrens’ bonds – anything that’ll allow £1-4k at a time to pass though. These can then be accumulated/converted over time.

It’s all very complicated though and – looking over my shoulder as I type – my wife reckons this is a crap idea and ‘just like a bad film’. Ho hum.

What about turning into a grass, pocketing the cash and taking a new identity? 🙂

Seems that I’m not really cut out to be a master criminal…

Any suggestions or inside info, btw, on what the percentage of the gross take that a criminal would keep after fencing? I policeman I once knew reckoned it was 5%-10% of the gross amount stolen. Clearly, fencing/laundering is an involved and complex activity and there will therefore be costs. The comments form is anonymous other than IP address, btw… 🙂

Government Hospitality Advisory Committee for the Purchase of Wine

Government Hospitality Advisory Committee for the Purchase of Wine

Yay – what a job!

Unpaid, natch (worth doing just for the conversational value!):

The role of the Committee is to advise Government Hospitality Section of the FCO on the maintenance of an appropriate standard of wine for use at Government functions. This entails giving advice, after tasting, on the purchase of wine, the exchange of wines if necessary, the management and stocking of the Government Wine Cellar at Lancaster House, and advice on suppliers.

This is such a fun, open-government role that I’ll even hold off on my (usual) curmudgeonly screams of “that’s my taxes you’re drinking!”.

Pleased to see that, while many other aspects of British life are challenged/in decline we can at least hold our end up when it comes to international schmoozing of dignitaries and drinking said diplos under the table.


Beyond PIMs and folders

TechCrunch � Foldera: Never organize your inbox again

What a promise! This is a nice write-up of Foldera, a web-based ‘new wave organiser’. Thanks to Doug for the nod on this.

I’m mildly obsessed (!) by the need for a better way to organise oneself and teams than either PIMs, exchange or more rigid PM software. Organised, yet disorganised. Flexible yet structured. Usual conflicting requirements…

Doug, via his company Isotoma has just delivered release 2 of an extranet project based on Plone and it’s rather impressive. It’s currently for Littlewoods‘ use only, but after some more development it’ll be available as OSS, so watch this space.

“WriteToThem” stats

You’ve just got to admire and love this project, the successor to “FaxYourMP”. Tom Steinberg has really created a wonderful and epoch-changing service here and it’s great to see ‘openness in action’ and some performance stats on our MPs… – Zeitgeist 2005

Odd that it’s taken motivated, self-organising individuals to arrange this – and not the performance-table-mad government… Odd that.

Tom’s press release notes:


* A remarkable 29 MPs have reported response rates of 100% (ie
everyone who answered the survey said they had got a response).
mySociety director Tom Steinberg said:

“These 29 MPs are doing a truly top notch job of responding to their
constituents. We hope that such large numbers of MPs
doing so well will finally put to rest the myth that it is impossible
to cope with the email workloads most MPs face, and so will motivate
improved response rates at the bottom end of the scale.”

* 44% of people writing to their MP via WriteToThem had never written
to an elected representative before, strongly challenging the claim
that political internet tools are only of use to the politically

* Overall MPs have better response rates than any other kind of
elected representative, such as councillors or MEPs or MSPs.

* There are still 6 MPs who don’t accept messages from at all

Interesting that dear Mr Galloway, my MP, hasn’t been doing as badly on the response front as you’d expect given that he’s mainly touring the UK, Egypt or in The House… (of Big Brother, not of Commons).

Haves and have-nots of the blogging boom (article)

Blogs to Riches – The Haves and Have-Nots of the Blogging Boom — New York Magazine

What an enjoyable and well-writted article by a blog-boom, journo insider. I link to it with humility and conscious of the irony (a c-lister reinforcing the status of an a-lister).

The article covers nicely the “power law” relationship between the big ticket blogs and the seething mess of sporadic, ignored and irrelevant personal projects, while also detailing neatly the success of clever, well-executed commercial blogging empires – just like micro-publishing or science/magazine publishing.

Interestingly though this article is not on a blog: it’s a sustained, well-written and well-subbed article for a print magazine. I’m sure that Mike Butcher would appreciate this, and take the opportunity to note once more that “blogging isn’t journalism” 😉

Just to give a taste of the writing style, here’s a lovely snippet when Clive Thompson illustrates the relationship between the A and C list bloggers…

Among bloggers, few things provoke more rancor than the subject of the A-list. Much as in high school, C-listers quickly suspect the deck is stacked against them, and the bitterness flows like cheap wine. No one knows this better than Elizabeth Spiers, the original Gawker girl. She is arguably the most famous professional blogger, since she invented its dominant mode: a titillating post delivered with a snarky kicker, casual profanity, and genuine fan-girl enthusiasm—sonnets made of dirt.

Great read.

US Eurovision: Fine – but who’s their “Wogan”??

BBC NEWS | Entertainment | US to emulate Eurovision contest

“Eurovision is the granddaddy of all talent shows and the Super Bowl of singing,” said Ben Silverman, chairman of series producers Reveille.

Well, that’s just fine. My only interest is who’ll be the american Wogan. His irony has made it cool to be so uncool, and has promoted harmony and understanding amongst the participating nations. Oh yes.

The “SuperBowl of singing”? That’s just great 🙂

Cartoons, free speech and a world of prickly ‘injured parties in waiting’.

spiked-politics | Column | Those cartoons: a caricatured argument

I’ve been following the global saga of the ‘cartoons that insult Islam’ with a mixture of amusement, horror and increasing exasperation. Increasingly it resembles an argument on Trisha where it’s clear that any slim points of difference are an excuse for people who dislike each other to go hammer and tongs.

Why is it that major issues on liberalism (free speech, tolerance, respect) are so often triggered by events which are somehow unworthy? I believe in free speech, commentary, tolerance and respectful behaviour: why therefore should I have to fight for this ground on the basis of some juvenile, purposely-provocative and slightly pointless cartoons. They are irrelevant at best and unnecessarily offensive.

This said, Mick Hume’s piece on Spike is a good read and covers the underlying issues well:

So, at the risk of stating what might once (ie, about a fortnight ago) have been considered the obvious, it is worth reminding ourselves that a dozen obscure, unfunny (unless something major has been lost in translation) badly drawn bad-taste cartoons are…

1. Not the start of a slippery slope towards an Islamophoic Holocaust in Europe, as Muslim groups and at least one Labour MP has suggested;

2. Not the bedrock on which principle of free speech in our societies stands or falls, as implied by some in the West.

As secular liberals, whose cultures have spilt blood, tears and gallons on ink on religious reform, separate of church and state, emancipation and universal suffrage, it’s worth remembering how recently this “nirvana of free speech” has been reached. The history of Europe is one of religious zealotry, reform, counter-reformation, repression and finally a level of religious and social emancipation. We have had barely 50 years of classlessness, equal opportunity, free markets, open government… indeed, even listing these terms conjures recent examples of our own failures in each of these areas!

In order to either live with Islam or importantly (imho) to play to the broad, moderate majority within the ancient, peaceful and tolerant religion, we need to act with a bit more sensitivity and humility, while remaining strongly opposed on principle to the macho, jihadi voices of violence, repression and extremism (this applies to Islam as well as the Christian Right in the US).

This means it is incumbent upon us all:
* not to give offence carelessly or without purpose: since when is provoking someone to no end an expression of ‘freedom’ or an exemplification of values we hold to be universal and dear?
* not to take offence. Accept that there are occasions when we are sensitive to slight, even where there is none, or certainly none intended

I must be deluded though: if it were that easy then surely we wouldn’t have these arguments and deliberate misunderstandings.

Quote of the day though to Mick Hume:

The only restriction there ought to be on free speech is that it is the preserve of adults. Neither side has passed that test in this infantile spat. Instead of shouting at one another to shut up, it would be better if we all resolved to grow up.

Short URLs – useful roundup

TidBITS: The Incredible Shrinking URL

Good URLs are all the rage at the moment – very ‘web 2.0’! The requirements are that they’re clear, logical, hackable, persistent, don’t expose either the identifiers or the underlying technology etc (see – I was listening yesterday 🙂 ).

Anyway, apropo none of the above, this article on TidBits is a timely roundup of the URL-reduction services available to tame those dotted-domain+long-URL+session-keys+embedded-query+platform-specific URLs…

Normally, I use tinyurl but I’ve just been intro’d to LookLeap – looks neat. Not just a bland tinyurl domain, but a preservation of the destination address. Nice. Absolute shortness isn’t needed (provided the URL fits on a line) but the information “payload” is increased.

  • 1
  • 2