Upcoming speaking in Manchester and Brighton [Digital Shorts – Retail, Recession and Emerging Trends]

For the last couple of years I’ve presented at the “Digital Shorts” events in Manchester and sometimes Leeds (but this year ‘and Brighton’).

The events – organised by Econsultancy and regional partners – are an opportunity for digital marketers and ecommerce folk to meet for drinks and discussion based around a review of the Christmas/2008 trading and predictions of emerging trends.

2 years ago I said we were in denial about a recession; last year we covered social media platforms and rich media; while this year we’re going on a data journey where data + social + behaviour + exchange leads towards epiphenomena. Or ‘magic’ (since, as Arthur C Clarke said in 1961: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”).

If you’re going to be in Manchester let me know since I think we’ll ‘do dinner’ afterwards, while in Brighton it’ll just be beers and the late night train home!

Details of the events are on the Econsultancy shiny new website:

Manchester Digital Shorts, 4 February 2009

Brighton Digital Shorts, 11 February 2009.

Updates and echo-locating via Brightkite.

Digital Shorts – Retail, Christmas, Recession and Emerging Trends for 2009 | Econsultancy


Paris – falling in love again, with film

I’ve been uphappy for a while with digital. Slow, clunky cameras with glacial shutter lag and battery dependency, or an SLR format with bulk and battery dependency. The closest I’ve gotten of late to that portable, inconspicuous ‘city snapper’ feel is the estimable (but slow) Canon G9.

While pondering over an upgrade to the Canon G10 (for its 28mm wider-angle lens and more rangefinder-like control layout on the top plate) I realised that what I actually wanted was that very rangefinder body.

Despite dropping many hints for the last two years no-one has opted to buy me a Leica M8 as a bribe/inducement and since I’d never manage to justify one of these rather than, ahem, feeding my children my mind’s been turning to smaller rangefinders.

Enter, therefore, a chat with Andy at TheClassicCamera.co.uk in Pied Bull Yard who offered to swap my Hasselblad Xpan (panoramic/dual format 35mm rangefinder) for a pretty Leica/Minolta CLE, complete with 70s Man of Mystery burgundy leather ‘outfit’ briefcase. The deal was done in seconds and so I headed off to Paris with the CLE, some knackered batteries and the cracking, punchy 40mm f2 Rokkor.

I’d luckily got a pocketful of two of my favourite films – the Fujicolor Professional 800Z (even, attractive grain and high speed) and the Fuji Neopan 1600 (the wildest B&W film currently available – extreme speed with the sort of grain that you had on HP5 a few years ago).

I was in ‘Cartier Bresson’ mode: wanting to walk the streets, using available light and a cool-temperature, punchy film to lift the flat, rainy light without going all warm and ‘kodacolour’ on me.

The determinant to shoot film was discovering anew the folk at Panther Professional who’ll develop and scan a 35mm C41 film for (drum-roll) £8. Awesome. No pesky prints, just the negs (archive and print purposes) and a CD of scans at about 1840×1232 pixels (coming in at about 1~1.5Mb each). Ideal for the web.

Panther also supply a neat CD insert with a ‘digital contact sheet’ (just like the old APS films).

This means that I can enjoy photography and playing with films, the discipline of not blatting off a gabillion images, a vast reduction in time spent in front of the computer and a more inconspicuous street shooting time. In all, I’m in heaven.

Oh, and the images are just de-lovely: look at that grain! The contrast! The colour temperature and balance! The tonality! Sigh.

Of course, I’m still ready to accept the bribe/inducement of an M8 at any time, but I’m looking forward to some more film shooting in the coming months – especially since I picked up a rather wonderful 3rd generation Leica Summicron-M 28mm f2.8… That’s now living on the front of the CLE and I’ll update with how it performs on the 800Z stock in the coming weeks (I think it’ll accompany me to Manchester in a week or so and hopefully we’ll have a bit of an urban/industrial wander).

Here’re some higlights from the photoset Paris 2009:

Kitchen at Yves Camdebordes Comptoir
Kitchen at Yves Camdeborde’s Comptoir
Pigeons feeding on the Champes-Elysees

Pigeons feeding on the Champes-Elysees

Entering St Suplice Metro at night.

Entering St Sulpice Metro at night.

View from Daves flat in the garment district

View from Dave's flat in the garment district

Social media and moblogging??

Originally uploaded by Emma and Lorenzo Wood

Hot on the heels of MySociety’s iPhone app for their wonderful FixMyStreet service, Lorenzo spotted this in the wilds of Shoreditch…

Numbered CCTV is one thing (a la Westminster’s unique parking location references (UPLs?)) but texting incidents is a step further.

The cynic in me wonders if this means that the cameras are not monitored until they get a text?

Thinking further forward, why even bother having a camera: just get people to send in photos by MMS with the reference number of the nearest lampost…

Stand by for a new wave of crime – stealing mobiles of people reporting incidents…

Econsultancy | eCommerce Manager, Austin Reed Group

eCommerce Manager, Austin Reed Group
Econsultancy | eCommerce Manager, Austin Reed Group

I’m looking for an eCommerce Manager to join Austin Reed Group (one of my clients) at a very exciting time of growth in their online channel.

The role’s been brought forward since the Group eCommerce Manager’s about to go on maternity leave so this is an opportunity both to establish this role and deputise for the duration of the maternity leave. It’s a very visible role in the group with strong Board and executive interest and support.

There’s a new, whizzy ecommerce platform being ‘enlivened’ in February so this role will have appropriate tools to support marketing and merchandising iniatives.

This is a career-defining opportunity for an ambitious ecommerce retail professional to make a mark in a time of growth and change.

The job advert has details on how to apply but if you’d like an informal chat please either call/mail if we already know each other or send me your details via LinkedIn.

AR will consider structuring the role as interim/contract – just let them know in your covering email.

“Christmas Opening Times” – photoset

Originally uploaded by ikj

Inspired by a nice ‘we’ll be closed’ sign in Tossed on Baker Street just before Christmas I spent some wandering time looking at how shops signal their opening/closed times to customers over Christmas.

This photoset is a selection of snaps from time wandering in Shoreditch, Brick Lane, Spitalfields and Columbia Road.

This one from Nelly Duff is my favourite, but Square Pie comes a close second imho.

OMG – “Dilbert 2.0” – 20th anniversary hardback. Welcome to my bookshelf!

So, as if I weren’t already “media’d-out” by staying up till 1am each night this week watching the slow-but-winning first series of The Wire out of the 5-series box-set (a wonderful pressie from Vicky who’s trying to wean me off CSI…) I have just received in t’post the beautifully produced and weighty 20th Anniversary Dilbert hardback, slipcased, glossy, colour, tactile-heaven book.

Dilberts 20th Anniversary hardback

Dilbert's 20th Anniversary hardback

Admittedly, our beleaguered and bowed Postie wasn’t happy, but I certainly was 🙂

The book’s a large format – more ‘fork lift’ than ‘coffee table’ – but the binding and slipcase are weighty and well constructed. Think ‘woodworking’ rather than ‘cardboard’. The structure is neat too: an essay from Scott on his earliest cartoons, lucky breaks, disappointments and the growth of Dilbert – as a character and a syndicated cartoon. The book then has pages of cartoons categorised into the various ‘phases’ of the last 20 years along with lots of inline commentary from Scott Adams on the jokes, the reader responses and background.

This is a real treat for longstanding Dilbert fans and newbie accolites alike. There’s an archive DVD of 6,500 cartoons too (if the web’s just too slow for you).

So – thanks Father Christmas. Great pressie!

Interviewed on SkyNews about “Mega Monday” or Cyber Monday

So, then, to 4 Millbank to be interviewed on the 7pm SkyNews bulletin about CyberMonday (or, being British, “Mega Monday”).

Appearing on SkyNews at 7pm

Appearing on SkyNews at 7pm

I was called this afternoon to ask if I’d be willing to appear and comment and of course the answer was ‘yes’. Then I started to feel nervous!

I don’t recall much about the interview itself – I was in a dark room, staring at a focus point and desperately listening to the question so that I didn’t burble. Intentionally, anyway.

Up earlier had been David Walmsley, Head of Direct at John Lewis, and as I’d arrived in the studio I’d thought how composed and fluid he was on TV. I decided to become more nervous immediately 😉

The studio was intriguing: not quite a ‘radio car’, but certainly a compact and lean operation, mainly focused on political happenings at nearby Parliament.

The Millbank studio for Sky News

The Millbank studio for Sky News

I’ve not been able to track down a ‘recording’ of what I said, but my intention was to cover off how the predictions for Mega Monday were tending toward the blindingly obvious, and how even a scrooge-like consumer was now running out of shopping days to Christmas. Behind the headline figures of revenues (predicted, btw, by IMRG to be £320m today, with Retail Decisions predicting that Mega Minute will be 1.31pm today, with an expected near £1m in transactions that minute), the real issue is that revenues this year will have been bought by discounting. In order to have a higher cash value of transactions than last year, therefore, retailers will need to ship proportionally more boxes – creating an additional strain on their logistics operations as well as reducing their margins even further.

Pressed on the reason for the success of the web I recall mentioning that the web was now a mature component within multichannel retail. The web is used by some 90% of people questioned in an IMRG survey to help decide on purchases made in-store. Interestingly, only 68% of those questioned said the reverse – that they needed to see goods in-store to inform their internet purchasing.

I was asked whether there was anything fundamental to the web that would make it an inherently ‘cheap’ channel, but of course there’s a need to have a capable infrastructure as well, ideally, as a traditional retail channel in order to maximise sales. I challenged the draw of the web as being “cheapness” alone, noting that customers now required service as much as price. In the US on CyberMonday, for example, nearly 11% of all shopping traffic went to Amazon.com – a combination of breadth of product, excellent pricing and exemplary, proven service.

In what seemed like an age or a second it was over and, with a polite ‘thank you’ from the producer, I was back on the scooter heading home.

The kids were pleased to see me on telly (ahh) and I’ve already had abusive texts about being fat/nervous/bearded etc – to which I just say “thanks” 😉

This is a picture of me on the telly taken with Vicky's iPhone - I'm just blinking, not falling into a trance. Honest.

This is a picture of me on the telly taken by Vicky with her iPhone - I'm just blinking, not falling into a trance. Honest.

It was an interesting experience and something out of the comfort zone. It was also a chance to get some key messages to a new audience and finally whet my appetite to enliven our plans for InternetRetailing TV. We did some experiments at our conference – see the embed below –  but I think that it’s time to be a bit more active on this front.

Jobs: Sales Manager and European Editors for Internet Retailing

We have a vacancy for a sales manager at Internet Retailing (the magazine, portal and conference for the UK’s multichannel and pure-play etailers). This is an exciting time for IR – our third annual conference was a great success and the mag and portal continue to grow in terms of critical acclaim (from a demanding, professional readership), revenues and scale.

With new events, supplements, v/pod-casts, goodness-knows-what-else, AND French and German editions of the newsletters and portals, it’s a manic and exciting time at IR Towers, and we now have three vacancies just waiting for the right people to join us.

We’re looking for:

  • Sales Manager – based in London, excellent base, unlimited commission, at the heart of a fun and expert supplier community. We’re looking for someone used to B2B, reputation-based selling who’s great with clients and not a “sales tosser” (ie talks like an estate agent, always yakking on about “closing”, pretending to discount/’do a deal’, and generally leaving civilised people aghast at their poor manners, short-termism and ignorance).
  • Country Editor, France and Country Editor, Germany – to launch the French/German-language portals and bi-weekly newsletters in, er, France and Germany respectively. You’ll be commercial, an analytical journalist, with sector experience (ie this isn’t just academic, you need to understand ecommerce and retailing) with a desire to make a name for yourself in the sector. You’ll be mother-tongue fluent, of course, and also speak excellent English so that we can chat. You’ll represent IR at the highest levels in-country, build on the basis of the European eCommerce Forum, and work as part of an unformal, slightly mad, collegiate team.

I have job descriptions, further info, a keen-ness to chat – let me know if you’re interested or push good people in this direction. Don’t be shy 🙂 Mail me for further info.

Google Mobile App – clever convergence of data, directory categorisation, location and interface

As the regular reader will know I’m a big  believer that the convergence of location-based information, structured data, inferred/contextual relationships and a slick relevant interface will change our world and start delivering the sort of “future” interactions that we had in the 1960s’ SciFi.

Google’s Mobile App is a step closer.

I won’t rehash the explanatory video – it’s, er, self-explanatory – but the really interesting part for me isn’t the voice recognition but rather the emerging “common sense” in the google results. Note that there’s now an interpretive layer that’s interception calculations, directory-type enquiries (eg film listings, nearby restaurants) and informational or evaluative requests.

This is a major step forward for something that we tend to think of as a text-indexing service.

I’m a great fan of knowledge systems like TrueKnowledge (that has an inference engine built upon structured facts, questions and relationships – wonderful) – but it seems that Google’s slowly but surely adding equivalent capabilities by stealth and in parts.

Let’s start counting the days until this is seen as “just normal”…

UPDATE: been playing this morning at a client’s (different voices, male/female, Northern, Welsh, Australian) and we’re getting a one in five success rate. Still, that it even works 20% of the time is amazing and I’m sure it’ll train me to get clearer 😉

Walpole Awards

The hall at the Banqueting House

The hall at the Banqueting House

So, then, to the sumptuous surroundings of the Banqueting House in Whitehall for the Walpole‘s Awards for  Luxury.

It was a well-attended and extremely well-orchestrated event and the awards (of which there were seven, plus a special award for Dame Vivien Westwood whose, er, distinctive speech I really hope to be able to track down on YouTube and treasure forever!).

I was really pleased to see Bremont Watches get an award  (I’m a fan of their ALTI-Z, cream face) and Net A Porter picked up a deserved award for best online luxury site.

In all, a fun evening and good to catch up with so many people.