Sunday, December 23, 2007

Happy Holidays, Best Wishes for 2008

I hope you enjoy the holiday season and I wish you a happy, healthy and
prosperous new year.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

I tried Three’s new Skype phone and I liked it

Before leaving for California, I was approached by Matt from to test Three’s new Skype phone. I don’t usually bother reviewing products (albeit for a few books) but I live in London and my new company is in Mountain View, California. I am on Skype daily with our partners over the world, and often with our family and friends in Singapore. A phone plan that integrates Skype sounded like a godsend to me.

Two months later, upon my return to the UK, I received as promised 2 phones for a month long trial.

The phone

The silver ring around the Skype button is borderline bling but overall the phone is sleek and elegant in its simplicity. And it has a really nice feel when you hold it. I guess Three must have spend weeks with focus groups just to get the right weight, not too heavy, not too light resulting in this smooth feeling handset that fits nicely in the hand.

The specs
Decent colour screen, 2MB camera, takes pictures, videos and many other things that I could not be possibly bothered to mention, as I am not that geeky. Specs are there if you are interested (select a phone and click on "Mobile details").

The interface
Among the phones I used, Motorola consistently ranked worst in terms of clunky, non-intuitive user interface. Nokia is doing a pretty good job but I always had a soft spot for Sony-Ericksson. I am adding to my favourites Three’s interface which is easy to use and aesthetically pleasing. Good job for people like me who would rather never use a functionality than opening a user manual.

This is the crux of the matter. You can call and receive calls on Skype using Three’s network, which means you don’t rely on finding a wifi connection. Finally, I could talk to my Skype friends without being glued to my laptop. Because I am using Three’s network , voice quality was much better than my normal Skype calls. When logged-in to Skype (just press the “Skype” button), you will see your contacts and their status. To call, just select a contact and you are on. You can use Skype chat as well but the Three Skypephone does not support Skype Out or Skype In.

Live TV
The picture quality of live TV is impressive. Sharp and good streaming. On offer: BBC1, BBC3, BBC News, National Geographic, FHM, MTV…

Facebook, MSN, eBay and the likes
It has all that if you need it. There is a handy shortcut to Google Search on Three’s launcher (like a “Start menu on Windows). There is a direct link to Youtube as well so instead of spending too much money on video calls, post your clip on your Youtube channel for your friends to watch and reciprocate.

Finally, the price…
Now this is where it gets complicated, there are lots of information on rates and plans but it is a bit all over the place on Three’s website, and the small print is hard to find.

Pay As You Go (no contract)
You can buy a handset for £59.99 that includes a £10 top-up. You can use Skype for 30 days with a “fair use” policy (4,000 Skype minutes and 10,000 chat messages per month) but you need to top-up again with a minimum of £10 every 30 days.

Contracts are 18 months, which is far too long to consider for someone like me who spend months abroad. The cheapest plan is £12 a month and gives you 100 minutes or text messages. The phone comes free with the same “fair use” policy for Skype.

Live TV is £5 a month and add another £5 for unlimited web surfing. This will go on top of PAYG or contracts.

I showed the phone to a couple of friends and they all agreed that it is a looker with great functionality, with Skype, Live TV an mobile web among their favourite features (in order). As far as I understand, rates are competitive but my hunch is that you need to spend lots of time on Skype at time when you don't want to be at home to make it worthwhile. Otherwise you may be better off sticking to Skype on your laptop and a cheap call plan for calls/texts. The 18 months contract is a no go for me but I may look into the PAYG option after I speak to Three’s sales reps to clarify call rates for that option.

Overall, the Skype Phone is on top of my 2008 must-have list and I am glad I tried it.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Surface Computing to go mainstream 3 to 4 years from now?

Think Minority Report:

The story of stuff: how the real world works

A must-watch movie. Help spread the word and change a system that has turned you into a shopping zombie.

"The Story of Stuff:

From its extraction through sale, use and disposal, all the stuff in our lives affects communities at home and abroad, yet most of this is hidden from view. The Story of Stuff is a 20-minute, fast-paced, fact-filled look at the underside of our production and consumption patterns. (...) It'll teach you something, it'll make you laugh, and it just may change the way you look at all the stuff in your life forever."

Friday, December 14, 2007

BlogNation to shut down amidst much mud-throwing 2.0

I read Blognation and TechCrunch from time to time. I found the whole Arrington / Sethi saga entertaining at first then slightly pathetic (story well summarized by Patrick de Laive). The bottom line is that some bloggers have too large an ego and a nefarious tendency to air their dirty laundry in public (PR execs... beware!). I can only sympathize with Blognation’s writers and readers who lost a decent outlet for global news.

Back to how much Facebook has replaced blogging now...

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Facebook to license platform methods and tags to counter Google's OpenSocial

Extract from Facebook's announcement:

"Now we also want to share the benefits of our work by enabling other social sites to use our platform architecture as a model. In fact, we’ll even license the Facebook Platform methods and tags to other platforms. Of course, Facebook Platform will continue to evolve, but by enabling other social sites to use what we’ve learned, everyone wins -- users get a better experience around the web, developers get access to new audiences, and social sites get more applications."

Bebo already announced that it will focus its efforts on applications compatibility with Facebook (while continuing to support Open Social).

Are we heading towards a format war between Google and Facebook?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Monday, December 10, 2007

You Will Control 25% of Entertainment by 2012

Nokia's latest study,"Glimpse of the Next Episode" predicts that within five years a quarter of all entertainment will be created, edited and shared within peer groups rather than coming out of traditional media groups.

I told you so.

Mobile Crunch.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Facebook's Beacon More Intrusive Than Previously Thought

"Stefan Berteau, a Computer Associates security researcher found that Facebook's Beacon goes much further than anyone has imagined in tracking people's Web activities outside the popular social networking site: Beacon will report back to Facebook on members' activities on third-party sites that participate in Beacon even if the users are logged off from Facebook and have declined having their activities broadcast to their Facebook friends."

Full article on Washington Post

Friday, November 30, 2007

Victory! Facebook stopped invading my privacy.

More than 50,000 users (that’s 49,999 and me) have forced Facebook to change the way controversial ad system Beacon worked.

Story on BBC.

Facebook’s official reaction:

Facebook Update on Changes to Beacon

No stories will be published without users proactively consenting

We appreciate feedback from all Facebook users and made some changes to Beacon in the past day. Users now have more control over the stories that get published to their Mini-Feed and potentially to their friends' News Feeds.

Here's how the Beacon changes work:

- Stories about actions users take on external websites will continue to be presented to users at the top of their News Feed the next time they return to Facebook. These stories will now always be expanded on their home page so they can see and read them clearly.

- Users must click on "OK" in a new initial notification on their Facebook home page before the first Beacon story is published to their friends from each participating site. We recognize that users need to clearly understand Beacon before they first have a story published, and we will continue to refine this approach to give users choice.

- If a user does nothing with the initial notification on Facebook, it will hide after some duration without a story being published. When a user takes a future action on a Beacon site, it will reappear and display all the potential stories along with the opportunity to click "OK" to publish or click "remove" to not publish.

- Users will have clear options in ongoing notifications to either delete or publish. No stories will be published if users navigate away from their home page. If they delay in making this decision, the notification will hide and they can make a decision at a later time.

- Clicking the "Help" link next to the story will take users to a full tutorial that explains exactly how Beacon works, with screenshots showing each step in the process.

These changes are in addition to those made earlier to improve the notifications on partner sites as follows

- Users were sometimes moving away from a page before a notification could be fully displayed. We changed the process so that we confirm the full display of the notification before any information can be sent back to a user's Facebook account.

- The notification appears more rapidly and is more clearly displayed.

There has been misinformation in the market about some key aspects of how Beacon works:

- Participation in Beacon is free for all partner sites.

- Beacon only allows for the sharing of specific actions on the specific sites participating in Beacon.

- Beacon only has the potential to display actions to a selection of a user's friends through News Feed and on a user's Mini-Feed.

- Facebook is not sharing user information with participating sites and never sells user information.

As with all its products, Facebook will continue to iterate quickly and listen to feedback from its users

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Innocent advertising on Facebook

Here we are, the beginning of the Myspace-ization of Facebook:

Whenever you befriend an innocent fruit juice, be it honeyed mango or crushed strawberry, your Facebook "friends" will be automatically notified:
Note that Facebook added two icons on the right of each mini-feed story. Whenever you are privy to such privileged information, click on the little cross. That should stop the pain, at least temporarily.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Surfer dude stuns physicists with theory of everything


France is on strike!

The train network is paralyzed with heavy cancellations and delays as French get a taste of the daily life of British commuters.

The Economist for a more serious take on the issue.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Virtual habbo thief arrested

A 17-year-old is accused of stealing 4,000 euros (£2,840) worth of virtual furniture, bought with real money in Habbo hotel. He will be sentenced to spend 3 years in a virtual Habbo cell. BBC News.

Monday, November 12, 2007

What Chefs do when they are bored

Awesome pictures of animals made with food.

Facebook's advertising illegal in the State of New York

A 100-year-old New York privacy law states that “any person whose name, portrait, picture, or voice is used within this state for advertising purposes or for the purposes of trade without the written consent first obtained” can sue for damages.

Chris Kelly, Chief Privacy Officer of Facebook, said the ads are a “representation” of the action users have taken: choosing to link themselves to a product thus it would be difficult for someone to object because that person had already chosen to publicly identify themselves with the brand doing the advertising.

Full article in the NY Times.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Facebook to Turn Users Into Endorsers

Facebook will allow brands to create profiles on Facebook. Feeds will display messages like "John Q is a fan of Toyota Prius". Friends of John Q will see banner ads for Toyota throughout Facebook’s site with a photo of John Q and the fact that he likes the Prius.

Article on NY Times.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Mobile phones: introducing Google Android

Google launched a new operating system for mobile phones (also known as cellphones across the pond and handphones across the pond across the pond). Motorola, Samsung, Qualcomm, LG, Sprint and T-Mobile are part of the Open Handset Alliance that could adopt Android. Here is a FAQ on what Android means.

As I am typing this, sipping a Cabernet Sauvignon, watching a rerun of Star Wars' "Attack of the clones"on HBOFW and laying-out a user journey for Karmony's Facebook app (to be released this week), I cannot help thinking how much Google has become the default "site" for much of my web needs. I only search on Google, Gmail is my primary personal email address, Google News is my first point of call to see what's going on in the world, I welcomed OpenSocial as it will make our job easier as developers (for Karmony) and I cannot wait to get a phone where I can play with Google Maps (which is not an overpriced/over hyped iPhone)... It all becomes a bit scary how much a single company wields power over the web...

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Google lures MySpace for OpenSocial

"OpenSocial is going to become the de facto standard (for developers) instantly out of the gates. It is going to have a reach of 200 million users, which is way bigger than anything else out there," Chris DeWolfe, chief executive and co-founder of MySpace, told reporters.

From Reuters

I reckon that Facebook should join in.

PR pitching bloggers: Wired editor Chris Anderson's bans PR spammers

"I only want two kinds of email: those from people I know, and those from people who have taken the time to find out what I'm interested in and composed a note meant to appeal to that (I love those emails; indeed, that's why my email address is public). Everything else gets banned on first abuse." Full post here.

Chris then publishes a list of about 300 banned email addresses, a real who's who of public relations practitioners. Comments to the post are entertaining, mostly supportive of the initiative. There are some PR guys whining in the lot (the entertaining part).

Personally, I hope that this will be a wake-up call for lazy PR execs who spam bloggers with press releases or who infringe editors/journalists' personal space. I do receive about 2 emails a week, nothing like what Chris Anderson must be dealing with. I rarely follow-up as they often consists of a copied and pasted press release about some topics I couldn't care less about (some company won an award in Oregon...). Sometimes there is a short note offering me an interview with some executives I never heard of (to talk about awards won in Oregon...).

When I was working with Hill & Knowlton, we went to great length to build relationships with bloggers. It takes a lot of time and efforts but the end result is that you don't end up in a banned list like Chris Anderson's, for all to see and to spam you in return.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The next 25 years of video games: behold The Matrix

Best article I read so far on where gaming technology could bring us. Credit to David Wong and Steve Woyach on

Google to take on Facebook with OpenSocial?

Google is about to launch a set of APIs allowing developers to create applications working across some "social networks" such as LinkedIn, Friendster, Ning or Newsgator. Slide and Rock You are already in the game. Read more on GigaOm.

Best analysis of what it means is on ZDNet.

Full Californian experience: my first earthquake

Magnitude 5.6 on the Richter scale... It shook for 30 secs, just time for us to get out of the house. Impressive. But no worries, we are all fine.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Organic food really IS better for you, claims study

From Evening Standard. Best value for money organic food, delivered to your door in London is Riverford. I have been using them for 6 months now and never looked back (thank you Gaylene for introducing them to me).

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Microsoft buys stake in Facebook as human species slowly splits into two

Microsoft bought a 1.6% stake in Facebook for $240M, valuing the company at $15Bn using the "anything to beat Google will do" discount ratio. Oliver Curry, an "evolutionary theorist" expect the human race to peak in year 3,000 and split into a genetic upper-class and dim-witted underclass. The Facebook have and have-not?

Saturday, October 13, 2007

French Tech Connection Party in San Francisco

I'll be at the Tech Connection Party hosted by French Tech Connection on Tuesday in San Francisco. If you read this blog free beer for you when we meet up.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Interflora, flowers experts, not delivery experts

The good thing about working for yourself is that when you have a bad experience with a company, you can tell it as it is, without worrying of offending a client, a prospect or your colleagues. I will make ample use of that new privilege. I am in Santa Clara for 2 months to raise funds for my new start-up, Karmony. My wife is working in London. It is not easy. I ordered a bouquet of flowers via Interflora to be delivered to her office on Monday, as a surprise. The bouquet arrived on Tuesday. The flowers looked tired. In addition to my personal note was a brochure with all the flowers' prices... This is so unprofessional. I hope that this post will add to others who experienced such poor service from Interflora, and forces the company to take notice.

Industry Experts Blog Hot Topics in Online PR, Marketing

The International Association of Online Communicators (IAOC) has just begun the Fall 2007 season of the popular educational blog show, "This Week on" The program is free and open for PR, marketing and online communications professionals, educators and students, as well as anyone interested in discussing hot topics and trends in Internet marketing communications.

The Fall season kicked off September 24 with guest blogger Peter A. Gloor of MIT's Sloan School of Management, who blogged about analyzing workplace communications. The season continues Oct 15 with computer communications expert Dave Taylor answering that menacing question: Is it okay to get paid to blog?

The blog show features a different guest blogger each week. Our guests are renowned professionals, educators and authors in the field of online communication.

Here is the Fall lineup:

October 15-19, 2007
GUEST: Dave Taylor, Blogsmart, Ask Dave Taylor
TOPIC: Is It Okay to Get Paid to Blog?

October 22-26, 2007
GUEST: Ted Demopoulos, Blogging for Business
TOPIC: Should CEOs Blog?

October 29-November 2, 2007
GUEST: Dianna Huff, Marcom Writer Blog
TOPIC: Writing Search Engine Friendly Copy

November 5-9, 2007
GUEST: Lois Kelly, Foghound
TOPIC: Conversational Marketing: Mood over Matter?

November 13-16, 2007
(Nov. 12 is Veteran's Day)
GUEST: Shel Horowitz, Ethical Marketing Expert
TOPIC: Blogger's Code of Ethics: News or Ruse?

"This Week on" takes place at For more information, please visit this site or contact

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Good bye Hill & Knowlton, Hello Karmony!

Yesterday was my last day as EMEA VP of digital for Hill & Knowlton. Monday, I am off to Mountain View, California to raise funds for a new generation of social shopping engine. Codenamed “Karmony”, it cuts through the so-called “wisdom of the crowd” to provide only the most relevant product recommendations to individuals. I’ll blog more about Karmony and about my journey as an entrepreneur in the coming days. Wish me luck and stay tuned.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Mobile Television: Europeans not interested

Only 5% would consider trying it within the next 12 months if it was available. Article in French.

Facebook user? You are worth $238

"Microsoft is poised to buy a 5% stake in the firm for between $300m and $500m. That would make Facebook worth up to $10bn" (...) "The valuation would amount to $238 for each of the 42 million people who have Facebook profiles." Guardian article.

Myspace was sold two years ago for $580 million and claims 100 million users.

France: 9 out of 10 search queries are on Google

Google: 85.8%
Yahoo!: 3.8%
Microsoft: 3.4%
eBay: 2.2%
France Télécom: 2%

Article (French).

Monday, September 24, 2007

Pirate Bay sues media giants for 'sabotage'

"The big record and movie labels are paying professional hackers, saboteurs to destroy our trackers" Pirate Bay said."

Story on the Register.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Tianducheng, Paris' replica made in China

Tianducheng, a gated community near Hangzou has its own Eiffel tower (second largest replica in the world), Arc de triomphe and parisian's style appartments.

Article on Yahoo!
More pictures on Reuters.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Short List:: new free weekly men magazine

I picked-up a copy of the first issue of ShortList this morning and for a free paper, I am pretty impressed by it. Phil Hilton, the editor wants to raise above the repetitive "how to get a six pack", football and tits formula that plague FHM, Zoo, Nuts or the like. I wsih them good luck and eagerly await the next issue .

Monday, September 17, 2007

The world's best hotels on a budget

Article on the Times about book "Secret hotels" by Erik Torkell.

If you like travelling in style without breaking the bank, this book looks like a must have.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Healthcare companies / eMarketer not web 2.0 ready

In a report titled "Pharmaceutical Marketing Online: Stuck in Web 1.5" eMarketer senior analyst Lisa Phillips said "Pharma's slow adoption of Web 2.0 strategies like blogs, social networks and broadband video can be attributed to its conservative approach to advertising in general and to government restrictions".

Most pharma companies still build "Web 1.0" brochureware websites with limited user information. I agree that the regulatory framework doesn't help.

However, Lisa Phillips names some exceptions such as
Rozerem where visitors to the website can see a "video featuring the characters from its TV spots--Abraham Lincoln, a talking beaver and a sleep-deprived young man--with each imploring users to click on his individual section to learn more about the drug".

It's abit more creative but really, how web 2.0 is that??? It's just a layer on a brochureware website...

From Online Media Daily EMarketer report is there.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Facebook costing firms over £130m a day

233 million hours are wasted by employees every month according to employment law firm Peninsula. BBC article. There must be some gains... for some employees somehow...

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Free asian anime, music and drama on Crunchyroll

Cool.... Crunchyroll is free but users that pay $6 a month get higher quality and ad free videos. Via Techcrunch who focusses on copyright infringing content found on the site. Why spoil the fun?

nvestment group pays £50m cash for Hirst's diamond skull

When it comes to reconciling art and money, Damien Hirst is the King of cash.
Article on Evening Standard.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Only 5% of UK corporations use blogs on a regular basis,

They are not alone, "less than 6% of the Fortune 500 and 2% of the Forbes 200 Best Small Companies blogged in April and June 2006". Article on eMarketer.

Where do chinese people eat out in london?

Great post on Dim Sum (read the comments too). My regular haunts are:

- Young Cheng (Shaftsbury avenue) for quick lunch
- China China in Chinatown for mixed meat takeaways when I feel lazy and skint
- Royal China (Bayswater or Baker Street branch)
- Four Seasons in Bayswater for duck noodles
- The Hare & Tortoise on High Street Kensington for their soft shell crabs
- Pearl Liang (hidden gem in Paddington for posher meals - lobster noodles is recommended)
- Kiasu on Bayswater for authentic Singaporean fares

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

World's strangest laws: In Indonesia, the penalty for masturbation is decapitation...

The Times Online showcases the world's 25 strangest laws. My favourites (apart from the one above):
  • "It is an act of treason to place a postage stamp bearing the British monarch upside down".
  • "In France, it is forbidden to call a pig Napoleon."
  • "In Ohio, it is against state law to get a fish drunk"
  • "In Florida, unmarried women who parachute on Sundays can be jailed."
  • "In Chester, Welshmen are banned from entering the city before sunrise and from staying after sunset."
  • "In the city of York, it is legal to murder a Scotsman within the ancient city walls, but only if he is carrying a bow and arrow."

Friday, August 24, 2007

How to Make Skype Portable via USB

Mark O'Neill explains how to carry your Skype around on Read/WriteWeb. I am summarising it here.

  1. Create a folder and copy the file "skype.exe" into it.
  2. Create another folder inside your folder and call it "data". Inside, create a text file called "skype.bat" with the following text: skype.exe /datapath:"Data" /removable.
  3. Copy to your USB key. Done.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Wired: Advertisers waste millions in Second Life

Wired has an article on how corporations jumped in Second Life without really understanding what they were getting into. The end result: millions of dollars spent on virtual headquarters or "brand experience"than no one visits and plenty of marketers with nothing to show for their money but for learning how to create an avatar and stroll around. I came to a similar conclusion earlier this year: unless brands provide something of real value to SL users (which is NOT glorified advertising), why should they bother?

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Food branded McDonald's just taste better. Ask the kids.

Fascinating study from Stanford and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation showing the power of advertising. 63 children age 3 to 5 get to taste burgers, fries, chicken nuggets, juices and carrots bought from Mc Donalds. Some are presented in their original packaging, some in non branded packs. The results:
  • "almost 77 percent said the labeled fries tasted best while only 13 percent preferred the others".
  • "54% percent preferred McDonald's-wrapped carrots versus 23 percent who liked the plain-wrapped sample".
  • "29 kids chose McDonald's-wrapped burgers and 22 chose the unmarked ones" (not clear cut).
  • "Fewer than one-fourth of the children said both samples of all foods tasted the same".
As a marketer, this is a great study to argue about why companies should invest in building brands. As a human being and citizen, this pavlovian conditioning is so sad and terrifying that I am now considering raising my children in Bhutan.

Article on CNN

Friday, August 03, 2007

Steven Wright

Witty. Emailed to me by El Blogador.

1- I'd kill for a Nobel Peace Prize.
2- Borrow money from pessimists - they don't expect it back.
3- Half the people you know are below average.
4- 99% of lawyers give the rest a bad name.
5- 42.7% of all statistics are made up on the spot.
6- A conscience is what hurts when all your other parts feel so good.
7- A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.
8- If you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.
9- All those who believe in psycho-kinesis, raise my hand.
10- The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.
11- I almost had a psychic girlfriend but she left me before we met.
12- OK, so what's the speed of dark?
13- How do you tell when you're out of invisible ink?
14- If everything seems to be going well, you have obviously overlooked something.
15- Depression is merely anger without enthusiasm.
16- When everything is coming your way, you're in the wrong lane.
17- Ambition is a poor excuse for not having enough sense to be lazy.
18- Hard work pays off in the future, laziness pays off now.
19- I intend to live forever - so far, so good.
20- If Barbie is so popular, why do you have to buy her friends?
21- Eagles may soar, but weasels don't get sucked into jet engines.
22- What happens if you get scared half to death twice?
23- My mechanic told me, "I couldn't repair your brakes, so I made your horn louder."
24- Why do psychics have to ask you for your name?
25- If at first you don't succeed, destroy all evidence that you tried.
26- A conclusion is the place where you got tired of thinking.
27- Experience is something you don't get until just after you need it.
28- The hardness of the butter is proportional to the softness of the bread.
29- To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism; to steal from many is research.
30- The problem with the gene pool is that there is no lifeguard.
31- The sooner you fall behind, the more time you'll have to catch up.
32- The colder the x-ray table, the more of your body is required to be on it.
33- Everyone has a photographic memory, some just don't have film!

Monday, July 30, 2007

Useful sites for those considering buying a property in the UK

Property Snake shows how much a property's asking price has dropped in your area.

House Price Crash has been warning of an impeding crash for a while (called a "slowdown" or "soft landing" by property agents, surveyors, lenders and builders). I reproduced it above as it is such a powerful message.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Introducing Yugma

Yugma does what WebEx do but is entirely browser based, and cost a fraction of the price (it's free for all basic collaboration services including web conferencing). I am using ioften with colleagues from the US and I am impressed by its simplicity of use and powerful features.

Paris to offer free Wi-Fi

105 Parisian locations will be covered by free Wi-Fi. They include libraries, parks, public places and so on. Would Mr. Livingstone consider a similar initiative? How about getting corporate sponsors to fund it?

Article in French

Saturday, July 14, 2007

London underground dinner party

Hats off. And as one of the commenters accurately noted: " I've never seen Londoners smile on a tube before".

Thursday, July 12, 2007

European Internet users spend more time online than watching TV or reading newspapers

European internet users spend 14.3 hours a week online, compared with 11.3 hours watching TV, and 4.4 hours reading newspapers or magazines, the research group said. 36% of people who go online said they spent less time looking at the television as a result.

BBC News

Friday, July 06, 2007

Will Facebook kill Linked-In?

my network is bigger than yours” attitude. By contrast Facebook users are more laid-back and you get to know more personal stuff about them.

New UK Fiat website

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Preserving our collective memory in the digital age

The BBC is running a warning from the Chief executive of the UK National Archives: "Unless more work is done to ensure legacy file formats can be read and edited in the future, we face a digital dark hole."

Think about it, we can still read 5,000 years old Egyptian hieroglyphs or medieval manuscripts but we can't access a file on a floppy disk, read a Betamax tape or a Philips CD-I... There is a danger of loosing our collective memory because we record it on highly perishable media. And the pace of change drives the cost of re-recording it again and again for national archives, who are often poorly funded.

I reckon that in 10 years time, it will be fashionable to handwrite letters again, just because it involves efforts and makes the recipient feel special. And your letter will be preserved for hundred years for posterity, unlike that "reply all" email.

BBC article

Funny Hansaplast condom ad

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Are search engines responsible for the content of the websites they link to?

Brian Retkin, a UK businessman is suing Google over claims that the search engine directs people to 'deeply offensive and commercially damaging' material about his companies on the internet.

If the case is successful, any search engine accessible in the UK could be liable for defamation suits.

From and

Friday, June 29, 2007

Just one in five customers getting broadband service at speed advertised


Jason Lloyd, Head of Broadband at the survey commissioner: "I urge all people to check what deal they are on and then ask their broadband provider for a free upgrade".

I will follow that advice as my own broadband provider delivers me speed of up to 20Kbps at present...

Monday, June 25, 2007

Myspace v. Facebook? Social sites reveal class divide in America

Finally, something interesting to blog about: The BBC reports on a 6 months research project from Danah Boyd (I used some of her work for my own MBA research project and I value her insight). Her paper: Viewing American class divisions through Facebook and Myspace concludes that Facebook users come from wealthier backgrounds are are more likely to attend college - which makes sense since Facebook was initially restricted to those with a college/uni email address. Myspace users are more likely to be "non-hegemonic" teens. Now if we were to throw A Small World into the mix...

Friday, June 15, 2007

Le blog de Valéry Giscard d'Estaing gives me a French lesson in blogging

81 years old ex French president Valéry Giscard d'Estaing has opened a blog. It gave me the opportunity to learn how to translate blogging vocabulary into French. By using the following words on your blog, you too could add some French flair and sophistication to your daily "billets" (postings).

French blogueurs vocabulary:

  • A blogger = un blogueur. Plural: blogueurs
  • A blog post = un billet. Plural: billets
  • A comment = un commentaire. Plural: commentaires
  • A trackback link = un retrolien. retroliens
  • RSS feed = fil des billets
Merci Monsieur le President.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

G8 summit, Nicolas Sarkozy and treacherous vodka shots

French President Nicolas Sarkozy looking worst for wear (and late) at a press conference after a lengthy meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Via Guy who saw it on The Register

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


Customise your Google homepage with dozens of widgets through iGoogle. I like the fact that I can access my Yahoo!, MSN Hotmail and Gmail accounts on one page. This type of personalisation has been around for a decade and most "portals" provide it but somehow iGoogle has the extra "cool" factor that will make me use it past its novelty factor.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Online adspend up to more than £2bn in UK

UK advertising expenditure on the internet increased by almost 50% in 2006 to over £2bn, while most other media suffered a decrease in revenue. Via BrandRepublic.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Engadget send Apple's shareprice tumbling

Neville Hobson posts on how an incorrect memo about iPhone and Leopard's delays leaked from Apple employees and found its way to Engadget, causing Apple's shareprice to dip momentarily (yet dramatically). I don't have information as to whether Engadget's post was solely responsible for that, or whether the memo reached investors through other channels, but it's a startling reminder of disapearing boundaries between internal and external communication and of the influence of blogs on corporate matters.

Via an email from El Blogador.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Youtube water and whisky experiment highlights failings of science teaching in the West

How to transfer the content of the glass of water into the glass of whisky and vice-versa, without an additional glass?

What's even more entertaining is to read comments to that simple physics experiment: "it's magic!", "it's a fake!". This is a nice segway to this article that compares science curriculum for 14 years old students in the UK and China.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

MIT Scratch

Scratch is a free programming tool developed by MIT that allows anyone to create their own animated stories, video games and interactive artworks.


Flickrvision is a mashup between Google maps and Flickr. Watch pictures based on their origin in real time, as they are posted. Pretty cool.

Via El Blogador

New MBA online community is a brand new online community for potential MBA students, current MBA students, and MBA alumni. Just been launched by a Kellogg alumni. He is looking for some users to help test and populate the site.

Monday, May 07, 2007

France has spoken...

... and has given Nicolas Sarkozy with over 53% of votes a mandate to reform France (click "Watch Sarkosy speech"). Congratulations Monsieur le President!

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Most popular French blogs

According to Wikio. Politics and technology are most popular themes in the top ranks.

Half of social network users dismiss ads

Half of social network users dismiss advertising found on social networks, according to NMA and YouGov. 2/3rds have seen ads but 49% said they were ummemorable. Only 10% rate ads on social networks as trustworthy, 11% rate them as informative.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

1st round of French elections: encouraging yet worrying

Nicolas Sarkozy,: 30.5% v. Segolene Royal: 25.7%. Two diametrically opposed visions of the world will clash in the second round of the French presidential elections.

I am encouraged that Sarkozy won what is probably the highest score for a "RPR now UMP"* candidate in the first round for the last 20 years. I am concerned about what Bayrou's supporters will do next with their votes, given that they didn't really think that through in the first round. Many socialists voted Bayrou believing he would have a better chance to beat Sarkozy in the second round...

Royal, since she has no program that any decent economist would support is building an "all but Sarkozy" coalition. I watched the live BBC 24 coverage of the elections and apparently, French people now understand that they need to change if they want to survive in the 21st century. Royal is positioning herself as the agent of "gentle change" as opposed to Sarkozy's more "brutal" methods.

Mathematically, if Sarkozy does not win Bayrou's voters, he will lose to Royal. Now imagine France as a car whose handbrake has been released, sliding slowly downhill towards a cliff. Voting Royal is like pressing the accelerator with both feet.

* Let's compare UK and French political parties: the UMP, which is "right wing" in France would be at the left of "New Labour". That's how liberal we are. Royal's supporters would be speaking standing on a box in Hyde Park corner.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

French elections: an analysis for French expatriates.

George Walden thinks that France is a "vegetating catastrophe". I agree that the country is in worst shape that it seems, especially when seen from outside. But there could be a glimmer of hope if the France that is prevented from working prevails over the France that holds on to its “avantages acquis”. Will it ever happens? French politicians know what to do to alleviate France’s ills, they just don’t know how to get re-elected after doing it. I followed the campaign through soundbites gleaned on the French and foreign press online so that makes me more qualified than the average voter to give you my political analysis on what’s on offer this week-end:

Not sure I understand what his program is about. I know he likes horses and wants a government of consensus with the left and the right. Not a recipe for change to me. But French people love that: more of the same. Likely to be in the second round. Out.

I knew many people like him when I was in high school. They spent their days sitting down in cafes, smoking cigarettes, wearing black turtle necks and talking about how great the communist revolution was. I guess most work for the French post office now. Out.

He has been consistent for a few decades: boot all immigrants outside France. 15% of French people are ready to vote for him. When I said the country was in worst shape than it seems… Out.

Made his political career out of smashing McDonald’s windows. Out.

Mainstream communist party. Out.

Famously said that CEOs of companies that made profits yet fired employees should be jailed. She is a “French Trotskyist communist politician”. There are not enough goulags in France for the program to work. Out.

Never heard of him before. Hunting party (people who like to kill other forms of life for fun). Out.

Another Trostkyist … Out.

The French revolution abolished the monarchy 218 years ago. Out.

Green candidate. Don’t know what her program is. Out.

She definitely campaigns for change: Turning the clock back to 1970’s style of French socialism with a bloated state, massive handouts, more taxes and protection from the “evils of liberalism”. Wrong analysis of the problems and wrong solutions. Since she is one of the top three candidates likely to go into the second round, it is fair to say that her election would probably be the worst thing that could happen to France. At least Bayrou would sit on his hands for five years… Out.

I have being contaminated by the evils of liberalism therefore only Sarkosy’s program seems to make some sense to me (and I stress “some”). Yet I don’t think France as a society is ready for it. Only 36 percent of French people think that “a free market economy” is the best system compared with 65 percent in Germany, 66 percent in Britain and 74 percent in China... Furthermore, Sarkosy may not be the liberal and change agent he proclaims to be and I doubt that he will be able to do much if elected without massive civil unrest. France has the candidates it deserves. Compare to the others, he is still the least worst so I would cast my vote for him.

Et voila, I did all the hard work for you so that you don’t have to think too much when voting this weekend. I’ll watch the results live with the French club at my school. I’ll comment on Monday.

Friday, April 20, 2007

MySpace takes on Google News and Digg

MySpace is going into the news business with a service that will scour the internet for news stories and let users vote on which ones receive the most exposure.

Via Times Online.

Weblin: surf the web together with your avatars

With weblin you can create avatars that can interact with others who are browsing the same webpage than you at the same time. Surfing the web together and chatting live about websites make for a richer experience than usual web surfing. I could see brands creating weblin avatars to engage people surfing their websites or websites who sell their products. The flipside: If I was enraged about a particular company, I could organise a protest with dozens of avatars and picket their homepage... the possibilities are endless.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Simplycity: online community for those who value simple, soap

Simplycity is a "community for those who value simple" (simple is a toiletry brand).

By answering regular polls (such as helping choose future packaging or a model for a poster campaign), registered users become "advisers" and earn points to spend on discounted products in an exclusive online boutique. There is a blog too and comments are enabled, albeit vetted by an editor.

The press release talks about "web 2.0" but the site lacks tools for users to actually express themselves or connect with each other. This means that the site is falling short of being a true community and viral growth will be driven by the availability of discounts more than anything else.

Nonetheless, it's a good step forward for a FMCG brand in engaging with consumers in co-creation. Why not push it slightly further and ask consumers to suggest packaging ideas of their own too?

Thank you Gaylene for the tip.

Watching the French elections in London?

Do you know a good pub/place to watch the French elections live in London this Sunday? The Fulham Tup is fully booked and the TV at the French House is broken...

Sunday, April 15, 2007

U.S. election campaign pros give French counterparts a lesson in spin

Cultural clash narrated by the International Herald Tribune. Our US spinmasters were shocked to hear of three communist candidates campaigning. They were very impressed by Sarkozy's website.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The thankfully stillborn bloggers' code of conduct

Following from Kathy Sierra's encounter with the "dark side" of the blogosphere, Tim O'Reilly (Web 2.0TM) proposed a "blogger’s code of conduct" which is getting a lot of media attention and a lot of flak from bloggers. I don’t have time to go at length as to why I think this is daft or even a dangerous idea as I am struggling to finish my MBA thesis (I shouldn’t be blogging but I could not resist on that one). I am pointing you instead to two bloggers who best encapsulate what I would have written: Tristan Louis who does a great job at explaining how unworkable this proposal is and Jeff Jarvis who shows the flipside of it.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Immigration: The human cost

Immigration: The Human Cost

The Onion News Network has set the standard for globe-encompassing 24-hour television news since it was founded in December, 1892. The network boasts channels in 171 languages and can be viewed in 4.2 billion households in 811 countries.

The Times: MBA Podcasts

Ten of the world's leading business thinkers provide the latest in economics, management, finance, strategy and marketing as 30-minute podcasts. Times Online MBA Podcasts.

Tags: ,

Friday, April 06, 2007

Second Life Flooded

For a good cause: to highlight the potential devastating effect of climate change. Flood courtesy of Ogilvy for Adventure Ecology. They partnered with Anshe Chung who owns large amount of land and real estate on SL to make that possible. Brilliant idea. Via Giles Rhys Jones (see pictures on his blog).

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Europeana: Google Books Competitor And Another Unimaginative Name For a European Project

Europeana: Only in French at the moment though one can search for books in other languages (including English). I haven't spent much time on it but I already struggled to get multiple filters at once in my search criteria. I can search for books in English or books written in the 2oth century but not for both at once... I assume that you can do it and that I am not fully awake yet on this Sunday morning to use the interface properly. So far Europeana has 12,000 public domain texts. Worth using as a complement to Google Books.

On my list of things that annoys me is why everything funded by the European Union as to have "Euro" something in the name? My take: it is the lowest common denominator that everyone can agree on so we will be stuck with dull names and creative decisions run by committees for the next 50 years.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Resident Advisor

I subscribe to the Resident Advisor podcast and cannot recommend it enough for all fans of electronic music. I missed "RA.033 Geddes" so if anyone there has it, please let me know where I can download it.

See Resident Advisor

Thursday, March 22, 2007

NBC Universal and News Corp plan Youtube rival

NBC Universal and News Corp joined forces with Yahoo,AOL, MSN and of course News Corp's MySpace. Via Forbes. John Murrel sums it up quite nicely: It will be just like YouTube, only with less You.


Monday, March 19, 2007

Does CSR impact consumers' purchasing habits?

Millward Brown talked to over 20,000 consumers in UK/US and found that only 4% of Brits/5% of Americans would boycott a product if they disagree with a company's ethic. This despite 87% of Brits/89% of Americans saying that firms should behave responsibly.

Via PR Week, UK edition.


Sunday, March 18, 2007

Hill & Knowlton commended at Revolution Awards

Our LG Chocolate bloggers relation campaign was commended in the technology/telecom category (the most crowded with 8 entries from the like of Nokia, Sony Ericsson, HP, Samsung...). See video on Revver. Category winner was the 118 118 campaign.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Revolution Awards tonight

I will be at the Revolution Awards tonight where Hill & Knowlton is nominated for the LG chocolate blog campaign. If you are there, please come and say "Hi!". Chances are that I will say"Hi" back.

Retailers get more traffic from social networks than search engines

Research company Hitwise found that TopShop, who created a Myspace profile for its Glasgow shop gets 4.63% of its visitors from Myspace, making the social network 3rd behind Google and MSN Hotmail in terms of traffic referrals. Fashion site ASOS has more visits from Myspace than Yahoo! Search and MSN UK search combined. Google is still leading the pack but social sites are increasingly taking on search engines. Obvious implication for marketers: re-evaluate your online spend to include social networks.

Via New Media Age, 15th of March 2007

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Viacom Sues YouTube For $1 Billion

Viacom's statement: "After a great deal of unproductive negotiation and remedial efforts by ourselves and other copyright holders, YouTube continues in its unlawful business model,'' (...) Therefore, we must turn to the courts.''

Via Bloomberg.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Virtual Worlds Review tracker

Virtual Worlds Review tracks 28 virtual worlds. Include some white papers too.

Thank you Heather.

Do you find online consumer reviews useful?

How much do you use online consumer reviews? Do you find them useful? Tell us all in a short survey, help a final year MBA student complete his report, do a good deed and win a $20 Amazon gift certificate. All for 10 minutes of your time only!

Click on the link or paste it in your browser:

Thank you

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Sony to launch Second Life competitor

"Playstation Home", a 3D world will be free to all PS3 owners. Everyone will get a free flat (Habbo style), free clothes, a TV and stereo where you can stream programs. Plenty of opportunities for multi-players gaming too. I can't wait to see that and I can't wait to see Linden Labs' reaction too.

Via IT Wire.

Future of television: Free Tube

"Welcome to FreeTube - a site that lets you watch TV online for free without the need for any special software, hardware or subscription service. We are a completely free alternative to cable television that lets you watch tv channels and tv shows online using just your browser".

Works well.


A Second look @ Second Life

Second Life article. More articles on Ampersand.

A Second look @ Second Life

The Second Life tidal wave has finally crossed the Atlantic and is leaping on European shores. By in large, communication professionals are perplexed about whether they should surf the hype or not. But to their credit, they recognise a “PR opportunity” when they see one: over the last 6 months media coverage related to Second Life (SL) increased by nearly 150%[1] while SL blog mentions increased by 260%[2].

Joel CereThis begs the question: How long will the Second-Life media frenzy lasts? And if not for PR, what is the value of investing time and money with avatars when marketing budgets are under renewed pressure to deliver real dollar returns from real consumers?

While a reality check is overdue, I would argue that there is more than meets the eye in SL and there is genuine value to be extracted for brands that are willing to learn the dynamics of the ‘metaverse’ and play by its rules.

Second Life is a land of plenty, not of many
There are over 2.9 million registered users in SL[3] however most reports talk of about 300,000 active users and it is estimated that concurrent users are only around 20,000[4] (there are about twenty thousands users on average at the same time in SL). Marketers are interested in knowing their audience. Reliable estimates on SL demographics are hard to come by but it is thought that 25% to 45% of users come from outside the U.S, mostly from Canada, UK, Australia and Western Europe[5]. SL is developing fast outside North-America and local European enclaves such as a virtual Dublin or Parioli, a replica of a Roman street (the city, not the era…) are flourishing. The average SL user has a median age of 32 years old, with equal gender split[6].

Residents are marketing savvy and patriotic
Second Life residents have been busy shaping their “little” world since 2003 and it is only since last year than big corporations have discovered this vast untouched land, and decided to plant their flags on it. Some think that Second Life could turn into another ad funded Myspace. I won’t bet on that. The flood of announcements about companies being the first “fill in the blanks” in SL has triggered a growing backlash from residents against brands who are perceived to be invading their turf.[7] In addition, it is fair to say that the PR value of setting up a presence in SL follows the law of diminishing returns.

When corporations occupy virtual land, they often go unnoticed. The most popular places in SL are grassroots and resident -run (mostly in the casinos/nightclubs/ adult entertainment arena…). None of the corporate outposts is achieving decent traffic in comparison. According to New World Notes, the only corporate venue that gets decent traffic is Thomson who offers educational content, i.e. something of value[8]. A lesson to all?

The right rewards beckon companies with the right expectations
Despite the hype, SL is growing fast. And it is not alone: World of Warcraft passed 8 millions players in January[9] while the BBC is launching its own virtual world for children[10]. Consumers are moving away from watching TV commercials, magazines and online banners to places where they can be their own director and actor. If consumers are spending more time into virtual worlds it makes sense for their favourite brands to follow them in their virtual life. Toyota, Pontiac, American Apparel, Starwood Hotels are among those already established. Philips, ABN Amro and AOL have made announcement for 2007. Even the French socialist party has set-up an outpost in SL. Anecdotally; it is the only place where I saw avatars smoking…

To set expectations right, buying an island in SL or commissioning an avatar of your CEO will not terraform your brand into an epitome of coolness. The value is not in being present but in being active. Most companies in SL think about their presence from an advertising standpoint. That is a place for people to “experience the brand”. A visitor to such experiential venues (think agencies’ virtual offices or trendy company showrooms…) will quickly notice more often than less that these places are devoid of any life forms. SL is a platform for interaction and if there is no one to interact with, the fun of wandering up and down designer glass stairways quickly wane. Why stay or come back? Think about sustaining your investment: spend less in building a fancy shop and more in manning the shop floor!

Think co-creative marketing and immersive learning not clickable billboards
There are countless creative opportunities to promote your brand in SL, besides virtual billboards and showrooms. The only constraints are of the platform itself. Talking of which, it is worth mentioning that when more than 40 people/avatars are confined in one place, SL slows down considerably. When organising events it is therefore advised to prioritise quality over quantity as the inability to achieve the latter is seriously detrimental to the former. Technology blog Tech Crunch has another useful insight: holding SL only media announcements irritates time poor and technology challenged journalists[11] (who often writes about Second Life from their experience watching the corporate video on the website…)

SL residents like to create. Unless they are provided with tools to contribute to the “brand experience” there will treat your efforts the way you treat an ad poster: pretty to look at once, nothing more. Spending time with the SL natives and enrolling them to develop your SL footprint will increase the chance of successfully “blending in”. For example, you could launch a competition for SL residents to design your building or hire brand supporters to engage with visitors. If you stuck for ideas, just ask the natives. Could you sponsor local fashion designers or inviting a SL virtual car designer to your real design studio? How about limited digital versions of your products offered or sold underground to trendsetters to create some buzz? Or publishing a guide to the coolest venues?

The whole of SL is user generated, the very same trend driven by hard to reach Gen Y and Gen X consumers. What better place to gather first hand consumer insights or indulge in a bit of consumer ethnography? Your SL venue could be a perfect way to train your marketing staff across the world on social media, consumer trends and conduct workshops ; providing you with an opportunity to practice what you teach and to reduce your company’s carbon emissions.

By engaging with the virtual community and offering something of value, you will turn every interaction into a genuine understanding of what makes consumers want to create and converse. This is happening now, in virtual worlds, in Myspace or in Youtube. Stepping in Second Life is not about PR or showering avatars with ads. It provides an opportunity to understand the mindset of today’s connected consumers. This will turn your investment in Second Life into a real competitive advantage in First Life and deliver real dollar returns on your marketing investment.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- [1] Factiva. Percentage increase comparisons between months of August 2006 and January 2007.
[2] Blogpulse. Keyword mentions “Second Life” over last 6 months as of 25th of January 2007.
[3] as of 25th of January 2007.
second_life_stats_expanded_early_2006/ tavers.html
[6] t/oct2006/id20061030_869611.htm
[7] _banne.html

Monday, March 05, 2007

A Second Look @ Second Life

I wrote an article on what marketers should realistically expect to achieve in Second Life for Ampersand, Hill & Knowlton's global newsletter. Would love to hear your views.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Google challenging ITV to be UK’s top advertiser

ITV' estimated 2006 advertising revenues=£1.47 billion. Google’s UK advertising revenue =£825 million. Channel 4= £800 million.

Via The Times