Thursday, May 31, 2007

Google Moves a Step Closer to World Domination

Sometimes Google comes up with something extremely surprising. In fact this does seem to happen more often than with almost any other company in the entire world.

This week's surprise is Google Gears. It sounds pretty innocuous - it will allow web apps to work when you're offline. The first app is very exciting, it lets people use Google Reader when they're offline. I think this is fantastic and will make my next couple of train trips far more interesting as I can read my feeds rather than the newspaper.

However, the important development is that we will be able to use Google Docs offline (I assume). We will be able to use Google Writer instead of Word, Google Spreadsheets instead of Excel and the forthcoming Google Presentations instead of Powerpoint.
At the moment, Google's offerings are not as good as Microsoft's, but they're free while Microsoft's cost a large amount of money.

We'll see if this does make a huge difference to people's usage of Google services, but I can see it being beneficial. The only problem is that Google will now become a software supplier. I think there'll be a couple of people using this Google Gears product to hack into people's computers at some point - it does seem to give people rather a large amount of access to their computers.

It does look like it will be possible to accomplish almost everything on a computer without leaving Google's own sites. Probably not a good thing!!

Let's hope Ask's information revolution actually happens.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Rise of Facebook

I've been to a couple of different parties in the past few weeks where everyone is talking about Facebook. It's quite interesting seeing its evolution from an equivalent of FriendsReunited to a genuinely useful tool that people are using to organise their lives.
I was planning to meet up with someone this weekend and was sent a Facebook event rather than an email or a phone call to sort out the details. Allen and Overy recently suffered an internal revolt when their IT department decided to block the Facebook's website. There was a swift backpedal and the lawyers are back to manically facebooking each other.
The thing that confuses me is why this didn't happen with Myspace or Bebo. They both emerged (in the UK) around a year to a year and a half ago. They swiftly took over many people's lives and had them organising their lives around the websites. However, these sites didn't win over my social circle so I always felt a little left out.
Whole books have been written on network effects and how things like social networks can evolve. I can't be bothered to think about why they succeeded. Instead I'll draw a couple of pretty graphs.
This one shows the growth of Facebook against those of its competitors.
Myspace, Bebo, Piczo, and Facebook
As you can seem Facebook is doing a good job of catching up, but it's still a huge distance behind Myspace and Bebo. It'll take them a good six - nine months of current growth. Worrying for Piczo is the fact that they've actually lost audience in the last month. Things are not going to go well for them if they can't fix that soon.
A quick look at the younger people shows Piczo in even more trouble:
Social Networking: 15-24 yr olds
Facebook has already overtaken Piczo and is halfway towards catching Myspace and Bebo.

A good thing to notice on this graph is that Bebo and Myspace are neck and neck for the umber one social networking spot. This should be noticed by all the brands competing with each other to see who can spend the most on Myspace - there's a couple of different places to spend that money...

The 'hidden' rise of Bebo and Piczo shows the importance of having good measuring tools in the internet - you can't see what other people are doing online. A website is usually less exciting than the last episode of 24 and so gets talked about less. The current measurement systems still leave large amounts to be desired.

We'll see what Google or Tacoda will offer us when they get round to sharing the piles of data they are sitting on - I suspect there'll be some interesting nuggets within them.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

What I do for a living

It's always uncomfortable when someone tries to boil down effectively what you do. I was at a house party the other day and everyone seemed to be telling me that their job was very important and involved 'strategy' and other managerial sounding words.
I could go for the generic explanation of what I do. It would involve words like 'strategy', 'clients', 'direction' and many other buzz words. I could probably put the '2.0' suffix onto any of them to make myself sound even more grand.
Explaining my job to people who don't work in the industry is always difficult because it hasn't existed for a very long time and the definitions of what we do haven't really filtered down to most other people. Most people probably don't really care about what it is that I do.
They might notice the adverts on their screens while they're surfing the internet, but they probably don't appreciate the time and effort put into making them move their mouse to hit the 'close' button.
My favourite explanations are below:

"I make the Internet free"

Obviously this isn't entirely true, but it does have more than a couple of grains of truth. Adverts from my company appear in front of almost every person who goes online in the UK. I don't think many of those people paid the sites which provided the free content they were looking at.
There's a huge number of online services beyond news which are funded by the advertising we place - social networking, webmail, RSS readers, search engines...
Without the ads we place most people wouldn't be able to find a single useful things on the web. We'd be stuck with the BBC's website and whatever people are willing to write and pay to host.
We're capitalism's friendly face and probably the people who've allowed some of the most life changing technology into your world.

"I make rich men richer"

I think anyone who isn't a doctor or self-employed does this for a living. In my case, I work for a company which is owned by a group of people who I see on occasion. They are all men and I have seen figures which show exactly how much richer I've made them.
Even civil servants help by making the whole system work and therefore maintaining the framework which allows these rich people to get richer. I don't mind because one day I hope to join their number. However, there's a huge number of people who also have a similar plan...

"I get poor people to buy things they don't need with money they don't have"

Unfortunately one of the problems with advertising is that the most susceptible people to it are the poor. There are two main reasons for this. Firstly, people who were rich make themselves poor by buying all the things advertising tells them to. Secondly, poor people are easier to sell hope to. Give them a loan and they'll find many things to spend it on.
As many a social worker will tell you, it isn't usually spent on things they actually need. More often than non it'll be things that the telly told them they wanted.
Luckily, most poor people haven't invested in getting themselves the internet so most of the things we sell are for slightly more upmarket consumers.

Ultimately, I really enjoy my job and I think one of the things that would make a job less interesting is being able to explain it. I think the thing I can take away is that every now and then I get to do something new. Something no-one else has done before and something other people will copy at some point relatively soon.

Sunday, May 20, 2007


Originally uploaded by mild_swearwords.
Went to Legoland yesterday.

Among the many worldwide scenes that they have recreated in Lego, this picture of Downing Street seems to have been updated by someone sneaky!

Thursday, May 10, 2007


Extremely bad news today with one of my favourite people in the entire world deciding to resign.

Just turned on newsnight and seen an interesting debate with two utterly defeated people discussing his 'legacy'. Charles Kennedy and Michael Howard attempting to criticise what Blair achieved in office.

Maybe he did bad things but I have extreme doubts that any of the opposition leaders would have had the ability to do things better or even particularly differently.

Seriously - can anyone honestly imagine Michael Howard or Charles Kennedy actually sitting in Downing Street?

Monday, May 07, 2007

Someone's Opinion on my Industry

(image from digitalgrace)

Amused by one of the comments towards the end of this gentle moan at advertising:


May 7, 2007 10:31 AM

"I'm with Salfordian on this one.

In our society advertising and marketing is the "elephant in the room" that no-one speaks ill of. This monster rapaciously soaks up enormous piles of money, resources and skills in order to fart out a thirty-second add showing yet another shiny silver car morphing up an empty, snaky mountain road. Who cares - brand image is an entirely specious fabrication.

Let's gather up our own flaming brands and storm the citadels of the advertising agencies. We should take no more.

These self-aggrandising leeches of society award themselves preposterous wages, stinking bonuses and regularly preen themselves in champagne award ceremonies. Smear them in the products they push and stick them on a pyre, I say.

Roy, when are we as a society going to properly remunerate social workers, carers (you know the list!) etc with wages commensurate with the value of their work?"

It seems strange the amount of invective generated by putting adverts in front of people. Especially when they're probably exactly the same people who would kick up a fuss if the media they consumed suddenly cost money...
I think the media needs to be a little more honest with their consumers. I did like a service that the Guardian offered a while ago - you paid money and the site came with no adverts at all. This scheme had to be dropped because less than 50 people took it up (the Guardian was then being read by over 9 million people).
People like moaning more than paying.