Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Internet Explorer users warned to change browser over security fears - Times Online

Internet Explorer users warned to change browser over security fears - Times Online: "A spokesman today estimated that one in 500 internet users had been affected."

1 in 500 is stupidly high when you've got billions of people using your system. This is the kind of thing that can actually destroy people's trust in the internet.

Hope they manage to solve this quickly. If more people switch browsers, we should see these sort of problems become less frequent - someone would have to find a way to compromise firefox, IE, chrome, opera and safari (plus numerous others) in order to get to 1 in 500. If there are 600 million internet users (a stat I remember seeing recently), then we're talking about 1.2 million people being compromised. That's stupidly huge.

I hope the spokesperson was just being wrong and meant that 1 in 500 may be affected...

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Me being Slow

Founders of Google looking Geekys somewhere

It's taken me a long time, but I finally got around to reading the paper Google's founders wrote when they had their search engine up and running.
I haven't seen a similar example from any other startup where their actual process of starting up is written up in so much detail. Obviously it is still quite biased as it is an academic paper which will naturally try to talk up the achievements of the authors.
Just seeing what they did though does impress me. They came up with:
  • The whole concept of crawlers
  • A new way of storing files on disks
  • A programme that could understand web pages
  • The pagerank idea (and more importantly the implementation)
  • Storing the index in a flexible manner
Much as we all hear about the company, it's very interesting to see how it all started. Right from the start they were looking to create a platform rather than just a search engine. Quite scary really.
Also interesting to see they wrote the initial crawler in Python. Been playing around with this recently and it's good to see the best in the business are using this too.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Pre Budget Report

Was quite pleased with the announcements yesterday. More tax on people earning stupidly large sums of money. Less VAT. Quite good really.
Only problem is that I can forsee having to make some custom changes to lots of random things in order to accomodate the changes.

Anyway. Here's a nice Wordle view of the speeches from Darling and Osborne.

Darling first:

As you can see he was talking about lots of rises and changes, hence percent becomes one of his bigger words. Most interesting is the use of the words 'Government', 'help' and 'support'. Pretty much gets his meaning across.

Mr. Osborne was slightly more negative:

Lots of the word Chancellor, which is quite standard for the nature of the House of Commons debating style. Lots of 'recession' and 'tax' in there. ALthough the policies have changed, it still Tories talking more about tax burdens and Labour talking about funding public services.

We'll see where things go in the future, but the most telling thing back was the best day for the FTSE 100 ever. Obviously Darling can't take full credit for that, but it definitely didn't do any harm.

Monday, November 17, 2008

A new Christmas

We are spending large amouts of time seeing bad news about the economy. It's still not clear if we're at a point where the economy is going to improve or if we're at a point where it's just going to continue to get worse.
The newspapers constantly serve us up news that tells us that things are going bad. The bank's own random surveys tell us that people are pessimistic about the future. Companies are laying off workers in their droves (according to reports) and hgue names are teetering on the edge of bankruptcy.
However the genuine figures I keep on seeing are not too bad at all. My clients are all going to spend more on online advertising next year. We are forecasting more internet sales. We are seeing problems from too much competition and the possibility that other people may be cutting prices more than us.
It's a confusing world. As deflation rears it's unknown head, we face an interesting world where the assumption goes from 'buy it now' to 'wait until it is cheaper'. That's not a world most marketers here have faced before. The usual immediacy message of 'SALE' is now not as effective.
We've been facing this problem with Christmas sales for the last couple of years - consumers have known that shops were going to cut prices towards the end of the season, and the shops have had to. This Christmas may see the first bucking of the trend.
Retailers have been pessimistic about their forecasts for Christmas this year. They worry that people will be stockpiling cash \ unable to lend for presents. This means they assume consumers will be spending less on Christmas. Shareholders are demanding that companies hang onto cash rather than investing it in stock. Therefore they haven't bought as much inventory as they normally do, meaning it is possible that shops will sell out.
What will happen then?
We won't see obscenely large January sales
We will see larger queues in shops
These two things will be fantastic for the retailers.
Lack of large January sales mean the retailers will hang onto more margin, making them more profitable businesses. This will in turn enhance shareholder confidence in them (something which is sorely lacking at the moment).
Larger queues in shops will be fantastic for me as it will encourage more people onto the internet. It will also be fantastic for shops as for once they will be able to recycle some urgency into their customers. There must come a point of 'sale fatigue' and I'm sure I've hit it. If I see a shop I like with a sale, I just don't bother popping in as I don't think it's siginficantly different from normal operation. I'm sure other customers are similar.

Overall a sold out Christmas (but not necessarily a good one in terms of total revenue for the shops) will improve matters on the high street. If they can't sell their inventory, expect January to be fantastic for bargain hunters, but the retailers will take a couple of years to recover.

Friday, October 31, 2008

New Things

I went to the Economist's Innovation Awards last night. It was held at the Science Museum, which was a fantastic venue for the awards - surrounded by random world changing inventions. They had a fondness for pointing out the world's first Telegraph machine, but there were lots of interesting props around the building.
Most award ceremonies I go to do not really award based on things that have a real impact. However this one did.
The winners also gave a little speech. Most of them, admittedly, were along the lines of 'thanks for the award but I couldn't be bothered to turn up'. One of the people who gave a proper speech was Jimmy Wales.
His point was that he didn't invent anything, he just used existing things in a new way and that's what innovation is. That's exactly what these awards were about. Thinking about it in this way, there's very few major world changing inventions that have come about in the last twenty years.
It's hard to think of any examples. The ones I would usually think of:
I suppose we could count Ajax or some rubbish like that, but those don't feel like things that have changed the world. Hopefully this lack of innovation is just due to the cycles involved in bringing new technology to consumers.

We're due something properly new. Hope it comes soon!

(image from Zinkwazi's photostream)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Burying the bad news

Home Retail warns of tougher times to come

I suspect we'll start seeing this kind of results reporting in the next couple of weeks. All the bad news companies have been burying for a while will suddenly come out with the bosses washing their hands and moaning about the current economic climate.

"Oh no, the business I bought for £900m is now worth less than half? Damn this credit crunch!"

Not my job to go through these reports but I suspect that there'll be a lot of extremely pessimistic write downs that will be miraculously turned into profits next year.

The Chief Execs who wrung their hands at the evil global markets today will then take all the credit for their cunning skills in turning their loss last year into huge profits. They'll then hit their targets and make loads of bonus money.

Good work if you can get it!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Bring on the feminists!

Like the way the Londonpaper describes these women as: 'some of the most influential women in the world'.

Mrs. Brown - influential because she is married to Mr. Brown
Mrs. Palin - influential because she got picked by John McCain
Wendy Deng - influentil because she married Rupert Murdoch

Where's Merkel? Pelosi?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Corporations Avoiding Tax

Was going through some old banking stuff today and found this old story:

Basically it's a story from an old FT article describing how Merrill managed to cook its books in such a way as to avoid paying tax for a couple of years.

Wonder what will happen now that Merill has been bought. Does this transfer so that Bank of America doesn't have to pay tax too?

Boring question I know, but I think we should find ways to stop letting the multinationals get away with this sort of cheating...

Am loving Gapminder at the moment

I love making these charts and playing with them. Check this one out:


You can really see the deaths of HBOS and B&B come to life!

Don't know

Sunday, September 07, 2008

The Canaries

For a long time I've accepted that the industry I work in carries a price for the interest and excitement we get from working in it. The ultimate issue is that we are the canaries of the economy. The first and easiest thing for any company to cut is their marketing budget.
While I am insulated to a significant degree by working on the internet which should remain relatively safe from the accountants, I do see a large amount of pain in the marketplace at the moment. This is particularly true for sites dedicated to brand advertising.
I was feeling guilty about the way we have been able to negotiate deals with them, driving huge discounts from the prices they usually quote. Having seen some of their ploys to get out of it (example: Telegraph), I'm not feeling so sorry.
We spend lots of time telling people not to compromise their brand for short term gain in these sorts of climate. The Telegraph sales team also tells people. They're not the only ones. We'll see more editorial integrity go down the toilet in the short term.
Looking forward to seeing the Economist's celebrity column...

Monday, September 01, 2008

Obama vs McCain

Have been playing with Google Spreadsheets. This is a look at the marketplace between McCain and Obama within the Iowa Electronic Markets. I was playing with the GapMinder button to see what we can make the data look like.

I think it looks good, I think I could make some good charts for my presentations with it, but I suspect it would have to be within the Google set of stuff rather than in a 'proper presentation'.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

New Acrobat Site

This is quite exciting. I like the fact the font is called 'Minion'. Might try and use this to send stuff to people as I don't think Adobe owns any companies that I would regard as direct competitors.

Can't see an easy way to use Styles though, and I do find that one of the things within Word that is actually well implemented. You'd have thought Adobe's record of Illustrator, Indesign and Photoshop would mean that they'd be concentrating on the whole design aspect.

Would be interested in seeing some functions that aren't in Word. However as a free alternative, can't complain too much!

I think it does succeed in looking nicer than Google's offering, but I'm pretty sure this is less easy to use. Maybe if they manage to include some way of doing a tie up with Yahoo! so that Doc files automatically come here, they might see some traction. Also needs to look at using Facebook connect so that people don't necessarily have to mess around trying to find ways to sign up to it. It's still quite easy to sign into, but I don't see it as being particularly fun. Another login added to the huge host of ones I have!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Google Website Trends

Originally uploaded by mild_swearwords
Noticed that Google have changed their trends project to include websites.
This is a really good move as it gives us access to numbers that aren't solely based on Comscore or Hitwise's slightly suspect methodologies.
However Google haven't been entirely transparent about their own.
The above little bit of the graph shows the other sites that people visit from the Guardian.
The most interesting bit is that the site that's most visited is atldmt.com. This is due to iframe tags that must sit somewhere on the Guardian, serving people's ads from Atlas.
This shows some of the technology that Google is using. If they were collecting data purely from searches, they would not see this. The only way they could know that people were receiving traffic from atldmt.com would be if they were tracking where people went through some kind of tool that intercepted and monitored their webtraffic.
Now just look on your own explorer window and see if you have the google toolbar. If you have it, you've got a little friend who could be reporting all your web views back to Google central.
Google do disclose the fact that they monitor 'anonymous usage statistics'. The fact that they also track other websites that you visit means that they are keeping hold of who is who and also keeping a history of your web browsing.
This data is now easily and quickly searchable within the trends interface. It won't be long before they're offering me ways to target you through the adsense platform.
There'll be an uproar when that does happen, but I strongly suspect there's a beta test looking at how it works right now.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


“When music fans can say, ‘I have all the music from 1950-2010, do you want a copy?’ — what kind of business models will be viable in such a reality?”

Nice quote from one of the founders of the piratebay.
He has a very good point though. Music is now worthless. More music exists than you could possibly listen to. Why should you buy new music?
Before we go off into "freeconomics", it should be remembered that the rights-holders have an incentive to maximise their profits. They want to preserve the status quo.
its a little like DVDs. A cheaper way to distribute films comes along, so they nark prices up. Downloading is no different.
Last-fm offers a zero cost distribution platform coupled with a zero cost Marketing platform. Problem for the record companies is that the profit will be lower due to lower revenue per recording.
My opinion is that the recording companies need to appreciate they need much lower costs in order to operate in the new Environment. Why employ salespeople to sell something that is individually worthless?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Google Health

Went to a presentation on Friday that included the phrase:
"The battleground will be over our data"

Google are definitely continuing the offensive. Here's Google Health. Why not trust google with the details of your various illnesses? Allow Google to know what's wrong with you and then serve you ads in relation to this.

Google say:
"Certain features of Google Health can be used in conjunction with other Google products, and those features may share information to provide a better user experience and to improve the quality of our services. For example, Google Health can help you save your doctors’ contact information into your Google Contact List."

At the moment Google place our adverts against words that are not necessarily relevant to what we are bidding against. This means that Google is using it's own information to decide that the ad is relevant. If you are an advertiser, you can see the results of this within the query report contained within adwords. There will be some words you appear against that are not remotely relevant.

We discovered this working for a previous client whereby we were appearing against competitor's keywords despite the fact we'd never entered bids against those keywords.

I suspect Google Health will allow Google to begin putting these adverts in front of people who will be searching on related terms, but will give Google a justification to put more specialised ads (with higher effective CPMs) in front of people who it knows will have an interest in the relevant drug \ product.

It's cunning, but if people don't realise what Google are doing, they will never notice. The perfect crime? We'll see.

In general, the public will happily exchange their privacy for specific benefits. This case shows a good example where the public are merrily engaged in this exchange.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Poor Gordon

The Economist has done a particularly good cover this week. One of those times where a picture does say a good number of words!

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

7p per gigabyte

The internet moves ever onward. As many of the commentators are beginning to point out, we are moving inexorably towards a point where storage of data and computing power are essentially free.

The fact that developers are being offered storage at this sort of price indicates that we will see more and more things being stored all over the place. Why store something on your PC hard drive, where it is vulnerable to corruption when you can store it online too?

Apple's time machine product has shown that consumers can see the benefit of having a well designed backup solution. I suspect it won't be very long before we'll be seeing a similar product that backs up your data online and then serves you adverts based around the content that you are uploading.

As with all other products along these lines, we will be seeing some people moaning about their loss of privacy. However I think the majority of the population will be willing to sacrifice privacy for ease of use.

I would be willing to put a bet on that we will see a consumer friendly version of time machine appearing on the internet reasonably soon. The question is how deep they'll be willing to go with their profiling of users.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

New Buzz Measurement Tool

Really nice little tool from facebook mimics Google trends. However the facebook one analyses comments and wall posts across the entire facebook platform.

Shows the command facebook have over their data. If they are able to develop this further we will be starting to see targeting of their ads getting tighter and tighter.

Already we expect to be able to target web users based on the interests they have implicitly shown by visiting particular categories of sites. Soon I'm sure a network will find a way to link information with sites like facebook.

It isn't far way at all as Drive are already offering a combination of targeting through linking their network inventory with your messenger \ msn profile. This is a very effective development as the infomration contained within the msn profiles has been shown to be quite true.

Yahoo's purchase of Blue Lithium means that they will probably find a way to copy Drive and implement the same kind of targeting based on Yahoo profiles.

Imagine what would be possible if one of the social networking sites went out and bought a network - facebook's user data being exploited across the internet!

I think once the general public know the extent of the data we use, there will be a small outcry. Although debates are being had about the ways in which we use personal data, it does seem to have gotten to silly levels.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Inspiring Little Piece

Really nice little piece. Think it could change earlier as the delivery is reasonably flat.

AARP did the ad which is why the voice is a rather annoying sounding Yank...
From Serendipity Book

Monday, March 31, 2008

Neutral Reporting

Good old Journos continue to work hard in order to find stories. Will be fun to see who actually posted this up. Could be practically any of them.

Actually an interesting site that hosts it: Starnow.

This is the kind of site that takes a good niche and exploits it. At the moment some little (very little) publicity and PR agents will take people suffering family crises and try to sell the story. Someone at my old job appeared in the Sun talking about their allergy to Essex (actually to pollen but there we go).

Glad the internet has made it easier for these people to go direct without any evil PR people between!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Microsoft throws in the towel on search?

Interesting looking picture from the setup of the new internet explorer from Microsoft. One would have thought that the main way MS would try to make money from any new internet explorer would be by integrating their search as closely as possible to the browser.
This way they could make money from the inevitable sponsored links that would be clicked on. They would also create some loyalty with their search engine by doing this. One would hope that their search engine is good enough that some people would become enamoured of the search engine after using it.
Maybe they do realise that the majority of the early adopters use Google (and probably firefox). They have incorporated some functionality that will allow firefox users to download their bookmarks and all the rest of it.
Still, seems interesting to see some Microsoft people admitting that they have essentially lost the search wars. Spending more of their time and money on their display side (especially messenger) would be more profitable. Also it may make more sense if they are buying Yahoo! as even Yahoo! currently has more market share than windows live search.
Might give IE8 a go tomorrow, though I suspect it'll make all our IE based systems not work. Was very disappointed to find both Atlas and Adazzle don't support firefox. Also was disappointed at the number of popups involved in the various systems I'm using. Where's some kind of workflow engineering!

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Funding Content

An announcement was made today saying that content makers were going to be given a share of Google's advertising revenue from the advertising that appears within the videos they made. This definitely sounds like the beginning of something new.

At the moment the whole revenue structure of all kind of video broadcasting \ hosting relies on the media owner purchasing content and then displaying it to their audience. The content maker takes risk in creating the content, but the media owner takes more risk in deciding to use it on their own media platforms.

This model makes sense when the available media space is limited. A TV channel can only cope with a couple of hours worth of prime time content. They have a limited number of hours in which to show their content. This means they have to choose the best possible editorial in order to keep their audience (and therefore money).

Another factor in broadcaster's favour is that they are the ones who employ a sufficiently large salesforce in order to be able to effectively sell their audience to advertisers. Individual content producers will never be able to profitably employ a decent size salesforce.

The new media model however allows the creation of some disruptive businesses. Youtube has the potential to make themselves one of these. Google has invested heavily in their salesforce and can therefore sell their own audience extremely effectively. Youtube is now offering content providers the benefits of their salespeople.

Although the old model had an indirect link between audience size and reward to the content creator, the new model has a direct link. This should allow the content creators to put more time and thought into how relevant they can make the programmes to their actual audience, rather than to the broadcaster's impression of their own audience.

I'm sure more companies will pop up that will give content creators better deals than youtube. They are also going to have to fight against the old dinosaurs who are falling over themselves to shout about the technical abilities of their new platforms.

Media fragmentation is going to get even sillier as people watch different media at different times. The only effective mechanism of supplying them with the ads they want (in order to make the media free) will be through an automated sales team. Selling hundreds of channels will be difficult for our poor overworked sales reps. We're going to need a computer to do it.

Our only hope is that someone will invent a decent system for this before Google gets there.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Blogs Alive, Kicking and Growing

All the reviews I've seen of 2007 seem to feature facebook rather strongly. This is probably quite accurate as they did have a pretty fantastic year. This time last year people thought facebook would be worth about $1Billion now many seem happy with a valuation around $12Billion. If the valuation was proportional to newspaper articles it would be even higher.

Before the newspapers begin knocking down the poster boy they tried to build up, how about the poor little kid who got completely ignored during the 'social revolution' of 2007?

Poor little blogs were pretty much written off at the start of last year. Many news sources were showing that hte number of new blogs being created was slowing, the number of people posting on the already created blogs was also reducing.

This much was probably true. What people weren't looking at, however, was the number of people READING these blogs.

In terms of absolute gains, Wordpress have had a fantastic year. Their traffic figures, according to Comscore, have rocketed up by about 700%. The y axis is thousands of monthly unique users:

The growth has been consistent throughout the year, bringing Wordpress into the top 30 in terms of UK traffic. All this traffic is looking at the hundreds of thousands of blogs within wordpress.

It's not just Wordpress though, Blogger has also had a fantastic year with steady and consistent traffic growth. Guido Fawkes' intrusion into the national consciousness last year was one of the many blogger blogs to actually make it into the mainstream in the UK.

The thing about all these blogs is that they are fragmented. Their branding is minimal and focused towards people who want to write rather than design. Therefore it is quite easy for them to sneak under the radar. Blogger can easily slip through as most industry metrics tool will aggregate the blogger listings into Google's.

The stats themselves paint a picture of blogs as being in extremely good health, quietly increasing their traffic and readership. I'm sure at some point someone will figure out how to make a large amount of money out of them and then start shouting about it. Wordpress and Blogger could definitely make some money out of the page impressions they see in front of them, but they may then lose many users. It's always going to be tough.

Would be interesting to see how many blogs with actual traffic feature adwords or equivalent on them. It may also be possible that many of the blogs are actually affiliate sites taking advantage of the free hosting.

Whatever the answer to the above questions the blogging sites are succeeding in growing their traffic so one has to assume that a decent level of interest exists.

This growth is against static growth for the major established opinion providers such as the Guardian. I think I need to do some graphs that will show the number of sites people look at has grown.

Monday, January 07, 2008


Great advert. Really shows what a bit of imagination (plus regulation) can do. Would be good to see some stats on beer market share to see how these guys have done since the new lots of beer.

Don't think BMB will win an award but hopefully they've done something to the sales.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Perfection in an ad

Really can't fault this ad:

This is exactly what we're talking about when we talk about measuring engagement and all the rest of it.

The wonderful thing about working for a good brand is that they have some kind of feedback effect. The better the brand is perceived, the more good things you can do with it.

If this was tried for any of innocent's competitors, it wouldn't feel the same. Somehow the overall good feeling for the innocent product keeps on flowing for this particular ad.

IF you think about it for a couple of minutes you can think of objections to the actual product - is the fruit organic? Is it actually that healthy for you to have this concentrated does of fruit?

It doesn't matter though because the feeling of healthiness they've injected into purchasing the product overcomes any rational objection. Even the price!

Good work by whoever did it. Will have to find out who's covering them.