Post 23:08 A modest, green, prpsl

The hottest meme in IT right now is green. Every IT company on the planet is making kit that uses less juice than its last lot of planet-wreckers and aggressively touting themselves as tree huggers of the highest order.

Never mind that the real issue here is the folding stuff. Electricity prices are going through the stratosphere. So while causing less carbon to be hurtled skywards is nice, the real reason users care about this is the cost of running computers these days. And in future days, given that electricity prices will only get higher once emissions are taxed. I wrote about this here.

Anyway … here’s my modest proposal about how to help out.

My .sig file consumes 26K as a Word file but only 329 bytes as a text file. I send my .sig file out into the world about 50 times a day. Routers have to process that. Disks spin to store it. That all uses electricity. So if I used text instead of Word, or did not send my .sig file at all, I would save power.

And think what would happen if I uzd SMS spk to wrt instd of norml wrds. Mor byts savd.

I cld also unsub frm eml lsts I nvr read, 2 sav mor lxtricet.

Th pssbilites r nls.

We cn sav th plnt ths way.

What r u waitin 4?

(Less punctuation would not hurt either)


Post 22:08 Astoundingly bad PR

Earlier this week a PR company offered me an interview with their client, which is about to release a very fast, very powerful and somewhat iconic new computer and an accompanying storage system.

Here’s my reply to the PR:

“I’m as interested in the storage device as I am in the mainframe, so if the spokesperson can talk about the storage in detail as well as the computer, that would be nice.”

Here’s the PR’s response:

“The spokesperson … can indeed talk about the storage as well as the mainframe.”*

So we booked the call, to which I duly dialled in. In between, I got the details about the computer so when the interview commenced I said I would like to move to discuss the storage right away.

The spokesperson said he was not, indeed, an expert on the storage device. In fact he knew nothing about it and had not been briefed that he would be asked about it. The spokesperson was accompanied on the call by his in-house PR, who was also ignorant of that request. So the call dissolved into a mess pretty fast.

The PR company’s response?


I’m so sorry Simon. I was told he was more than capable of talking about storage. It won’t happen again I can assure you.”

What I want to know is who gave the assurance that the spokesperson was qualified to speak on the topic and why. Was it:

  • Someone else inside the PR company who just doesn’t know that much about their client?
  • Someone from the vendor?
  • Someone in the PR company making it up in order to add to the tally of interviews they had achieved?

At least the incident was mercifully brief. I did not have to wade through minutes of interview to find out that there was no new information for me.

This kind of thing transpires between media and PR more or less every day. It has never stopped. It never slows. It probably never will and I should get over it. But the clients of these PR companies deserve to know what goes on.

*Lest you think the lacuna in the quote above in some way absolves the PR, it does not. I’m protecting the names of those concerned.

Post 21:08 Saving my neck by getting unwired for sound

For as long as I have done journalism I have had a sore neck and a sweaty ear, thanks to the need to jam the phone between ear and shoulder during interviews.

I’ve tried all sorts of things to sort that out, but may finally have found a solution: BlueTooth.

I won a DJ style bluetooth headset/microphone the other day. The bluetooth dongle for my PC is in the mail. The softphone (X-lite)  is installed and speaking to my SIP server very nicely and has sucked up all of my Outlook contacts.

So the idea is to have the softphone audio run over the bluetooth headset, which will also bring me music through the day. My neck will not be sore, and my podcasting headphones and their long wire will not be dragged all over the floor any more. I’ll never need to dial a number, which means my desk can be handset free. And I’ll be able to wander as I chat. I’ll also wire my mobile to the headset, so I can stop worrying where I left the mobile and leave it plugged in on my desk.

Whether it is possible to make all of these components speak to each other, I do not know. But I sure intend to try – I’m tired of having a sore neck.

Post 20:08 Reverse globalisation

I’ve been very fortunate to visit Vietnam twice in the last eighteen months and on our first visit we zeroed in on a chain of restaurants called Pho 24.

Pho basically chicken noodle soup and is the Vietnamese national dish. On the street in Vietnam you can buy a bowl for about 30 cents, but in the air-conditioned environs of a Pho 24 the menus are in English, the kitchen is visible and spotless and the Pho costs a whole $1.30. When you are travelling with young kids, as we were on my first visit, it just felt safer to go to Pho 24 than to eat elsewhere.

When I returned to Vietnam last year I “found” and patronised the chain again.

So imagine my surprise when I found one in downtown Sydney last week.

I’ve since looked up the Pho 24 story and learned that it was born out of an Australian business school, started in Vietnam and is now going global in what feels like a kind of weird reverse globalisation.

One of these days I must try their Australian Pho too!

Post 19:08 Pounced upon!

An interesting email reached my Inbox this morning.

“Hello –

I noticed your recent post on Topic X and that My Client made your list . I would love to put you in touch with the CEO of My Client, to learn more about their technology, company story and what makes them different.

Would someone on your staff be available to speak this Friday?  He is based in Seattle, Wash. and is on Pacific Standard Time

– when would be the best time for you to speak with him?”

At first glance, a pretty good pitch. It responds to a demonstrated interest, after all.

But it got me mad. The PR is from the USA, I am in Australia. I got a “hello” instead of a personalised greeting, when it would have taken about five seconds to figure out my name. I love the assumption I have staff which is fair but also shows a very US-centric world view. Not everywhere do editors have staff! And above all, the PR concerned has obviously spent about a nanosecond – if any time at all – on the site where the story was published as it simply does not do company profiles that cover “technology, company story and what makes them different”, making the offer a dud.

I suspect that what happened here was that the PR in question has a Google News Alert set up to track her client. Once the story I wrote popped up, she pounced on me.

With a tiny little bit more research and care, the pounce could have been effective. As it is, it was sloppy and a time-waster for all concerned.

Post 17:08 Mahoo! is an admission of failure

So Yahoo! has told MSFT to bugger off.

Interesting. Yahoo! has struggled for years but says it can extract more value from itself than a 60% premium bid. Just how can it now say it can turn itself around and grow this time?

Actually, I don’t think they are planning that. Anyone who has worked in a company in the doldrums knows that turnarounds are rare beasts.

I think Yahoo! has realised that Microsoft has admitted to the world that it can never, by itself, create enough web inventory to meet the needs of its advertising ambitions. So why give them all of Yahoo! inventory first time they ask? Oh no … if Redmond really needs Yahoo!, let them make a desperately inflated bid for it.

The bid will come, because MSFT’s own online efforts have never really succeeded. They haven’t failed, to be sure. The company has good traffic, is an IM leader and (quietly) offers some very innovative interactive advertising packages. But if MSFT has ever had a breakout online hit, I’m not aware of it. And this even while owning the desktop! (Memo to self, revisit desktop dominance = dominance everywhere meme).

But MSFT’s online bits do not put it into a position to challenge Google. Hence the need for a buy. How desperate will they get?

Post 16:08 On apologies

I wholeheartedly support today’s apology to the stolen generations.

And I’m blogging it for two reasons.

One is that I fully expect that ten years from now, blogs like this one will be material that my son uses when writing reports about the tenth anniversary of the apology. He’ll be in year nine. So hi there, future son!

Secondly, the apology is warranted as I know from some personal history of family destruction. My late grandmother Lucia had six siblings, all of whom died in the Holocaust. Her attempts to find any trace of them in post-war Europe are seldom spoken of in the family, so harrowing were the years of waiting for letters from the Red Cross and other organisations who scoured Europe in the post-war years, helping survivors to track their loved ones. None of the letters she received ever contained good news.

For me, the Nazi attempts at genocide are no less ghastly than Australia’s. For a time, we simply did not believe that Aboriginal people or their culture had any role in our society, a monstrously arrogant position. And while we did not mass murder on an industrial scale, as the Nazis did, we nonetheless had the same aim of causing a race to cease existing.

I hope today’s apology means Australia can make sure that it never practices similar policies again.

Post 14:08 Web 2.0’s (unrecognised?) debt to punk

The effects of Punk have never gone away. Punk acts like the Sex Pistols now considered important artists, in their own way.

And the punk ideology has never gone away. In fact even a band like The Go-Betweens, whose sweet pop music could never be described as having any punk aesthetic, openly admitted that they owe a huge debt to punk.

That’s because they couldn’t really play, couldn’t really sing, didn’t have the equipment to allow high production values or the expertise to seem professional …  but just went ahead and made music anyway. Punk had shown them that it was possible to do so and that liberating oneself from the perceived learnedness and expertise was no barrier to making art or media.

Now let’s fast forward to the Noughties and Web 2.0. All over the world, people are starting podcasts, making videos, writing blogs … even if they have no idea how to do it, little technology, poor production values … you can see what I mean.

I wonder if in all the frenzy about Web 2.0, the fact that only 30 years ago, pre-punk, individuals did not often think about making their own media has been overlooked. I find that my own content creation efforts (those beyond my writing, anyway) are increasingly infused by the punk idea that it’s better to try as an amateur than be silent as an expert.