I have moved!

February 21, 2008

You can now find me at:

www.midnightexcess.com


Musical Madness

October 15, 2007

A Kwik-Fit car repair centre in Scotland is being taken to court by the Performing Rights Society (PRS), who claim that music broadcast on the radio that the mechanics listen to whilst working constitutes broadcasting said music to other staff and customers. The PRS are after £200,000 damages. Not surprisingly, Kwik Fit want the case thrown out, but so far it hasn’t been so.

I’m not a lawyer, and there may well prove to be a legal case to answer. However, I find this quite staggering. As I understand it, the staff were playing the radios for their own benefit, not broadcasting the music to customers. It would seem to be somewhat akin to the cigarette companies coming after me for ‘enjoying’ somebody else’s smoke after they exhaled it!

I like this little parable, found on Slashdot, which sums the situation up perfectly:

‘Nasrudin was walking down the street one day, and came upon a man arguing with a merchant who was selling stew out of a street stall. According to the merchant, the man spent all day hanging around next to the stall, inhaling the aroma of the stew, but not buying anything; the merchant was demanding compensation for the service that he provided.

Nasrudin, hearing this, took the man’s money purse, held it near the merchant’s head, and shook it gently for a few moments. Then he said: “Now you’re even. He’s smelled your food, and you’ve heard his money jingle.”‘


Message To Staff: “No Yawning”

October 11, 2007

We are currently at what is hopefully the tail end of a bogong moth invasion here in Sydney. There are (seemingly) billions of the little buggers in the city at the moment, lost on their way to their annual vacation in the Snowy Mountains.

Luckily they are more annoying than dangerous and don’t bite, sting or eat your clothes.

The kind management at ACP magazines has, nevertheless, issued a warning to their staff to ‘refrain from yawning’ lest the moths mistake their gobs for a mountain tunnel and fly in for some hibernation action! I’m not sure who that makes the bigger fools – the management for giving the advice, or their staff for needing it! I’m going to be charitable and assume the former.

What’s next I wonder?

‘Would all staff members please be aware of excessive blinking. Closing your eyes for too long may result in being hit by a truck.’
‘When licking your lips, be careful your tongue doesn’t accidentally come into contact with an electrical socket.’
‘Dear staff, please don’t smear your body with honey and jump into beehives.’

What do you think: health and safety gone mad? Or an office prank?


Facebook and Social Networking Are A Fad

October 3, 2007

Or so says Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer. To be fair to the king of the chair-throwers (alleged), Ballmer does say there is a risk that this is the case.

He may well be playing a clever game of toning down Microsoft’s interest in a rumoured stake in Facebook. Or he may just have missed the point entirely; particularly as he seems to be focussed just on the technology.

I’m with Scoble on this one. There will undoubtedly be a lot of consolidation and casualties to come from the plethora of social networks currently around. There will be cooler and more seamless technologies, new players and new cool toys to play with. What Facebook, LinkedIn, Digg, Thursday Club (sorry, gotta get a plug in :-)) and who knows what else provide though is a platform and a ready-made largely self-segmenting group of identifiable and targetable consumers.

Let me explain: the platform, when done right, offers an open and extensible opportunity for the originator and third-parties to build on and add interesting new twists based on existing data. Witness the Facebook API (although, as an aside, I think that whilst the viral nature of the applications built on the API is superb, they need to be cautious that people don’t get turned off by the sheer volume of ‘Zombie vs Pirate’ style requests. I’ve turned off most of the plug-ins – it was starting to feel too much like crappy cc’ed joke emails. But, I digress.)

Take that platform and add in millions of people who have voluntarily decided to add an advertising persons dream set of demographic data: age, sex, location, marital status, interests, pets, groups, fetishes, favourite bars, clubs, food. You name it and people on sites like Facebook are telling you about it. Or if not you, they sure are telling the automated algorithms that will shortly be feeding them targeted adverts and other useful information. Users on Digg might hate the adverts and a number of the tech-savvy may have ad-block or clever host files set-up so they don’t see them. But your mum? Your sister? The other sixty three and half million emo kids on MySpace? Pure gold if you can mine it.

So Mr Ballmer, it really doesn’t matter whether Microsoft could technically build another Facebook in a short time period (and that’s debatable, but we won’t get into that). It doesn’t even really matter that one particular platform loses some of its appeal, a’lah Friendster (which still goes great guns in Asia by the way). The methods might shift too. But the concept of the network will stay.

Final thought: I’ll bet there are people in Microsoft, lots of super-smart, super-switched on people in groups like Live banging their heads on the table thinking “We know how to do this, but we are missing the boat. Stop frigging around with politics, protecting positions, re-orgs and headcount manipulation and give us a few smart people, a long enough rope and some space and then see what happens.”

And, no, I don’t work at Microsoft :-)


All I Can Say Is *Ouch*!

September 28, 2007

I note that a Russian lady has given birth to her 12th baby. That’s a feat in itself, but this freaky monster, err lovely girl, weighed in at a part-stretching 17lbs! 7.7Kgs in new money. Youch.

Luckily for the mother the baby was delivered by Caesarean section.

The thing that struck me as quite cute though was that the Russian social services gave her a washing machine. I’m sure that’s the first thing you’d want after carrying and giving birth to a small elephant! Aspirin, morphine, a wheelchair, large amounts of vodka, burgers for life for your huge bundle of joy. Then give me the washing machine.

Anyway, good luck to them. Must be fun for their neighbours though :-)


Humans too Lazy for Web 2.0?

September 27, 2007

There’s an interesting article from The Futurist at CrunchGear which posits that the web 2.0 bubble will burst because humans are too lazy to continue contributing to collaborative websites.

I don’t buy it.

The bubble may burst for a number of reasons, but I don’t think inherent laziness will be one of them.

People love to feel connected. They love to have the chance to have thousands of ‘friends’ (however unreal those relationships may actually be). They love to show-off: blogs, videos, job skills, podcasts. They love the fleeting chance to become the next Chris Crocker or Tay Zonday.

And I love the fact that random strangers read my ramblings (hello to both of you!).

Sure, we’re always going to be searching for the next new new thing. In shorter and shorter timeframes. It’s natural therefore that Friendster gives way to MySpace which moves over for Facebook and so on. Or that people move on as they grow-up. First to Ecademy or OpenBC then LinkedIn or something else.

I’m pretty sure we’ll see more consolidation and aggregation. Maybe one virtual profile, manageable from your GPS enabled mobile device? Location info, personal details, video, pictures, blogs – all available via one uber-OpenID. Other services or people subscribe to you as appropriate.

The article asks whether people will also get fed up contributing to sites like Wikipedia for pretty much no reward? I don’t think so, but I do think that what will need to happen is the site will need to automatically utilise other sources of reputable data and will also have to tap into people’s drivers for recognition (it will be interesting to see how the new editor rules work out).

Keep us engaged, make it pretty easy to do and give us the smallest hint of global glory and we’re sold!

[update] good timing: front page of tonight’s MX paper in Sydney mentions Facebook alone growing nine-fold in Australia in the past three months. Even MySpace, so disparaged by the technorati, has trebled its numbers. What comes next? Stay tuned!


Beer or Whine?

September 27, 2007

A hot topic for debate here in Sydney currently is mayor Clover Moore’s proposal for more intimate ‘Melbournesque’ bars and lounges. I have to say I am in 100% agreement with her. Sydney has some reasonable cool bars and a lot of pubs, but for great little Euro-cafes, bistros, wine bars, lounge bars, supper clubs and hole-in-the-wall cool venues, Melbourne wins hands-down.

Right now, Sydney laws mean that in addition to expensive alcohol licenses, you also have to pony up for a ‘social impact analysis’ at roughly $60,000 plus associated legal fees and other nonsense. In Melbourne, a handful of virtually penniless students could open a bar in an upturned skip at the back of an alleyway. And they do. And it works.

The crusty old folk at the AHA, who seem to be stuck in some 1960s timewarp, believe that Sydney folk don’t want to have a nice glass of wine in a small quiet bistro and that large pubs with pokies and sports on TV are what us bogans really enjoy. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong!

I’m glad to see that support for Ms Moore is coming from people like Neil Perry and other notable nightlife owning Sydneysiders too.

I do enjoy Sydney, but having recently returned from a trip to Grenoble in France, we need some good old Euro-chic. Bring it on Clover!


Pizza Cake

September 27, 2007

Having been on a diet of mostly alcohol and kebabs for the past three weeks my waistline is getting rather sumo-esque. Luckily my visiting friends have returned home to Hong Kong so there’s a reasonable chance I might be able to fit back into my trousers at some point soon.

Not so for this fellow though. Weighing in at a very generous 900lbs (64 stone or 408Kg if you prefer), Slimboy Fat from Michigan had to be lifted from his house via crane to be taken to hospital. To cut the guy some slack, he did suffer from Prader-Willi Syndrome, which might sound like some sort of penile related disease, but is in fact a disorder whereby you are constantly hungry.

Apparently he hadn’t left the house in four years. I’m assuming he couldn’t leave the house. Which makes you wonder: how did his family not notice?

“Gee Billy-Bob, looks like you’re putting on a few extra pounds there”.

The guy was 400Kg!

Over 100Kg is large. 200Kg is huge. 400+ must be like watching fully grown quintuplets fighting in a king-size bed sheet! Did it sneak up on them? Did the family head off one night and come back the next day to find he’d ordered 500 deep-crust pizzas and a tub of weight-gain 4000?

Final word to the brother: “I am going to cross my fingers, and hopefully he can get on some exercise program,”

I recommend this lady …

Fat Fighters


The Nutty Professor

September 26, 2007

Following on from my previous post, the following article appeared in Arstechnica.

‘Video Professor upset by criticism, sues 100 anonymous critics’.

I hadn’t seen the Video Professor previously, but it seems he’s well-known for hawking ‘Computing for Dummies’ style CDs on late-night infomercials. The CDs are ‘free’, but you end up being locked into some sort of Time-Warner affair whereby they keep sending you the rest of the series, or trying to upsell you. Unless you return the subsequent CDs in a timely fashion they will charge you for them (kind of like the old book club memberships if you remember those).

Anyway, seems like the Prof (aka John Scherer) has been angered by a series of less than complimentary comments on his product and services on various websites – particularly Infomercial Scams – and has decided to sue. He’s going after the website operators for a list of IP addresses and user-details for these ‘anonymous’ annoyed people. Luckily for the websites themselves there’s ‘safe harbor’ protection, but Scherer is pushing on for those user details with some gusto.

Welcome to the Interweb professor, you must be new around here! Firstly, internet or no there’s probably some sort of First Amendment protection of free speech that applies here. Secondly, well, see my post below: this is exactly what happens in our massively interconnected world. And thanks to that, this story – and even more negative comments – feature prominently on sites like Digg, and probably Slashdot, Reddit and who knows where else.

I’ll say it again, if your product or service sucks, you’d better be prepared to be exemplary in fixing the issues, or be prepared to have a whole lot more people than you’d like find out about it!


Lockdown

September 7, 2007

Sydney is in the midst of the OPEC, err APEC, conference right now. Lots of security of course, the ‘great wall’ of Sydney security fence, and 20 car cavalcades for Mr Bush and co (who, by the way, managed to bring 250 staff with him!).

It’s all been quite serious on the harbour, with police boats and jetskis zooming around; helicopters with searchlights are hovering overhead, which looked really cool last night when it was quite misty.

Today was an APEC public holiday, so I think most people took the opportunity to head out of town, resulting in something of a ghost town. Apparently tomorrow is the big day for those up for a bit of a protest. I’m kind of tempted to head in and take some photos, but don’t really fancy ending up on some intelligence database. Perhaps I could wear a disguise: a long beard and turban perhaps? Oh, no wait, the Chaser boys already tried that one.

Ooo, where’s my tin foil hat? In the middle of writing this, my PC just crashed … yikes, they’re on to me! Better publish this quick.

Hey, what’s that red-dot on my chest ….


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