Saturday, May 31, 2008
So I have never believed this five-a-day nonsense. I've done a little research, and I still can't find the very first recommendation for it. Let me know if you can point me there. Yet people, apparaently rational sensible people, swear by this rule.
In the absence of a confirmed original reference, I suggest a theory. I suggest that some well meaning government advisor decided that a simple "eat more fruit and veg" message would not work for the mindless sheep who need explicit holy instructions to guide their aimless lives. So he or she decided that five a day was the clear message. But amazingly, some fools took it literally, and the virus spread. Now it is "truth". A normal balanced diet, like an evolved world, is just too complicated for some people to understand. If they've been pigging out on burgers all day then five portions of fruit juice in the evening will "balance" it.
Except from libertarian slobs trying to justify their unhealthy lifestyles, we rarely see articles criticising this five-a-day rule. Yesterday the Guardian finally did. But it still doesn't come close to the derision I feel for those who treat the rule like religion.
Friday, May 30, 2008
Like most background graphics, it adds to storage space and retrieval time, at the same time as hindering the clear viewing of the data. Bad on top of bad.
And don't give me the "oh it looks pretty" argument, save that for birds and flowers, not for spreadsheets.
( Though a good spreadsheet should look pretty, because of the elegance and clarity of the data there :)
Of course design and white space are important too. My reply was not entirely serious, but I stand by every word there. The official RNB guiding principles of spreadsheet design to follow shortly.
Thursday, May 29, 2008
Obviously I touched a nerve with the last note. It was intended. In survey after survey, the vast majority of people always respond positively when asked "would you prefer lower fuel taxes?". But it's a really stupid question if phrased that way, without presenting an alternative, like compensating higher taxes elsewhere.
And I've said before that the notes here consciously try not to reflect popular opinion anyway. They should make you think different, if only for a moment.
The reason that truckers block roads is because they find it easy to block roads. A different economic change could cause disproportionate hurt to equal numbers of office cleaners, care assistants, supply teachers, airline pilots, organic farmers, whatever, but they can't all disrupt the whole country so easily. And they don't find it so easy to hoodwink the public with nonsensical survey questions.
And even when a road is not completely blocked, the go-slow or lane restriction always causes jams. Drivers slow down to avoid or gawk. No you prat, I'm not honking because I support your selfish bullying tactics, I'm honking because I want you to get out of the bloody way.
I'm reminded of a joke, this one.
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
The UK government has a "windfall" of perhaps a billion pounds because of the rapid price in the price of oil, partly through increased sale price of North Sea crude and partly through increased tax revenues on processed petrol and diesel.
We have two ways to distribute the money:
1a. Use the extra tax revenue to appease a bunch of loud-mouthed fat bullies who use their tankers to block up the roads and cause disruption to millions
1b. The majority of the benefits go to those who use the most fuel. Hummer owners benefit more than hybrid owners.
2a. Use the extra tax revenue to raise the minimum tax threshold
2b. The majority of the benefits go to the poorest members of society, those who can least afford extra fuel costs.
There are a lot of selfish bastards in this country.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
I like diversity. That is not management consulting political correctness, it is a statement of fact about my feelings for humanity. And of course, life reflects cricket and cricket reflects life.
Sunday, May 25, 2008
Initial impression - I completely agree that it is sleek and elegant and completely intuitive to use. But something about it is wrong. It's too closed. It's Steve Jobs' vision of the world, not mine.
For example ideally any new media player, if connected up to my computer, would immediately show as a set of directories from which I could copy or move files either way. But I have no choice but to download and use iTunes too. I've already got WinAmp and VLC here to run my videos, in addition to Microsoft's own players. Do I really want another one?
As Marc Nohr notes in Marketing Direct:
The shining vision of one man and his coterie of trusted advisers drives everything - and the space for individual expression outside of that clique is minimal, whether you're an employee or a customer.
The author of the article contrasts the Apple approach with "co-creation", where producers and consumers work together, the obvious example being open source software, but it is also applicable in marketing. Because we should all know that customer-centricity, interactivity and dialogue lie at the heart of DM.
Saturday, May 24, 2008
Scientists (and writers) have long known about the therapeutic benefits of writing about personal experiences, thoughts and feelings. But besides serving as a stress-coping mechanism, expressive writing produces many physiological benefits. Research shows that it improves memory and sleep, boosts immune cell activity and reduces viral load in AIDS patients, and even speeds healing after surgery.So far so good ...
The frontal and temporal lobes, which govern speech—no dedicated writing center is hardwired in the brain—may also figure in. For example, lesions in Wernicke’s area, located in the left temporal lobe, result in excessive speech and loss of language comprehension. People with Wernicke’s aphasia speak in gibberish and often write constantly. In light of these traits, Flaherty speculates that some activity in this area could foster the urge to blog.Gibberish?
Friday, May 23, 2008
At times the sentiments on this site are liberal, at times they are conservative, at times they are green, at times they are libertarian, and I don't mind being labelled as any of them - so long as you stick with lower case. However what is more appropriate as a description of the common opinion here is sceptical - of management directives, of psychics, of faith healers, of religion, of popular opinion, of marketing hype. Plus I occasionally delight in adding a little filth (or at least dodgy innuendo) to proceedings.
So in that roundabout way, I suggest that today is the day to visit the Skeptic's Circle.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
1. A victory for sense and science and money over mindless tradition and superstition.
2. A victory for mindless tradition and superstition over sense and science and money.
Two bits of related news for many in my extended family yesterday.
1. It has started raining heavily in northern India, so the last game of the Kolkata Knight Riders was washed out
2. It has started raining heavily in northern India, so fears of drought recede and the temperatures are starting to cool down
Small losses, big victories - but it's hard to see that when your team gets knocked out after so much effort.
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
To continue this little sequence, yesterday I noted the high profile of advertising agencies in the 1980s, and today I noticed that a similar sentiment was in the copy of Marketing Week that's on my desk now. From Jonathan Durden's article: "Charles and Maurice Saatchi pierced the public consciousness and came to represent hope and success in the same way as Sir Richard Branson or Rupert Murdoch. They even came close to buying Midland Bank, which was remarkable in its audacity and ambition."
Leaving aside the irony in lumping together Saatchi and Branson who seemed to me completely opposed politically, socially, and legally in the battle for virgin atlantic traffic, the majority of the article asked the question: are there really no heroes in advertising today?
Juan Cabral does earn a million pounds a year. And he's worth every penny.
Monday, May 19, 2008
The inaccuracy of television subtitles is a source of regular annoyance, I specifically mentioned it yesterday as it was relevant at the moment that I was writing, and because the accuracy of message seemed very appropriate in a programme about how the advertising industry interprets the wishes of the client.
Sunday, May 18, 2008
Now I'm watching The Men From The Agency - about how trailblazers in the British Advertising industry of the 1960s ended up as trailblazers in the British film industry in the 1980s. And because there is a fair bit of "background noise", and I want to be clear about what these guys are actually saying, I stuck the subtitles on.
And the discrepancy is shocking. The subtitle writers are just lazy. It's ok to miss the odd interjection, even the odd non-essential word:
Subtitles: CDP's most talked about campaign of the 70s grew out of new restrictions on cigarette advertising.
Voiceover: CDP's most talked about campaign of the 70s ironically [sic] grew out of new restrictions on cigarette advertising.
David Puttnam subtitles: Alan and Ridley put huge amounts of their own money into those films. In Alan's case, enormous courage. £80,000 may not seem like a lot people today. But in 1976 it was half of what Alan had.
David Puttnam actually: What people forget about Alan and Ridley is that, in both cases, they put enormous amounts of their own money into those films. In Alan's case, enormous courage, now £80,000 may not seem like a lot to some people today, but £80,000 in 1976 I think was half of everything Alan had in the world.
Subtitles: While Puttnam and the ads directors were conquering America, Britain was entering turbulent times.
Actual Voiceover: While Puttnam and the commercials directors were conquering America, the country they left behind was about to enter one of the most turbulent times in its history.
Almost every single line is wrong. Yes it approximates the intended meaning, but it loses the individual style of the speaker. It is meant to be transcription not summary.
Saturday, May 17, 2008
I do often write about cricket.
But what I really write about is synchronicity.
As the senior player behind Saurav Ganguly and others, Rahul Dravid was an excellent number two for more than a decade. In fact I'd go so far as to say that, despite the fact that he was not officially leader, he was actually responsible for most of the team's success this century. And he seems a genuinely nice guy too, fully aware of his own ability but always prepared to work hard to improve, determined on the field but friendly and self-effacing in interviews.
Yet finally, in charge of his own team, everything seems to be going wrong and the whole world even supposed supporters seem turned against him. Admittedly some of his team are proving to be incompetent fools. But as for Dravid himself, in some ways, he is performing heroically in adversity. The 1990s reputation for being slow is now entirely unjustified. Today, as reported on CricInfo a few minutes ago, he scored 75 in 36 balls. The entire rest of his team, all ten of them together, scored a total of 51 in 84. Do the maths.
Friday, May 16, 2008
So today the speaker took off from the topical headline that crime rates for girls are increasing sharply. And the solution, justified with selected quotes from his sacred old book, was to make sure that the differences between the sexes are maintained. I notice that the quotes used to justify everything from physical assault to denial of voting rights were not used in this instance, though they would have been equally representative of his ridiculous book.
It's also funny how his special book does not even explain the fact that some people can be born with XXY chromosomes, that genes control the production of hormonal proteins and those proteins control the development of sexual characteristics, that neurological differences explain behavioural differences. But he still paraded his medieval nonsense as the source of unquestioned divine revelation.
But actually that wasn't the bit of his lecture that inspired me. It was his wilful and stupid misinterpretation of modern scientific thinking, blaming the apparent rise in individualism with the "selfish gene". Idiot. Only a nutcase could read Richard Dawkins and still not recognise that the selfish gene is precisely an explanation for co-operation and altruism.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
In the last post I raised a general set of observations about the different types of human personality, but to me they seem even more applicable and relevant when applied to daily interactions in the office.
2. It's a disaster, this is currently the most important issue in the whole organisation, stop everything and get it sorted
3. There is no such thing as a problem, only an opportunity.
But is your glass half-full or half-empty?
First rule out one exception - clearly anyone born with a serious genetic defect or into war-ravaged famine-festering slums is less "lucky" than a broadly healthy person in the developed world. But let us just look at the different ways that people here deal with misfortune …
The usual distinction into optimists and pessimists is too obvious, there are at least three different ways that people tend to deal with the same unfortunate incident:
1. It's no big deal, we understand that it is human nature to remember the occasional disruption more than the usual smooth journey, but these things even out
2. I'm so unlucky, the breaks never go my way, my queue is the slowest, moan moan moan
3. I love the taste of defeat because it only makes me stronger. It's all of part of an almighty master plan.
There is overlap, people behave differently in different situations. Funnily enough, although category 2 (the traditional pessimists) are the pariahs of society, it is category 3 that can sometimes be the most annoying.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
When I talk about blogging, the number one question I get asked by non-bloggers is where do you find the time? I think this is the wrong question about the wrong thing. I find the time because I believe it is important enough to do so.
I might expand on that another day. Meanwhile the American blogger vjack has just started a series of blogging guidelines. I'm sure that plenty of others have too. But I still aspire to the basic top ten guidelines that I published last year. Rule number one was simple: One post per day, no more, no less.
But yesterday was an exception. If I get back home too late, if I've had a few drinks, then I don't trust myself to write anything that will stand the test of time.
So this year only 134 posts in 135 days. I'll make it up.
Monday, May 12, 2008
Of course a manager needs to be a leader, a guide, an enforcer. But a manager also needs to be a supporter. And I mean that in every sense.
I do not just mean in the obvious usage of cheerleading or defending her team from criticism, though both those attributes are critical too. But I also mean support as in assistance to help do their jobs. When someone gets stuck in their work, when they cannot resolve a problem, it is the manager's responsibility to clear that blockage. And that takes knowledge, of the problem specifics and if necessary of the appropriate additional resources required to resolve it.
Clearly not every manager is going to know more of the detail of the individual jobs and tasks than those who report to her. But if she does, then I say that is unquestionably a good thing. Knowledge is definitely a positive attribute. Narrow-minded thinking and prejudice are clearly bad qualities, they may be positively correlated with experience; energy and enthusiasm are clearly good qualities, they may be negatively correlated with experience; but again, knowledge itself is a good thing.
That is not taking away all the other qualities necessary for leadership, basic human qualities still preside. But I could not write a post called "supporting your team", as I did yesterday, without stressing this particular one.
Sunday, May 11, 2008
But not from me. I was far more concerned with who won our park game in the morning. I guess because my family had to move so often when I was young, despite a childhood obsession with Liverpool FC, I never really adopted a "home" club.
However, I'll finish with a block quote from A Fan's Dilemma published this week on CricInfo:
I went back to thinking about it. And I realised that, for me at least, it would have to be support for the team that bore the name of the place I come from: Kolkata. You can't choose your hometown, just as you can't choose your parents, and wherever you live afterwards, and whoever you become, that place remains with you, becomes a part of you in a way like no other.Listen to Bruce Springsteen, and you'll know what I'm talking about.
Saturday, May 10, 2008
This week, Andrew Flintoff was caught on apparently driving at 87 mph in a 50 mph area. However he was cleared on a technicality.
The lawyer who defended him is the same guy who defended Jeremy Clarkson - his car was caught doing 82 mph in a 50 mph area.
The same lawyer successfully defended Alex Ferguson, David Beckham, Tiff Needell, Wayne Rooney, Colin Montgomerie, and many others who can afford fees reported to be up to ten thousand pounds per day.
The lawyer's name. Nick Freeman. This is not the time to scoff at the aptonym. This is the time to scoff at what he said: "He is very relieved to have the matter disposed of ... now he can concentrate on his cricket."
Because main headline on BBC cricket page today: Injury dashes Flintoff Test hopes.
Friday, May 09, 2008
But from Marginal Revolution this week: some people buy insurance because they think it will prevent the bad thing from happening?
It was actually a reference to an excellent article in the NY Times by John Tierney: We may not slaughter animals anymore to ward off a plague, but we think buying health insurance will keep us from getting sick. Our brains may understand meteorology, but in our guts we still think that not carrying an umbrella will make it rain.
And one professor of psychology claims in the same article that "rationalists were just as likely as superstitious people to believe that insurance would ward off accidents".
Obviously I don't buy it.
Thursday, May 08, 2008
It's also worth directly quoting his views on a particular Oxford-based scientist: [He] is the most underrated behavioral biologist (ethologist) of his generation. His books have shaped the view of many, because he openly discussed, with great humor and flair, the human-animal connection before we had sociobiology, evolutionary psychology, and the like.
I admire the guy, because it took guts to write what he wrote. As a student, I learned about his book because my professors kept warning us not to read Desmond Morris.
That is almost exactly what I said here just a few months ago.
Most of the small exhibitor stalls were set up largely to sell products and services to small potential buyers. But the seminars were a genuine exposition of new learning. However with over 180 sessions just in the direct marketing area, each taking at least half an hour, there was no way to attend all those that were relevant.
Some attempt was made to divide it into different streams, but for any fairly senior consultant the field of direct interest already spans far more than the full spectrum of direct marketing (hence the association with internet world) and to restrict to one stream in ten is an unhealthy level of specialisation anyway.
Obviously what we wanted was a simple matrix that listed all the sessions together so it was easy to see what was available at each time, to carefully and easily plan personal schedules. But there was none.
I guess it's a bit like the commercial television backlash against the PVR, if you make it too easy to preselect all of your viewing, you will rarely get those elusive viewers who only chance upon your advertisements.
Wednesday, May 07, 2008
Data and The Digital Age
o Data Integration between on and offline environments, sorting the Wheat from the Chaff
o How to use data to drive effective digital communications
o Case Study of An Award Winning Digital Marketing Programme
Customer Experience: the Only Real Differentiator
o Understand the ROI of investing in customer experience
o Why online experience matters more in an age of social networking
o The science behind creating great customer experiences
Engagement Loyalty – Keeping customers interested in an increasingly fragmented market
o What drives customer engagement
o Interacting with customers differently
o Identifying customer differences
Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds
Web Analytics for DM
o Does DM drive online marketing?
o How to spot the impact of DM campaigns online
o Tracking the interaction of DM and PPC, affiliates and email
o To understand what customer insight is
o To understand the tools and techniques that enable learning about customers
o To understand how analysis can be turned into measurable results
Real World Proposition Development
o Defining the role of relevant propositions in today's entropic society
o Sourcing original propositions in a competitive market
o Developing high-impact propositions in a me-too environment
Advanced Search Engine Marketing & Online Brand Reputation
o Overview of how website architecture and content structure have the ability to impact SEO rankings and PPC ROI
o Exploit the opportunities that Universal Search provides
o Understand the options for link building and the level of resource needed to succeed in competitive markets
o Build a strategy to engage with users and influence brand conversations online
The Missing Millions – How Opt-Outs Can Ruin your ROI and What To Do About It
o Calculating the cost of marketing opt-outs to your business
o Avoiding opt-out triggers and tactics for retaining permission
o “Re-permissioning” legacy data
Multi channel response handling
o Understand what makes the difference to the client and focus on that
o Scripting, briefing, management and reporting
o Integrate call handling with the rest of your campaign
New Opportunities for Today’s Advertisers Using Pay per Click (PPC)
o Beyond Bid Management for Pay per Click
o Win through Continuous Quality Improvement – see how the experts do it
o Opportunities with New Ad Formats – gain a competitive advantage
B2B Digital and Direct Marketing
o What’s new in B2B marketing
o What’s working and what’s not
o What you must do in the next 6 months to stay competitive
Using Narrative Structures to Build Powerful Brand Experiences Online
o How scenarios and narratives are a vital planning tool in user-centred web campaigns
o Optimising messaging by building scenarios for different user segments
o Developing narratives that work across online and offline campaign metrics that measure engagement as well as clicks and conversions
Maximising Campaign Performance: Using Data to Increase Campaign Profitability
o How data can help you to better understand your customers
o What do your "best" customers look like?
o Understanding the campaign cycle - learn from your successes ... and your mistakes
Best Practice Campaign Management
o How to build an integrated campaign
o Setting objectives and defining the business case
o Identifying the target audience and media channels
How Testing Will Improve your Email Marketing Performance
o Why should you bother testing?
o How to test?
o What should you test? – a few big wins to get you started
Statistics and Testing for Direct Marketers
o Why statistics matter
o To control or not control
o Top Tips for Designing a Test
Semiotics: What is it? Why should I use it?
Obviously that was not a description of my typical day, it was just a small selection from the IDMF conference that I mentioned last week. But it still helps to answer the question.
Tuesday, May 06, 2008
Kevin Wellman, operations director at the Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering, suggests reasons for this: "The congestion charge is another factor putting plumbers off, and the heavy traffic generally makes it difficult to get around from one job to another. Plumbers have just said, 'We don't want to work in London any more'."
Sorry, Wellman is talking nonsense. The congestion charge is another factor that reduces traffic. And plumbers here charge up to a hundred pounds for each single callout, and will probably do many of these every day. So I guess they can afford it.
For all of Ken Livingstone's misuse of vegetables, he can be proud that he pioneered groundbreaking economic strategy in the face of massive almost universal opposition. Now even the gas guzzling Americans recognise that some form of congestion/pollution charging is inevitable, whether that is in the form of higher gas taxes or road use pricing. However, with his proposed push westwards from the commercial city to the more residential west end, he just pushed a good idea a step too far too soon.
Monday, May 05, 2008
Whenever it rains then one of the gutters overflows and a constant stream of water splashes noisily outside the window. It didn't need great detective powers to predict a blockage, so I borrowed a ladder and went up to see. Yes, there was a small pile of debris in the gutter and muck had piled up behind it.
While I had the ladder I looked round the rest of the guttering. Everything else clear. The one blockage was very close to the point where I had paid a roofer to fix the tiles. The suspicious part of me was alerted. Now surely he had an incentive to secretly create that little pile of mud, no immediate incident, but he would have known that after a few months this would eventually cause an overflow and, for those without tall ladders, another callout.
Sunday, May 04, 2008
Now the word "miracle" usually indicates the presence of both a power-hungry charlatan to initiate the news and a gullible fool to spread it, but I wondered if this was something different. So I looked up the story.
The search is always on for replacements for those things that, eaten in excess, make us obese - fatty and sugary foods. In the 1960s, Robert Harvey, a biomedical postgraduate student, encountered the miracle berry, a fruit from west Africa which turns sour tastes to sweet.
This completely natural product "can be used to manufacture sweet tasting foods without sugar or sweeteners". In reported tests: "miracle berry ice lollies, in four different flavours, were compared to similar, sugar-sweetened versions by schoolchildren in Boston. The berry won every time."
But on the eve of launch in 1974, the US Food and Drugs Administration "effectively banned it". Or to be more precise, as I read it, they reclassified it from natural product to food additive, a ruling which which would require many more years of testing.
The worrying thing would be if a combination of big sugar and artificial sweetener manufacturers deliberately conspired to prevent its release. The former vice president of the miracle berry company certainly thinks so: "I honestly believe that we were done in by some industrial interest that did not want to see us survive because we were a threat. Somebody influenced somebody in the FDA to cause the regulatory action that was taken against us."
Unlike the BBC article, I'm not yet convinced.
Saturday, May 03, 2008
I've said before, the word hot is definitely misleading, arguably just wrong. The word should be jhal.
Friday, May 02, 2008
I often repeat that, like Dirk Gently and his application of the fundamental interconnectness of everything, this blog points out links between apparently unrelated areas.
But I should have decided to do it with pictures and not with words.
See Jessica Hagy.
Thursday, May 01, 2008
But the exhibitions were still organised separately. Separate registration. Separate exhibitors. Separate entrances. Even though they were held in the same hall at the same time.
Of course there is a huge great overlap, and most of the work related sections of this blog are located in that intersection. But both fields are changing so quickly that it's always good to catch up with different people, different technology, different ideas.
However some things don't fit in the overlap. Just staying with cars, I knew that the traditional mailshot could be excellent, interactive, tactile, something really different from the online world. But the award-winning mailshot for the Seat fleet campaign was essentially a full size flipchart. I guess that's not something you can fit into an email.
But it's enough to drive you online. I'll have some more to say about this later.