cybernetic yogi

8 04 2011

now for something completely different.  this is a comment i just left on leanmeanminimalist.com (and if he allows it to be published, i’ll be slightly surprised ;).  quote:

ok so i’m a bit late to the Lets-All-Realise-Everett-Bogue-Is-Suffering-From-Naivety-And-Megalomania Party. that’s fashionable, right?

i’ve been reading some minimalist stuff lately & it’s been impossible to avoid seeing Everett Bogue popping up everywhere.  so i read some of him too.  before too long, i couldn’t shake the impression that Everett Bogue is just another insufficiently read/educated GenYer who thinks he’s the first person to discover something, but had the nous to capitalise on it and get a bunch of Fellow Seekers to pay him to live The Good Life – for the time being at least.

congratulations Mr Bogue, you’re a the top of a tiny pyramid scheme.  you’ve successfully discovered the ‘secret’ of countless shonks before you.

my best friend spent a year traveling the world – minimalist style – in 1996, and maintain that low-possession-count lifestyle in two of Australia’s busiest & most capitalist/consumerist cities, until his untimely death a few years ago.  minimalism wasn’t anything new then, and it sure as frak isn’t anything new now, although for sure the lessons can be carried into the digital realm.

but inherent in that low-possession-count ethos was an underlying reliance on other people’s possessions typically via living in a room with other housemates WHO PROVIDED MOST OF THE FURNITURE. and fridge. and ice cube trays.  when we took a holiday in Byron Bay, who do you think brought the beach towels?!!

Everett brags about how little he owns on his site.  i couldn’t help but notice there’s no refrigerator.  or beanbag.  who supplies those?  i’m guessing someone else.  that’s not minimalism, that’s an externality of the likes that any economic rationalist would be very proud.

fuckminimalism.com ? no, fuck you, Mr Bogue.  i understood the core of (and resonated with) minimalism from one brief conversation with my best friend 15 years ago.  i didn’t need to (and thankfully now can’t) spend $17 on your ebook to tell me what can be gleaned – for free – from hundreds of honest, well-meaning people.

and us$47 for your Minimalist Business ebook? yer kidding right?  i haven’t bought an ebook for more than $15 from highly talented writers who had something NEW to say.  no surprise you ignored my tweet politely asking why Minimalist Business cost so much.  so much for Twitter being the best way to communicate with you.

as for this $25/month letter.ly cybernetic yogi shit, omg, that’s where you really lost me. as above, just another GenY kid so far up his own fundamental orifice he can’t see that he’s stumbled on what’s already been discovered long ago.  the abundance of nonsense cyber-infused new-age terminology won’t work on those who’ve seen it all before.  Facebook out – Twitter in?  fuck me, you sound like a vacuous fashion queen of the most objectionable kind.

Everett Bogue IS what i consider convergence; or history repeating itself, depending on how generous you feel today.

p.s. contrary to you bragging about your google rank for ‘cybernetic yogi’ etc, this (leanmeanminimalist.com) site and 4 others ripping you a new one, were the first 5 hits when i googled “cybernetic yogi”. i pray that when i click on Image search i’ll see a cartoon Yogibear who’s been altered by the Borg.

mwah!

 





the future of calendars

7 04 2011

“I’m not used to paying for calendars like you do here in Australia”.

Past

In one simple innocent statement, my partner highlighted the outstanding success of applying “pop-up retailing” to calendars, first brought to Australia in the mid-90s by XXXX XXXXX, licensing the USA-based ‘XXXXXXXX XXXX’ brand and seasonal pop-up retailing concept.

Back then, and apparently still in many countries, wall and desk calendars were either low-value things that businesses gave away to their customers, a cunning exchange of vaguely themed utility for under-the-radar advertising; or “high end” products in niche retail outlets.

Nowadays, calendar retailing is worth several tens of $M (in Australia), forged in large part by XXXX XXXXX’s tireless efforts to convince shopping mall managers to allocate open floor space for short term rental where – voila! – overnight in October/November a ‘kiosk’ appears at your local mall lined with every type of calendar you could possibly want.  They made easy gifts, Christmas ‘stocking fillers’ for those whom you just CBF’d buying anything more meaningful.  I’ve received a few over the years!

The trick to getting people to part with up to $25 per calendar, where previously they were free from your local mechanic / dentist / etc – is personalisation and self-expression.  The burgeoning range of wall and desk calendars catered to almost every social niche, from every breed of faithful dog and fluffy cat, to side-splittingly funny Gary Larson cartoons.  A calendar hung in the home or office signalled to others what you were ‘into’, and provoked conversation.  Oh, and you could also record what you had to do next week – if you remembered to look at it.

Present

However I believe that gravy train is slowly running out of steam.  I have no insider knowledge of sales or returns, but my hunch is they’ve been either plateaued or been slightly falling for a few years, a drop that’s either been masked by XXXXXXXX XXXX’s progress toward market saturation (geographically, the number of stores open each Christmas retail season), or unfairly attributed to the 2008 GFC & low consumer confidence statistics.  Or both.  I believe there’s another – perhaps bigger – culprit.

We’re nearly 4 years into the smartphone boom, heralded by the Apple iPhone first available in June 2007.  Until then Palm Pilot, Windows Mobile & Blackberry PDAs & smartphones were the sole preserve of geeks &/or geeky businessmen.  Among countless other things, a smartphone gives you a calendar that typically syncs with your desktop/laptop computer(s) including your corporate email/calendar/contacts system, and actively reminds you of imminent appointments.  Add the outstanding success of the iPad a year ago, followed by viable competition to the iPhone (Google’s Android, Palm/HP’s WebOS, Blackberry, Windows Phone 7) and “suddenly” a whole lot of people have a lot less reason to record their plans on a traditional calendar trapped on a desk or nailed to a wall, especially those intended for the office or home-office.

This ubiquity of high-tech calendars has only just begun, and I believe signals the beginning of the end for physical paper calendars.

Future

Sourcing calendars from publishers all over the world, XXXXXXXX XXXX is justified in having the tagline “The Best Selection Of Calendars In The Known Universe”.  But as the retail end-point for many calendar publishers and image banks, XXXXXXXX XXXX’s ability to capitalise on that imagery needs to move with the times – into the digital space.

XXXXXXXX XXXX needs to tackle the smartphone, pad / tablet / slate, & computer calendar reality head on.

Other than the same disease that’s beset most old-media for the past decade, there’s nothing preventing XXXXXXXX XXXX from creating their own software calendar ‘apps’, featuring the same imagery from their paper counterparts.  As a major multi-national paper calendar retailer, they already have the relationships with the calendar publishers & image banks necessary to garner trust to take this step into the digital domain.  It isn’t just XXXXXXXX XXXX who stands to rise or fall on this issue, it’s the entire ecosystem of paper calendar publishing.

Imagine a smartphone app that features all the crowd-pleasing imagery that modern paper calendars are known for, seamlessly integrating into the phone’s built-in calendar system (that syncs with your desktop/laptop computer or office groupware system).

People want to customise their smartphones for exactly the same reason they were willing to blow $25 on a dozen sheets of paper with cool pictures – especially given the ubiquity of Apple’s one-size-fits-all iPhone & iPad where there’s zero ability to ‘theme’ the built-in calendar app.  Part of the appeal of ‘jailbreaking’ an iPhone/iPad is the ability to customise the UI, and – for better or worse – Android and other smartphones offer that ability to customise.

If XXXXXXXX XXXX doesn’t take the lead and bring great themed imagery into digital calendars, someone else surely will.





Seeing REDgroup – Part 3 – A Tale Of Two Brands

8 03 2011

A Tale Of Two Brands

Angus & Robertson have been around way over a century (albeit with a litany of former owners in its more recent decades), with a long and respected reputation for selling quality books in a demure manner by demure middle-aged ladies wearing sensible shoes in demurely designed book stores.  From cities to countless regional towns, they brought quality books to every corner of Australia, the Everyman’s bookseller.  They’re classic Old Media, and they sold just one product category, and – until the last several years – did it fairly well.

Borders, the hip young USA brand that Gen-X & younger oozed over in the 90s and early 00s for its multimedia retailing tour de force – not just a massive range of books, but music (pressing a few buttons to sample any CD on headphones was a revelation!), DVDs, glossy magazines & more, in large, plush, comfortable stores with its very own cafe, seemed to take the book retailing world by storm.  Clearly Borders was commoditised American economic imperialism propagating across the world like a virus, but unless you were wedded to your local indie bookstore and studying a double arts degree, visiting Borders was like a guilty pleasure, but without the guilt.

The only way these two could be less different would be to compare them to Woolworths or KMart, or an indie one-store bookshop up the proverbial street, whose rickety floor-to-ceiling shelves feel like they’re about to collapse in a plume of dusty old-school dignity.  But despite their obvious differences, two pillars – the oldest and the newest – of the Australian book retail world have suffered the same fate at the same time.  What on Earth went wrong?

When Borders entered Australia in the late-90s, the two were genuine competitors with unrelated owners, and quite different business models.  But for individual reasons, both came under the ownership of Pacific Equity Partners (PEP), who formed REDgroup Retail to hold them, alongside Whitcoulls in New Zealand (and other sundry non-book entities).  By this stage, the wheels were already wobbling.

My guess is these two very different businesses were originally seen as complementary; A&R serves the Everyman, and Borders served lattes to the hipsters.  Unfortunately the devil is in the detail.  Borders AU/NZ/Sing were already in serious debt when snapped up by PEP, and A&R were headed down the same path.  Not surprisingly, two negative cash flows do not make for a positive cash flow, and under this growing mountain of debt (now totalling some $130M !!!) some truly horrible things have been done to both brands in a desperate futile attempt to stem the flow of borrowed money.

There’s been a bookshelf of words written this past week about REDgroup entering voluntary administration & who’s to blame.  Some of them hold water, some of them are utter nonsense, and some I’m really not remotely qualified to comment on.  Fell free to tell me which ones I got wrong!

  • Much hoohar has erupted over the claim by REDgroup’s CEO that the parallel import restrictions were a significant contributor in REDgroup’s demise.  However, given that (a) many of their books were marked ABOVE the Australian RRP (ie. they can’t have been too concerned about discounted books from offshore retailers), and (b) REDgroup’s own submission to the Productivity Commission in 2009 recommended KEEPING the PIRS, this is all clearly bumkum smokescreening.  According to Henry Rosenbloom from Scribe Publishing, the US and UK don’t allow parallel imports either, and if Australia were to do so it would have severe implications for local publishers, authors and printers, to the benefit of their overseas counterparts.
  • That GST should be applied to offshore imports, or be exempted from certain domestic retail categories, to “level the playing field”. This one’s gotta be the ultimate scapegoat, and Gerry Harvey had his hat handed to him in the court of public opinion in January this year trying on this furphy.  Suggesting that some select few endangered species of the Australian retailer genus should be GST-exempt is mind-boggling.  AS IF the Australian Government is about to do away with a major component of its GST income – the GST targets the retail level!  Online retail – from both national and offshore retailers – has steadily grown in the last decade from obscurity to significance.  In 5-10 years when I can try on a digital pair of jeans on my digital avatar and check for proper fit & see what they’ll look like from a virtual mirror on my high-resolution monitor, or point my smartphone at the corner of the room to project an image of a new sofa to see if it’ll fit in my room, and click a button to have it delivered, clearly the scope of what can practically be bought online is only going to grow, so why on earth would the Government set a precedent for slitting its wrists & slowly bleeding to death?
  • That too much of Borders stock was inappropriate for Australian readers’ tastes.  Maybe.  As Patrick Carr says on Newmatilda.com, Borders “sacrificed profitability for market share. They poured huge money into extensive stockholdings. Their hope was that if they stocked everything, shoppers wouldn’t look elsewhere.”  Unfortunately that didn’t work out so well, and I’m guessing that’s behind a lot of the $130M about to be written off by banks, publishers, and other creditors (everyone except their owners, PEP).  Whilst it was a correctable problem, paying off the debt from that catastrophic error when it’s already a tough market obviously wasn’t possible.  But it doesn’t explain Angus & Robertson’s equal lock-step demise…
  • That the honourable centenarian Angus & Robertson have been disrespectfully relegated to bargain-bin & best-seller-pulp status, undermining the value of their time-honoured brand.  If you narrow your range to pulp, don’t be surprised when customers buy pulp for a fraction of the price from Woolworths or Amazon/et.al.  But how did that happen?  Perhaps extorting smaller local publishers for an additional $2.5k to $20k to stock their books might’ve had something to do with them deserting the once respected chain, leaving A&R without unique compelling product?
  • There’s just so much more entertainment available now, and so much more competition for our disposable dollar & attention.  Even a mere two decades ago we consumed media distributed by news papers and magazines, TV, movies, music (vinyl/CD), and that was about it.  Computer/video games were niche, and there was no (recognisable) Internet/WWW.  Nowadays we have a smorgasbord of tech to keep us entertained & distracted on a whim anywhere, and all of them are seriously challenging the old-school old-media business models of physically-distributed media with territorial copyright licensed to 3rd-party distributors, or highly regulated & gate-keepered traditional electronic media.  Whilst the pie has grown much larger along with our prosperity, the number of ways that entertainment pie is now sliced has exploded.  We are reading less books.
  • No one’s talking about this one, but it can’t have helped matters that REDgroup made the tragic mistake several years ago of being convinced that SAP would be a good thing for their business IT infrastructure.  Surely a swish new world-class enterprise management system would make things better, right?  Did no one at REDgroup do their homework and read about the litany of over-budget & over-time SAP implementations scattered across the world in the previous decade??  Books have been written and websites dedicated to documenting their spectacular failures.  As other smaller entities in REDgroup came to make major IT infrastructure decisions in recent years, SAP was given a wide berth, for fear of crippling their own business with a grossly expensive and agonisingly slow development cycle.  Aside from that, any IT department that has a two week waiting list to delegate an internet domain name for their own online ecommerce store (something that can be actioned in 5 minutes) has way bigger problems than being duped by blowhard SAP salesmen.
  • eBooks & eReaders are taking a share. Yes, but I suspect this one’s a trivial component dwarfed by the other factors, but no doubt it’ll grow into a major additional bite in the coming years.
  • Let me drop two dirty words in the book industry: self-publishing and eBooks.  Thy time approaches.

 





can you afford not to? really?

1 12 2009

somehow i got my little pinkie into a new pie.

Ben Rennie, chief of UnclutteredWhiteSpaces.com, has offered for me to write for his site semi-regularly, so here’s my first two articles:

http://unclutteredwhitespaces.com/2009/10/techydude1/

http://unclutteredwhitespaces.com/2009/11/danilic/

hopefully more to come…

 





IceTV wins appeal against Channel Nine

22 04 2009

at last, some good news!

IceTV has won its three year battle against Channel Nine’s specious copyright suit against IceTV.

http://www.icetv.com.au/news/?p=614

Nine’s competition reviewed IceTVs processes from a copyright perspective years ago & decided there was nothing for them to answer for.

so i’m not sure what, at this late stage, Channel Nine’s end-game was supposed to be in persevering with the case, but now that i’ve switched entirely to using Elgato eyeTV + IceTV (in other words, the tv tuner in my TV is rarely used now), not-infrequently seeing “not available” in the program guide for Channel Nine (due to IceTV’s observance of the original judgement’s ruling) made them (Nine) look – once again – like frakking idiots.

if it’s not in IceTV, I CAN’T (read: won’t) WATCH IT !  admittedly there’s rarely anything on Channel Nine worth watching… more Two & A Half Men, anyone??? <yawn>

lets hope Channel Nine give up on this bullshit for good, and, um, perhaps focus on being a TV station in dire need of pulling thier finger out, programming-wise.

i hope the people at IceTV are drinking the champaigne tonight, they sure deserve it after being dragged through 3 years go specious copyright claim bullshit in Nine’s futile attempt to dodge the future.





Dear Manhunt.net…

16 02 2009

Manhunt.net, a gay ‘dating’ site, recently chose Australians to beta-test their new site upgrade.  oh boy…

if they put up a localised blog with comments, they must want some feedback!  here’s mine… ;)

1) my login-failure solution:
after an unhelpful reply from tech-support (”be patient”) my patience wore out after 3 days unable to login, having tried clearing browser caches, restarting browser, rebooting, trying other PCs, all with no luck. UNTIL i clicked on the ‘English’ language link at the top, then bingo, able to login fine ever since. maybe it was just a coincidence of timing, but one minute no joy, the next i’m in.

2) ‘Private pics unlocked’ notifications incorrect:
i got one today, which said “xxxxxx has unlocked his Private Pix for you.”
but *I* am xxxxxx, it should (of course) say the name of the profile that sent/unlocked :). looks like a simple coding oops.

3) no search by postcode/distance:
the temporary removal of this feature before the site went live was a major tactical blunder – unless you had a REALLY good (undisclosed) reason to NEED to migrate to new servers before it was ready on the new version.

Manhunt is of limited _efficient_ use without this critical feature (i don’t care how many hapless users don’t use search, wasting time online is their choice!), and now with one amorphous mess of hundreds of towns (and several of my local inner city suburbs missing, inc Collingwood, Clifton Hill, North Fitzroy!!!), it’s even worse than the original Manhunt and postcode/distance search is still weeks away :(.

who wants to wade through endless “who’s online” lists containing everyone in the state? or wade through that amorphous mess to list who’s online one suburb/town at a time? i really think you need to somehow get sensible area groups in the list too (not just as a stop-gap until postcode/distance works). yeah i noticed you can now add a bunch of suburbs to a saved-search, which is great, but that only applies to search, not simple ‘who’s online’ lists.

4) the tedious logout/log-back-in shuffle to remain reasonably visible:
basing the ordering of lists according to how recently someone logged in would have to be one of the most brain-dead designs i’ve ever come across in this genre of site. i understand you wanna ‘reward’ those who remain active (rather than those who just login & walk away for a day/week like some on Gaydar!), but this logout/log-back-in BS is not (and never was) the answer – not for us, and not for your systems that have the additional burden of processing several/dozens(?) of logouts/logins per actual user session.

it is in fact a fundamental admission that you haven’t nailed that problem at all if i have to do the work for you on top of actually being an engaged user. that there is still no way for a user to select how a list should be ordered, other than your hard-coded ‘time since last login’ is probably the fundamental problem.

5) search flexibility
even if(when) postcode/distance search is reinstated, i still find the limitations of search feature to be quite frustrating – i can tick various attributes to be “yes, i want them to be into this”, or leave it un-ticked for “i don’t care what they answer here”, but there’s _still_ no way to filter on “i want them to NOT be into XYZ”, which is sometimes where the best filtering happens for some users/purposes (eg. guys4men.com)

i understand a single tick-box is nice n compact, and a 3 way choice (probably a drop-down list) on each attribute will take up alot of space, but for your ‘get on, get off (quick)’ mantra to be realised, there needs to be better ways to filter guys out to minimise results lists.

6) web programmers love making stuff in fancy AJAXy/fly-over/hover/translucent/auto-pop-menu/blahblah, and sometimes it works well, but not on the main menu, especially now that your auto-drop-down menus are across the top instead of down the left side – i’m finding they pop-down almost every time i move the mouse to/from the browser tab bar &/or other stuff on the desktop, which is incredibly frustrating, and utterly unnecessary. so what if i have to click the menu to drop it down?!? i’d rather that than have them getting in the way all the time when i had no intention of ‘clicking on’ the menus anyway! it’s web-designer wankery that doesn’t serve the user.

7) “he’s online now” lights
speaking of web-designer wankery, those new indicators to show if someone’s online are far less ‘readable’ with all that orange simulated LED bezel BS surrounding them. someone in the design department’s been drinkin way too much of the coolaid…

Manhunt, overall i like the new layout, and i dont mind ’silly bugs’ cuz they can be fixed, and i really appreciate that there’s this this localised blog to keep us in the loop & make feedback easy (and bypass the scripted robots in tech-support), but as you can probably tell, and as a paying customer, i’m pretty PO’d not only because a major upgrade to the site has left a critical feature missing for unspecified weeks, but much moreso that a major redesign has failed to address glaring limitations in functionality & usability.

i was questioning whether to remain on Manhunt after my current subscription, and unfortunately this ‘upgrade’ hasn’t done much to increase the site’s utility for me.

not only does the upgrade seem to have been rushed, with Australian’s used as beta testers like it or not, but too few improvements beyond a new coat of paint.

sorry to stick the knife in, but this seems like a classic case of an IT upgrade project mis-managed (too influenced by web-designers & not addressing core issues or features) and poorly executed from the user’s perspective.

* UPDATE:

Tim at Manhunt emailed to thank me for my comprehensive feedback, which may help nail a bug or two (as well as assure me that my thoughts were heard loud & clear ;), and a brief email exchange ensued.  I neglected to mention in my comment on their blog that much of what they’re doing is behind the curtain stuff aimed at achieving better scalability, and to that end, “more power to them”, it’s a complicated and major undertaking for websites of this size & 24/7 operation.  He assured us in further blog comments, and in his emails, that they’re flat out dealing with the cut-over, but that the postcode/distance search is the next cab off the rank, with several other popular issues including some i’ve raised as also high on their agenda &/or being (re)considered.  Perhaps there is hope yet.  One has to give credit for any organisation willing to put thier cock on the block in a public blog/comment forum and engage their customers ‘face to face’ rather than only through the arms-length of tech-support.  Thanks for listening & hearing, Manhunt, I’ll wait patiently for what’s around the corner, and perhaps beyond.





QLD man charged for propagating a baby-swinging viral-vid!

20 12 2008

this time the “do-gooders” are the Queensland police with their heads up their arses, with the way they’re *choosing* to enforce the law:

A Queensland man has been charged for re-publishing on a video-sharing site a viral video of a man swinging a baby around like a rag doll.  The video he uploaded to the site was reported to police by a Britton.

The controversial three-minute video had already been published widely across the internet and shown on American TV news shows. The clip can still be found online today.

Chris Illingworth, 60, a father of four from Maroochydore, thought he would share it with fellow users of Liveleak, a site similar to YouTube but focused on news and current events. In two years, he has uploaded hundreds of videos to Liveleak.

(source: theage.com.au)

the implications for ordinary internet users who propagate certain material is enormous.  in the minds of Do-Gooder Extremists, it doesn’t seem to matter whether you’re the subject in the video, the videographer, performing citizen journalism, or simply passing/soliciting comment on the subject – all seem to be fair game for those who charge themselves with the task of “protecting the children”.

as the article goes on to suggest, this year we have indeed reached hysterical levels of ridiculousness in efforts to combat child abuse and child porn (and yes, there’ve been some excellent wins, too).

just for the record, i abhor child abuse & child porn.

but for the love of god, is it too much to ask for you do-gooder maniacs put your efforts where they might actually MATTER and COUNT for what you supposedly stand for?

cuz from where i’m standing, these mindless shenanigans are just wasting my tax-payer money.

i can only hope(?) there’s A LOT more to this Queensland man that hasn’t yet come to light – other than being an ordinary netizen – to justify this crap.








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