Geek News: Latest Technology, Product Reviews, Gadgets and Tech Podcast News for Geeks


Code of Practice for Privacy Protection

Posted by Andrew at 3:18 AM on July 21, 2010

The UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office has published a pair of  guides about holding personal information online.  The first guide is a Code of Practice aimed at organisations, particularly, those that sell goods and services over the web and is to help them understand the data protection law and develop good practice.  The second is for individuals and is Protecting Your Personal Information Online.

The Information Commissioner’s Office is an independent body setup to promote and police the UK’s information legislation including the Data Protection Act and the Freedom of Information Act.

The new Code of Practice has several sections including how the law applies, how to operate internationally, individuals’ rights and pitfalls to avoid.  It also includes a number of special cases, e.g. when dealing with children.

The personal guide provides information on protecting your personal info and identity, online scams, cookies, browser settings and social networks.  Definitely worth a read, even if you are not UK-based.  It’s all good sensible stuff.

What’s been stirring the media is that for the first time the ICO has commented on “behavioural marketing”, i.e. adverts are tailored to your browsing activity.  There had been some debate about the legality of this but as long as its clear what is going on and the person can opt out, there’s no problem.  There’s more information on behavioural marketing here.

Regardless of whether you are in the UK or elsewhere or whether you are a supplier or a customer, it’s worth giving both guides a browse.

Marriage & Cell Carriers

Posted by tomwiles at 7:01 PM on July 16, 2010

The air is electric with heady excitement. The big day has finally arrived. “This one will be nirvana!” you tell yourself. As you enter the doors and walk down the isle, there she is waiting at the altar, all decked out in a one-use dress. Your heart races with anticipation.

There’s your dream — waiting there for you, with a pre-nuptial agreement in one hand and divorce papers in the other, complete with fine print written in legalese.

For some of us the marriage is a happy one. For others it is a marriage of convenience. And for a small number the marriage ends up going sour and costing them a bundle of money.

Am I talking about a wedding? No, I’m talking about the trip to the cell phone store.

We tend to get all excited about the latest phone models, comparing this feature set with that feature set, this screen with that screen, etc. Once we make a decision and our heart is set on a specific device, we eagerly sign the contract and end up married to a cell carrier for the life of the contract.

Devices aside, the big U.S. carriers have been making constant improvements to their networks. It’s a huge job, but there’s a lot of future money at stake.

In the realm of cell phones, I’ve always found it fascinating and somewhat telling how people will bounce from one cell carrier to the next, seemingly on a whim. If it becomes chic to talk bad about a specific cell carrier, it seems that a lot of people will change cell carriers the same way some people will worry about saturated fats or the latest diet fad.

And now we have the iPhone 4 and it’s purported antenna problem story of the past few days. At this point Apple has sold more than 3 million iPhone 4’s and the vast majority of iPhone 4 users have been happy with their new phones. Yet I find it interesting that all of this media attention about antenna problems has put doubt in the minds of some iPhone 4 owners.

That new spouse might be cheating on you…

OTT And Paid Content

Posted by tomwiles at 11:41 AM on July 9, 2010

OTT, short for “over-the-top-television” is an up-and-coming acronym that we are all likely going to become familiar with in the near future, provided someone doesn’t come up with a different marketing name. The concept is simple – it’s TV that comes “over the top” of traditional channels on a cable system via the Internet delivered in digital packets. It can either be live streaming video, on-demand streaming video, or in the form of a pre-recorded on-demand podcast.

There are many aspects of over-the-top TV that have yet to be shaken out. Specifically, here in the early stages there are some still-murky areas when it comes to details of how advertising is going to work.

Things that we know about how OTT works successfully so far:

People are willing to pay for bundled on-demand professionally created OTT content in the form of Netflix on-demand streaming of movies, TV shows, and other content. The bundled Netflix price for all-you-can-eat on-demand streaming OTT offers the consumer a real value. In most cases, a great deal of marketing money and effort has been spent promoting the majority of individual movies and other content that are available on Netflix, so the consumer has a fairly high degree of familiarity with much of the on-demand streaming content they offer. These are essentially repurposed movies that are already on the shelf.

People are willing to watch on-demand streaming OTT of professionally-created content with embedded ads as demonstrated by the ongoing success of Hulu.Com. The consumer is likely already familiar with a portion of the content, but Hulu also allows the consumer to discover and explore previously unknown TV show content in an on-demand stream with embedded ads. These are essentially repurposed TV shows, some movies, and other content.

Live streaming OTT of live content is still catching on. The most successful live OTT content as typified by what Leo Laporte and company are generating still offers an on-demand podcast version that can be downloaded later. Currently, on-demand, after-the-fact podcast versions of live OTT generated content end up with many more downloads than people watching via live streams. Both live streaming OTT and the on-demand podcast versions can contain ads. For the ads to be effective in this format, they need to be relevant to the audience’s needs and desires. The old “shotgun” advertising approach does not work in this format. This specific type of content is closely associated with word-of-mouth promotion.

There are a few questions that remain to be answered. Will consumers pay for on-demand streaming of TV drama-type content they are unfamiliar with — in other words, will consumers pay to watch an on-demand stream of a new TV show drama, documentary or reality show? Using myself as a gage, I wouldn’t pay for individual on-demand episodes of a TV show or movie I wasn’t fairly familiar with. Promotion and word-of-mouth still has to take place.

If consumers will pay-per-view for an unfamiliar on-demand TV show, can the content still contain ads? I think the answer to this depends on the content and its perceived value – i.e., how well it is promoted, and the resulting perceived value that is generated in the potential consumer.

Once “Lost” was a hit TV show, would the fanatic fans have paid for on-demand streams of new episodes? Probably they would have, if they could have gotten them, say a week or so in advance of the actual broadcasts. “Lost” fans would have also put up with ads in the advance on-demand stream. They might have grumbled about it, but if that were the only way it was available in advance, many of them would have opened-up their wallets and paid the price monetarily and with their attention to the embedded ads in order to satisfy their “Lost” habit. Clearly, the producers of “Lost” – ahem – “lost out” on a time-sensitive revenue stream opportunity.

Bottom line, I believe it all revolves around the content and the real and perceived values that the content delivers.

I liked last season’s remake of the old “V” television series. If I could be assured the production values remained just as high, I might pay to subscribe in some manner. If the “V” series is picked up again by ABC next season, I would also pay to subscribe if I could get episodes via on-demand streaming before they were broadcast.

In the meantime, we are still dealing with the death-throws of the old broadcast model with its old appointment based viewing schedule combined with the old shotgun advertising approach. ABC broadcast TV affiliates would have had a cow if “Lost” episodes had been made available as a paid on-demand OTT stream before the episodes were actually broadcast via the network.

The final destination of OTT and when it ends up at that destination depends on what is right for the time. Both delivery infrastructure capabilities and consumer demand will make that determination.

Will You Survive The Coming Changes?

Posted by tomwiles at 2:11 AM on July 5, 2010

Get ready for a world where everything is on demand and à la carte. Traditional broadcasting is going to change whether it wants to or not. Marketing will be forced to change in profound ways. As a result, content-making will also go through a major metamorphosis.

Marketing and traditional broadcasting have long had an interesting relationship that has had a potentially detrimental effect on the quality and quantity of available content. Television in particular has long been known as “a vast wasteland.” If one thinks about how this lowest-common-denominator programming can exist, the realization emerges that anxious, aggressive television advertisers have often been willing to sponsor junk programming content to capture passive viewers. In the pre-Internet world of broadcast TV, people would surf channels in order to find what was often the least-boring programming. Also because of the hypnotic potential of this type of TV watching, many viewers were willing to sit in front of virtually any programming without really caring about what they were watching, using TV viewing itself as a sort of nightly drug. Marketing messages get programmed into viewer’s brains, but more importantly using this type of passive TV viewing as a drug has definite detrimental side effects to both the individual, the family unit, and society at large.

After a few months of agonizing, I recently cancelled my Dish Network account. I was already a Netflix customer and was watching more stuff from Netflix than I was from Dish Network, so it has been a remarkably easy transition.

There are differences. One of the differences is that I’m now forced to choose what I want to watch when I want to watch TV. Being forced to choose necessarily forces me to choose something I find personally interesting. The net effect is I’m making a conscious choice of my television influences. Of course, another difference is that streamed Netflix content has no ads.

Hulu.Com offers streaming content with ads, and recently started offering an inexpensive monthly premium streaming content option, which also has the added benefit of vastly expanding the list of devices they will stream to beyond the desktop/laptop computer to include media extenders and cell phones. Like Craig’s List cannibalized the local newspaper ad business, Hulu.Com and similar emerging streaming services are going to further cannibalize the now-breaking and broken broadcast TV model. I say this not to blame Hulu and other services as I believe this push for choice has been well underway for a long time and these emerging streaming services are simply accelerating it.

The ad-supported content will be forced to change because the programming must be appealing-enough to consumers to get them to choose the particular content. Non-ad supported content will continue to have a market but will be forced to appeal just the same to induce consumers to choose that content.

Entrepreneurial Inspiration – 100thoughts

Posted by Andrew at 4:13 PM on June 2, 2010

If you are an entrepreneur or entrepreneur-in-waiting, then you should have a look at this for inspiration.  HSBC Business has produced a series of four booklets comprising a total of 100 real world mini-case studies on how to do things a little differently for success.  Some of the examples are well-known companies such as Lufthansa and Red Bull, others are relatively unknown.

One tells the story of Richard Tait and the game Cranium. He and his partner had ordered 27,000 copies of Cranium with a manufacturer but couldn’t get any of the main toy distributors to sell it.  His inspiration was to sell where the customers were rather than in toy stores. His target customers were trendy, young professionals, so he persuaded Starbucks to sell it in the coffee houses.  From this initial success, the game was worldwide hit and and he went on to sell out to Hasbro for $77 million.  Nice.

I originally got a hardcopy in the post but they’ve been made available on-line as PDFs so if you are searching for a little entrepreneurial creativity, download them now.

Consumers, Brands and Social Networks

Posted by Andrew at 5:26 PM on March 17, 2010

If you are retailer and want to build your brand, social networks are where you need to be, says IDC in a new report.  According to it, Web 2.0 is creating opportunities for competitive advantage with the top 10 social networks having over 1.3 billion members.  Yes, there’s plenty of people who live on more than one network but that’s still a pretty big number.

IDC says, “Social networks, blogs, price comparison Web sites, and the likes can all be used by retailers of all kinds and sizes to attract and influence customers, to study demand patterns, to improve brand reputation, and, finally, to provide customer support.”  I’d certainly agreed with the latter – I think we’ve all heard the stories about certain companies responding to individuals who have tweeted about problems they’ve had with products.

It also notes that the social networks are a great source of information about customers and what they’re saying about products, whether it’s the retailer’s or a competitors.  For those of us in the space, this isn’t exactly news but for companies looking in and wanting to get value out of their investment, this is going to be important.

Obviously, it’s taking time but if the big consultancies are now able to produce reports with hard data regarding the benefits of social media, the money will start coming into the social / new media and out of traditional media.

The full report costs money but you can read the press release for free.

Old Media and the New Frontier

Posted by GNC at 9:51 PM on May 4, 2009

Recently Disney bought an estimated 30 percent stake in Hulu.com, bringing the streaming giant even closer to world domination, and adding to the credibility of its online-based television distribution force.

It is clear that Hulu.com and its partners have invested large sums of money into developing and funding this new media distribution center, yet anytime someone tries to bring this content to the general public and make it easy to use, they seem to go out of their way to hurt their own investment.

Take Boxee for example, they have developed an easy to use interface that collects all of the online media sources into one place for users of a broad range of operating systems. Instead of embracing and thanking them for this improved user interface and social media integration, Hulu’s partners demanded that Hulu take steps to ensure that their content wasn’t available on Boxee’s system.

Their chief concern according to many tech analysts is that the major media companies make more money from standard broadcast commercials than they do from online advertising. This sounds to me like the classic question of “What came first the chicken or the egg?”

It would seem logical to me that the best way to improve the value of your product for advertisers would be to reach as mainy people as possible. In a time of economically hardships such as these I would expect that advertisers, like any other business, would be looking for the most bang for their buck. I would state that online distribution is a much better advertising proposition for today’s market, for one simple reason. if I’m watching something I’ve recorded on my DVR equipped cable box, there is zero chance of me watching an ad. If I’m watching Hulu or one of the other major media online outlets that have built-in mandatory ads, I’m almost guaranteed to watch it unless I need to get up and refill my drink or perform another mundane tasks typically reserved for commercial breaks.

As it stands now, television has went from the world of ad supported shows of the 1960′s to the DVRed shows with no commercial breaks of the 21st Century.

Feel free to comment or rate this with the links below or I can be contacted at jparie@gmail.com.

Apple Suffers Rare Marketing Loss

Posted by GNC at 1:29 PM on May 1, 2009

Recent Microsoft ads have attacked the image and value of Macs.  Whether the commercials are real or scripted, or if the product purchased truly compares is a mute point.  For several years the “Get a Mac” ads have poked, prodded, and mocked PC users.  Now for once, Windows is doing a decent job of marketing revenge.  You win one you lose one.  Take it like a grown up all of you fellow Mac addicts.  We had this, and more, coming.  We should at least recognize good marketing when we see it.

The point of marketing is to create a logical and emotional attachment to a product or thumbs_upservice.  Apple is perhaps unmatched in marketing and product presentation.  Microsoft has struggled as of late.  It’s Jerry Seinfeld & Bill Gates productions were beyond a flop.  Now the giant of Microsoft finally snapped out of it’s marketing funk with a sequence of commercials that actually have a little traction.  The emotional response finally went in Microsoft’s favor.  A long awaited ovation from the crowd can be heard.

Apple has said very little about the ads, other than simple statements reaffirming the “value” of their products.  Kudos to them.  After all, the recently released Forrester Research user experience report sings the praises of Apple pretty loudly. Calm down Mac users.  Let the fur on your neck settle, and your claws recede into your paws.  Macs are doing well and the operating system is an amazing fit for more and more people.  Apple HQ is staying pretty silent and so should we.  Let Microsoft have their moment.  They earned it.  Everything is going to stay the same. Even the price of my next Mac.  Expensive.  Ah yes, life goes on.

The problem with TV advertising

Posted by todd at 5:18 PM on October 29, 2008

It is too sexy!

When you look at the output on your television they are annoying and intrusive. To a marketing manager, or an executive though, the process of creating the ad is like living a little slice of Hollywood magic. It is sexy, and it is fun, and it can make you feel like a movie executive.

Additionally, if your senior management think marketing and advertising are the same thing (and most of them do), TV advertising seems safe to them as they have experienced it. Their experience is that they notice the ads on TV, and that TV ads can be so appealing that entire shows are dedicated to showing the best ads. The reality is that the attention they receive does not mean that they are effective, but this matters less than you would think. The mental perception that TV advertising works is hard to counter even with logic and data.

The reality for marketing managers is that a marketing campaign can be easier to sell to executives if it includes TV. “If we take this TV package with NBC you will get to appear on the Apprentice and talk to Donald Trump about our company.” is a very compelling pitch to a CEO. Stroking the pride of an executive in this way can also be a very good way to get advancement in a company regardless of any measurable outcome.

All this is why the downturn economy might cause some companies (the less smart ones) to focus more on TV than other advertising mediums. The question for them is not about the dollar cost, but rather the risk in the investment. Rightly or wrongly TV is often seen as low risk advertising spend. It is human nature to be more comfortable with things that are familiar to us, and things that our peers are doing.

Todd’s post earlier today on his discussion with an F500 marketer was brilliant. It was great to see an example of a marketing manager that takes their job seriously and looks for ways to improve the effectiveness of their campaigns. These people are not as rare as my earlier comments might suggest, but it is still good to see them in action. It was also a perfect example of how the podcasting space needs to sell itself to media buyers, clearly and concisely laying out the benefits of the media and then backing it up with hard, defendable data.

If you are a marketing manager that wants to include podcasting in your proposals, what can you do? There is nothing that you can do to replicate the glamour factor of TV, but you can change the executives perception of the risk. As I said earlier, part of the internal risk calculation people make is their familiarity. If you can get your executives actually listening to podcasts they will quickly become comfortable with them and the advertising will be easier to propose.

Here are a selection of podcasts that have great business content that will really appeal to your executives as a starting point. There are so many more as well that I have not had time to listen to myself.

Manager tools – EVERY manager should listen to this podcast [iTunes Subscribe]
The Economist which also has an audio word for word subscription of the magazine [RSS Subscribe]
Slate Big Money A newcomer that shows some promise [iTunes Subscribe]
WSJ Your Money Matters Every exec has a stock portfolio they are worried about [iTunes Subscribe]
TimesOnline Business Ideas Examines how other exec’s have changed markets [iTunes Subscribe]

If they are at all interested in tech make sure they add GNC as well. :)

Richard Cheese the Ultimate Classless Act

Posted by geeknews at 12:47 PM on August 19, 2008

Update 2: Out of Respect for Brian Ibbott at Coverville.com I have opted to remove the video for Brian’s sake. I will be talking more about Richard Cheese and his demand letter later.  A simple apology by Richard Cheese which has been asked for, and not yet given would have gone a long way.

Well over 20 people video taped the performance of Richard Cheese I was not the only one. Every performer prior to Richard had been taped by a huge number of attendees. We were never told that cameras were not allowed. As it turns out, post event Richard Cheese has a clause in his contract that prohibited filming. No one attending the event knew this at the time.

In my video I only played two short clips to show the attack on me personally and that of Richard Spitting on another fan which clearly falls under fair use regardless. While Richard did forcefully remove the camera from my hands and throw it back at me which hit me in the chest then fell to the ground I must say I was surprised by the assault. He could have simply stopped the music and said that no cameras were allowed we all thought it was part of his act up until he took my camera away and then spit on another person with a camera.

Update 1: It appears that Richard Cheese had some ridiculous clause in his performance contract that no video would be allowed during the event. The participants of the event were not informed of this. It appears now that Organizer Brian of Coverville is possibly being threatened by Richard Cheese because of my Video. Sadly I submitted this video to all of the major video websites before I was informed of this. I will make a decision on removal after consultation with my lawyer!

During the Coverville 500 a concert held during the new media expo I got to witness the biggest jerk I have ever seen during a live event.

I want to preface these comments with the following statement. The organizer of the Coverville 500, Brian Ibbott did an amazing job and brought in some amazing talent at a terrific venue. Sadly, little did Brian know how badly one of his performers was going to behave. Overall the Coverville 500 of which my company was one of the sponsors was a great event.

But lets talk a little about Richard Cheese here is the setup. You have 500–1000 new media creators at a concert organized just for them. All of these media creators carry video cameras or audio recording devices. This is an event where cameras and recording devices are allowed. The artist performing all knew this in advance.

New Media is all about cross promotion and many of us had cameras there ready to capture performances that are shared with our audiences and cross posted on multiple sites worth countless dollars.

When Richard Cheese stared his performance he started complaining about the Audio levels, and from what I heard later he had demanded from the organizer that all other prior performers audio levels be at a lower level then his. This complaining continued for the first few minutes of the show. Then during the show he kept turning his back on the audience and was texting someone on his mobile device. It turned out he was texting Brian the organizer and bitching about the Audio levels (note Richard’s Manager said he used his phone as a timer and says he was not texting). The Audio Levels were fine from my vantage points. 

But this is just the beginning of his antics. He started out by telling everyone to put their cameras down and was complaining about us filming him. There were probably 20 people with cameras. I was shooting video of him with a small hand held camera. He then pushed someone out of the way and came partially off stage, grabbed my camera pulled it from my hands shut it off and then threw it at me which I subsequently dropped as I was so surprised.

Then he went down the line, and spit on some people to get them to put their cameras away. Did he not understand that this crowd was 100% new media. Did he not realize that he pissed off the very people that would have given him some props?

(Video Removed out of Respect for Brian Ibbott of coverville. While the assault of me and one other fan is well documented unknown to us Brian had agreed to a clause that prohibited filming during the Cheese performance)

One of the people he spit on was a very big fan of his, that has given him many props and accolades over the past year. How do you think he feels now?