Author Archive

There’s always a place for assholes in the world

Thursday, March 27th, 2008

Jaiku has them a plenty. Well done lads. Keep the flag flying for B when the whole A versus b thing doesn’t matter.

The social network is us

Thursday, March 27th, 2008

Facebook, mySpace, Bebo, O2, Vodafone are all just rough approximations of the underlying social network that links humans together.

Humans still power the Internet. The biggest search and advertising company in the world marked themselves from the crowd by powering itself on human people connecting bits of information. Google became big because of links. Their pagerank and their famous top secret always-changing algorithm found out the relationships between webpages and websites and came up with a much better way of categorising information online from this. But it was humans that did the initial linking. A link is a human tieing data together.

What started off with the likes of Friendster moved on to mySpace, Bebo, Facebook and now Twitter. Funnily enough many of them got bigger by connecting people that were already connected via email. The network already existed. Bebo, Facebook and Twitter allow you to trawl your address book and find people in there that are already on their services and then make connection requests to them. All they’re doing is taking all the existing connections and stuffing them into their network too. We’re all in social networks already, technology in a way just highlights them more, like Google maps highlight existing routes.

Adding to your network

What makes these social networks more sticky though? Well it’s much easier to share photos, videos and music and leave comments and all in public. You add the media to your profile and everyone connected to you can see it. A bit like a blog though stickier. Much better than pressing the forward button or composing an email ain’t it? These networks really to me are not so much building new groups but increasing data transfer and sharing between existing groups.

I don’t think I added someone to Facebook because I valued their input in some Facebook group we were both in or actually liked their taste in music after looking at their likes and dislikes on their profile. I more than likely added them because of an existing relationship even if it was a weak one. Weak ones being we were at a conference, I saw them speak or they saw me, they read my blog and feel they know me that way, we emailed each other once about something etc. etc. The social networks take any and all connections/relationships and lasso them into your network and sometimes they add great value to these connections but sometimes not.

Shorter bursts in more locations
Facebook is doing no more than accentuating existing relationships I have with people and there certainly is value with that but as can be seen by many, people are moving their short-term attention to other things. The status update on Facebook was good and was a nice improvement over other social networks but now it seems that people are more into using twitter to send 140 character updates to people and Twitter is allowing you to update when you’re on the go with their text message capabilities. Luckily Twitter can ypdate Facebook. This can be seen by people using Facebook to display their Twitter status as their Facebook status. It’s keeping all those they’re connected to updated even when they are not on Facebook itself. I’m sure Facebook don’t mind as they are still the core and that’s where your social network is mostly stored but a new network is forming around Twitter too. It’s funny that in the age of infinite data and the ability to share it, most of us are happy with the amount exchanged in a text message.

twitter status

Twitter is the next step really, it’s making your stored social network more mobile. Half the world have mobiles now. A quarter have a computer. Now that the uptime issues are sorted a little bit more, Twitter is less annoying but it’s totally crippled. It pretty much does what it did a year ago. A text box and in it you update your friends on what you’re doing in 140 characters or less. Their main competitor is Jaiku which is much better except it lacks what social networks live and die by – people. The usual feature elitists insist that Jaiku is better (it is) but still think that alone will mean people will move over. It won’t. Features don’t matter unless they make people communicate and share more. Given the scenario of a social network with lots of features but with a small audience compared to a mass audience with sfa features will win. More people communicating is more attractive (and valuable) than less people sharing ore. Jaiku is turning into a ghost town as it is and people are moving on so we see the Jaikuistas coming back to twitter while knocking it. Ironically they are able to spread their “Twitter is shit, Jaiku is great” message to a wider audience via Twitter than Jaiku. Jaiku is dead. Maybe all those dimwitted nearsighted people building new social networks will cop on to that. Unless you can offer the influentual people to move over then you’re dust. Heya Nimble, how goes?

But yet nobody is doing mobile
Still for all this mobile talk, mobile has yet to be exploited. O2 is a social network that makes money when people update each other. So is Vodafone. Sure there are mobile versions of networks based on your email addresses. However my contacts list in my mobile does not connect to a social network. The data shared between me and the people on my phone are texts or phonecalls. And they’re pay to play. I have a social network with 531 contacts and it’s pretty dull. Jaiku has a mobile client that can make that come alive yet Google has never done anything to expand on that since they acquired them. The iPhone and Apple could easily do something like this since everytime you synch it with the computer it backs up the contacts.

Photo owned by alazaat (cc)

The future
There’s a lot of life still left in social networks but I don’t see Facebook or Twitter as the future because social networks have existed before technology and all technology can do is enchance these relationships. They might boost us past the Dunbarr number and allow us to interact with more people without getting relationship fatigue but right now they are still lacking. Not all of the people on our real social network are able to be added just yet, are they? Not that they want to be but the option should be there though. Still with so much left to do to match our real social networks to these rough representations called Facebook and Bebo it means there are lots of opportunities in the field still. Bring it.

No, as in Queer and Alternative

Thursday, March 27th, 2008

A friend of mine who I won’t mention in case I KATHY FOLEY embarrass her saw my recent Facebook yes that Kathy Foley and was of the Sunday Times, yes and was wondering what I was heading to no she really likes Twenty the RTE show for.

not disco
Photo owned by jared (cc)

So yeah, there’s Q&A as in Questions and Answers and there’s Queer and Alternative the best music event around if you like indy music. But Kathy would hardly be expected to know that. I’ll be clearer on FB in future. It’s on Friday, April 4, 2008 at 10:30pm in the Button Factory/Temple Bar Muso Centre. The only equivalent we have in Cork is Freakscene and while good, is no longer great and is on a worknight too. Well done to Vince for always putting on a well organised show. Back in the little more plush Temple Bar Music Centre too. Facebook event for it.
Photo owned by a town called malice (cc)

Fluffy Links – Thursday March 24th

Thursday, March 27th, 2008

The feedback has been fantastic but please to list what you think you’ve been an ambassador for.

Elana likes to talk a lot about Beanis. Er.

Twenty is guest blogging on, have a gander.

Spelling in Kerry.

Harry McGee has a nice piece on the perils of journalism. Read that and then Shane’s post on journo schools.

Epic fáil.

Check out Clay Shirky’s talk about his new book about organising people and events and er things.

Via Kottke MovieStamper lets you permalink and tag your favorite movie scenes.

Via Twenty: Daft Punk done on a piano

I’m an Ambassador

Wednesday, March 26th, 2008

Ferrero Rocher, think of Ferrero Rocher. No don’t! Nooo. Too late.

The Princess Bride, Fishy Fishy, the Ivory Tower, O’Connaill’s chocolate, Pat Phelan, Sigur Ros, His Dark Materials, John Blackbourn, All About my Mother, Fight Club, blogging.

Those are just some of my favourite things. Er. Ignore the musical reference. I’m sure it’s not just me that loves something so much or the work of someone so much that I try and introduce other people to it/them. Movies, restaurants, chocolate, music, people, communications etc. There are just some products and people out there that you want others to enjoy too. For selfish reasons of course. You will always get a kick out of introducing someone to something or someone that causes a positive reaction or instantly gives them value where there was none before.

Shane mentions a prequel to His Dark Materials and I made a comment on how I give that trilogy as a present to someone every Christmas. It’s great to give such a wonderful creation to someone and they themselves get such a kick from it and maybe pass it on again to someone. My best friends and I are a bit obsessed about the Princess Bride and every now and again when someone mentions they haven’t seen it, we as a group all go “oooh” in unison and talk it up. Maybe this is the kick cult members get when they ensnare someone into their religion? But enough about members of Fine Gael.

Ferrero Rocher
Photo owned by Al- Fassam [ Online! 😀 ] (cc)

There are a good few other things that excite me enough to turn into an ambassador for them and no not the ugh Brand Ambassador type. What things excite you enough to get you gushing and all ambassadorial? (Imagine making products that do this?)

Teenage Kicks – The Collisons catapulted into millionaire status

Wednesday, March 26th, 2008

Update: Front Page Irish Times coverage. BBC coverage.

Congratulations to Patrick and John Collison on the acquisition of their company Auctomatic that they co-founded and run along with Harjeet and Kulveer. See kids, you can live the dream and build a technology company. Right now these teen brothers are probably the exception but I can’t see anything stopping anyone else here from doing the same. This post will be updated later today.

Update: Press release –
Multi-million success for Irish teenage tech entrepreneurs

Patrick (19) & John Collison (17) from Castletroy, Limerick have now
made a lotto-like fortune as a result of Auctomatic, the company they
co-founded, being acquired in a multi-million dollar deal by large
multinational Canadian company Live Current Media. Auctomatic will
join Live Current’s existing portfolio of services and technologies
while development work on it will continue at a greater pace.

The Auctomatic story starts in Limerick where BT Young Scientist
winner Patrick deferred college at MIT to work with his brother John
who was in transisiton year in school. Soon their online commerce
startup merged with the UK startup of cousins Harj and Kul Taggar, and
the new merged company was then funded by high profile American
investment company Y Combinator, as well as early Google employees
Chris Sacca and Paul Buchheit.

Live Current Media is a public International technology & media
company headed by CEO Geoff Hampson, who previously built successful
companies such as Peer 1 Networks. Live Current Media acquired
Auctomatic for both the revolutionary online commerce technology
platform they created, as well as the founders’ widely-acknowledged
insight into the ecosystem of commerce online.

Speaking about the acquisition, Patrick Collison said: “We’re
delighted. It’s a welcome reward for the huge amount of work that’s
gone in, and is a testament to the vision that our investors had.
We’re very excited about the opportunities that Live Current Media
gives us to expand on our products and beliefs, and to take the
Auctomatic philosophy even further. This is a win for us, Live Current
Media and the Auctomatic user community. We couldn’t be happier.”

Patrick will now go to Vancouver to work as Director of Engineering
for Live Current Media. John intends to work with Live Current during
the summer, but is currently concentrating on his fifth year studies
studies at Castletroy College.

The trend of teenagers founding tech companies and becoming
millionaires is nothing new in Silicon Valley, but the Auctomatic
story shows that now both UK and Irish-based teenagers can do the

“I’m personally delighted with all of this, but I’m even more excited
about the fact that the door is open to so many other talented people
in Ireland to do the same thing. The rules for young people,
especially, are being rewritten, and you can now prosper regardless of
age or formal qualifications. I can’t wait to see how other Irish take
advantage of this.”

John added “I’m thrilled. I might buy a car. Then again, I might have
enough money for that, but not the insurance at my age. We went out on
a bit of a limb, but I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the same path
for anyone else. More than anything, I feel this serves as proof that
anyone, at any age, can be successful if they put effort into
something they’re good at.”

Despite having launched as recently as October, there was strong
interest in Auctomatic from well-known Silicon Valley technology
companies. Ultimately, though, the match between the founders’ vision
and Live Current’s plans was too good an opportunity for either
company to pass on.

Fluffy Links – 26th March 2008

Wednesday, March 26th, 2008

Just some quick ones. Busy day.

Are you a dabbler?

Is this the Electric Picnic lineup? Not too impressed yet but I’ll wait for the Foggy Notions peeps to come up with fantastic (unknown to me) new bands for their stage.

De Oirish – Alan Partridge

The Day Today:

Why blogspot is like cat pee

Tuesday, March 25th, 2008

I mentioned in a blog post that Blogspot is like cat pee. I was asked to expand on that.

The issue I have with it is that it’s hard to get your data out of the site once you start and redirecting spiders and Google to your new blog if you do escape is difficult to impossible. So for me it does not give you as many options as other blogging software and no plugin support but also if you move to your own domain, a hell of a lot of traffic will still go to the old site. Google “Twenty Major” and his old blogspot blog comes up 3rd or 4th in searches.

When it comes to business blogs it irks me a bit that Blogger/Blogspot gets all the linklove instead of the company even when they do decide to move the blogs to the main domain.

Cat pee. Is there an easy way to redirect with blogger/blogspot?

Rob mentions though that sticks ads on your blog and doesn’t give you a choice whereas blogger does.

Yahoo! joins Open Social

Tuesday, March 25th, 2008

Via the Yahoo! Corp Blog. Very encouraging. Also on the Google blog.

In this same spirit, we announced today that we’ve joined forces with Google and MySpace to create the OpenSocial Foundation, and will also begin supporting the OpenSocial standard. Industry consortiums such as this often start slowly and evolve over time. So far, OpenSocial is rapidly growing and adapting, but still in the early stages. We feel that this is the right step at this stage in its evolution. It’s no longer a trial balloon — it’s for real. We are taking this opportunity to help ensure websites and developers feel confident using OpenSocial as the building blocks for their new social apps.

We already offer Web services and APIs through the Yahoo! Developer Network that make it easy for developers to build applications and mashups that integrate data sources in new ways. We think OpenSocial will continue to fuel this innovation and make the Web more relevant and more enjoyable to millions.

The big question though is whether they’ll do what Bebo did and then supports Facebook Applications too.

Update: Further thoughts. The foundation looks good with it owning the IP and NOT Google. This is better for sure. Is this also forcing Microsoft to join via the backdoor if they eventually do nab Yahoo!?

Dealing with the media – The interview stage

Tuesday, March 25th, 2008

I’ve already written some stuff on the media, including how to build relations with the press when running a lobby group, where to make contacts and how not to piss off journalists. I’ll now give my opinions on what to do once you get the call and get asked to give an interview. These are all my own and have worked for me. They are not definitive and I’m sure others would take a different tact when it comes to dealing with the media.Two main types of interviews are over the phone for a print or online journalist and the radio interview which will be done on the phone or in studio.

The most important thing about any interview is that you are prepared for it. If you put out a press release then you should already know your topic inside out. You should be expecting and be prepared for interviews well before the send button is pressed on that press release.

Interview preparation for print + radio:

Not to be obsessive about it, but if you are campaigning for something you should always be in a state of preparation and readiness. Always looking for new data sources, always reading as many views (pro and opposing) as you can. logging and storing everything that others are saying, looking for new surveys and reports and watching and learning how others campaign.

Photo owned by dan taylor (cc)

Read, read, read, read
The best way to be ready for an interview is to have a clue. Simple innit? The more you read, the more you’ll know your topic and the peripheral issues around your topic. Being too focused on one narrow area can handicap you when you need to relate your topic to the greater world so the basics of business and social areas should also be studied. If you’re not reading about your topic every day, something is wrong.

Cog, cog, cog, cog
When you’re reading something and you like the way a phrase sounds, cog it. If certain phrases sum up what you wanted to say more succintly, use them. Everything has been said before, the Internet will show that and it will also show you that there are always going to be those out there that can explain your own thoughts and campaigns better than you. Your job is to be an aggregator and editor as much as someone that can create catchy headlines. And I suppose not needing to reinvent the wheel is a phrase that does actually apply.

Have a crib sheet of soundbites + add to it
As well as your press releases, you should have an A4 crib sheet with soundbites to use. Have them typed out, not handwritten. Your handwriting sucks and you are used to printed word these days anyway. Who reads handscrawl anymore? All the cogging above should give you some nice soundbites. Now, the very clever folks will also have a crib sheet of soundbites those on the other side (if there is one) generally use so have counter soundbites to them. “The opposition may say that blah but naturally they forget to mention X”.

Say it out loud
Writing something out is all well and good but you need to be able to repeat what you say in a fluid manner when chatting to someone on the phone or going on-air. You should be reading out all your press releases, you need to have all your soundbites at the tip of your town. Consider the idea of muscle memory that athletes use and do the same when it comes to the soundbites and lists of facts. Make sure too to intonate the way you say things. Some things need to be said in a cold factual way and other things need a more emotional/pleading/playing to the crowd ring to them. Also while it shames me to say it, you may need to alert your accent and pronounciation. Your friends and colleagues alter the way they listen and comprehend you over time. They become used to the way you speak and vice-versa, you cannot afford to do that when you are interviewed by a journalist or go on air. That mid-Atlantic accent free voice is popular for a reason. I’m not saying you need to sound like Tony Blackbourn but try and neutralise your pronounciation of things. This is why saying things out loud is beneficial.

Have a list of potential questions they’ll ask
You’ll be getting sick of crib sheets now but when it comes to issuing a release you need to predict as many questions you’ll be asked as possible. Have at least twenty questions that you could be asked and make sure you have answers. Good answers. Answers that link to public sources of data, answers that close down an argument and answers that lead in to being asked questions you want to be asked.

host mic
Photo owned by Ctd 2005 (cc)

Being Interviewed on Radio

There are a few ways of being interviewed. There’s the pre-record or the live piece. You might be in-studio or on your phone at home or elsewhere. You might be on your own or they might have someone on to counter you or you on to counter someone else. Irish radio can be very much “He said, she said”. Local radio is very very important for getting the word out. The host of the show can be very accomodating if you come on because too many people snub the local radio stations and fail to see that local radio has a near monopoly in many areas and the hosts are quite influential. Just make sure you know a little bit about the locality before you go on. Making local references endears you more. Also you almost, almost have a free ride when you go on local stations.

Remember your soundbites
As above, have your soundbites well rehearsed. Don’t use just soundbites but you need some memorable lines that people can take away from the interview.

Know what the opposition will say, counter it, twist it, put them off balance
Again, have your cog sheet of what they will say and have the counters for them. If they’re not expecting your counters then you can throw them in their interview and have them on the backstep easy enough. It’s not enough to understand what you’re on for but how the opposition see things and how they’ll react to new information you put at them. Predict what they’ll do and have counters for that too.

If on own, host is devil’s advocate
A lot of the time if you come on and you’re on your own, just with the host then he or she will decide for balance they’ll be the Devil’s advocate. Be ready for that. There is a stonger predeliction for the national stations to do this than the locals.

It’s all in the first two minutes on radio/TV
That’s what it comes down to. At the start of an interview you are lined up and allowed to go off and say what you want to say before you are stopped. These are the golden minutes or minute. While not trying to freak you out, you need to line up your ducks and shoot them in this time. Explain your issue, the background and your solution or explain in everyday terms the basis of your argument. You are giving a sales pitch to an audience not just people in the studio.

Practice with people before
You need to practice and as mentioned earlier you need to speak out loud. This gets your timing right to get all the information in to the golden minutes. You will need people to act as a radio host and as the opposition. Even have really difficult opponents who give you a hard time to you can easier deal with head to heads when they do happen.

Feel like antique ...
Photo owned by JasperYue (cc)

Tape yourself
Sounds odd but listen to how you say things and how you react and find weaknesses or areas you need to improve on. If you don’t and you are campaigning against a pro they’ll no doubt be finding your weak points which they’ll exploit. It will also be a nice way of documenting how you are getting better over time.

Know your message – 3 points at most with 3 examples
Have 3 examples for each point you want to make in the interview. 3 points at most. Make them natural, put a person into the “anecdote” that you use. You are selling to people who will feel. Stats are cold. Give them an image of a person. “There go I but for the grace of god” type imagery. Pat Phelan’s Paddy Tax campaign is a great example. It was told in terms of general consumers and the folks on the other side of the border were compared to us.

Never say “Yes” never say “No”
Run with the ball until it’s taken back. If you are given the opportunity then grasp it and be selfish, this is you talking to a mass audience, not just the presenter, not just replying to the person on the other side of the table. Remember that. Keep going and talking until they tell you to shut up, basically. Always talk as much as you can. Never give “yes” or “no” answers. The radio presenter has a tough enough job interviewing up to a dozen people per show. Having to tease every answer from you will piss them off and you might not get asked to come back.

It’s always better to say “Yes, but …” rather than “No”! or “I think you’ll find”, “What is more important”, “The question to ask is” etc.

Question: “Yes or no, did you have sexual relations with that woman?” Answer: “Matt, I think the more important question here is whether”

Photo owned by Neeta Lind (cc)
The start is the end is the beginning
The start: Line up the points, get them out there, have a strong opening.
If you are on second and are asked to rebut a point when you come on do, once you get your own point made too. “I’ll get to that but first the background” Get your main point across. That’s what you’re there for. The end: Go back to the start. Your main point. Try and get that last word.