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30.9.07

Google is Big Brother (the Orwellian one) 

I didn’t like it when Google kept me logged in after blogging, following me around as I searched each day. Now it tells me just how often I have been to each web page—not that I surf into places that would embarrass me. Is this a little too Big Brother?
   I know it could be worse. Google could be tracking my behaviour around the internet and not tell me. But this sure is spooky: it overtly changes the relationship from being Google designed for people toward us being subjects whom they track.
   It’s how the Evil Empire worked: telling us it’s for our own good when in fact this helps them more, here with ad sales and behavioural data on users. I know where I visit, and my life is just too busy for me to worry about how often I go to each site, so the features Google claims are good for us just don’t appeal to me. At least give us the option to turn this tracking off—a demand which, I know, will never be heard.

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When, as a blogger, I have fewer rights than others 

If one goes around the blogosphere, one will find plenty of fashion blogs, reviewing the New York, London and Milano fashion weeks. This is healthy. But they do this with images, usually from Condé Nast’s Style.com, and claim fair use.
   Condé Nast may or may not go after them. They probably won’t get much, if anything, and risk having the lawyer’s letter put online, with the company humiliated. (Not for long, since where else would one go for the photographs?) Some bloggers will get vindictive, even though they broke the law.
   I am not against bloggers who choose to post their reviews. They have every right to express their opinions. However, I know we wouldn’t get away with it and this is where the playing field isn’t as even as we would like to think. While we shot our own photographs, we have a looser schedule for Lucire, making sure they go in to a future print edition, rather than compete with the the instantaneous nature of the web. (Style.com does the blow-by-blow better these days—how the tables have turned since the early 2000s!) It would be easy and tempting to do what every other blogger does, copying from other sites—but owning rival magazines, I don’t have the luxury of claiming fair use. I could try, as the defence is legally available to me—but we’d get laughed out of court. I simply wouldn’t win.
   Yet I like to think that my opinion is as valid as the next blogger’s.
   Copyright law is beginning to mean less and less as people copy without consequences.
   Today, I noticed my Aston Martin V8 Vantage review, originally published in Lucire and which had been licensed to Get Frank, published in full (sans byline, but with a link) on the MI6 site for James Bond fans. I quite like the MI6 site and I admit to reading many of its copyright-infringing articles on the site, rather than at the original URL. I’ll even admit that I was grateful they did that in some cases, especially when the original publisher had taken its version offline.
   At this point, I am not going to go after MI6. I even joined its forum to post the correct link.
   While I could ask for the article to be taken down, what do I gain? Very little. And the Condé Nast legal department is probably thinking the same thing.
   There are cases for the Creative Commons’ ways of sharing things, and I believe in many of them. But I also believe in making a buck off my own work whenever I can: I should decide, as the author, or copyright owner, where things are republished.
   It’s understanding these principles that stops me from doing what so many bloggers do. The worst I have are thumbnails of Flickr images linked back to their respective pages, the photographer’s name coming up in the pop-up boxes—and even then it’s because Google Image Search has made “thumbnail infringement” acceptable. Once again, as a copyright owner, I have no problem about seeing thumbnail representations of my work if there’s a link—so I adopt a “do unto others” approach.
   Generally, I know I am not thrilled about having my company’s work copied. But that restraint places the law-abiding among us behind those who flout the law more openly. They probably won’t ever be pursued because few legal departments will act on the law, but they will act on the money.

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Welcome to Vogue India 

Vogue India cover

[Cross-posted] As someone who has long championed the Asian subcontinent—and Lucire has been linking Indian and Pakistani sites as they came to light over the years—I was happy to see that Vogue India has made it on to newsstands. The new magazine is a milestone in the rise of the subcontinental fashion industry, which arguably has had a longer tradition than anything in the occident. It also signals a rise in global luxury brands entering India—something which I hope will soon be more of a two-day street.
   The cover, too, addresses concerns that I expressed in a blog post last week, on the ubiquity of the white model on catwalks. There has been some chatter about why Gemma Ward, a blonde, blue-eyed model, occupies a third of the cover, but the answer is fairly simple, I thought: Vogue India is evidently a magazine that appeals to the global nature of the Indian consumer. Her presence suggests that in a shot. But the international girl is usually quite desirable from a publisher’s or licensee’s eyes, too.
   As a man, I have to say that my eyes went to the other models first: Bipasha Basu, Priyanka Chopra, Monikangana Dutta, Preity Zinta and Laxmi Menon grace the cover and gatefold, photographed by Patrick Demarchelier. Perhaps it is the ubiquity that I wrote about, but the south Asian models are stunning.
   The domestic cover girl is very important, as we learned with Lucire Romania. The original cover girl—Karen Carreño—made less of an impact than the first Romanian to appear, Monica Gabor.
   South Asia is a region that I am keen on getting in to with Lucire. My best wishes go to Priya Tanna and her team at Vogue India.

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Beyond Branding Blog’s home page has disappeared 

Yesterday, I discovered that the Beyond Branding Blog home page has disappeared. I get 404s, and there’s no discernible reason for this. Johnnie Moore and I are the main admins, and neither of us has removed or modified the site. The archive pages are there, as are all 600 posts. Blogger’s set-up pages are all there, as is the template.
   It makes me more of a convert to Wordpress—and the Lucire Insider blog is becoming a more comfortable place to post.
   I’ve fed a query to Blogger, so let’s hope we’ll hear back. While the blog is not current, there are still many good posts there that deserve to be accessible.
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28.9.07

The L word (and other letters) 

I’ve commonly connected the brand-name research and work of Strategic Name Development with Bill Lozito, forgetting that this is not a one-man company. Diane Prange has been blogging at the company’s space, NameWire, and summarized some of their recent research, which I found quite fun.
   She begins:

Strategic Name Development conducted proprietary consonant research that found certain consonants have meaningful association in consumers’ minds.
   For example, B and C were seen as less complex (think Bounty and Cheerios), while X was considered innovative and L and V were rated more feminine.


   She goes on to note that front vowel sounds like that of the i (in mill) are associated with lighter and faster traits than back vowel sounds like a (in mall), which all suggests to me that Lucire is a very appropriate brand for a women’s fashion magazine.
   I wish it were all that simple: SND surveyed a sample of 414 US consumers and analysed 1,000 brands, and it’s research that you’ll have to engage the company to really get more of.

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Jeff Fisher releases new book on redesigns 

It’s amazing that I could provide any words of wisdom to someone like Jeff Fisher, a Portland-based branding expert in his own right who has authored the new Identity Crisis: 50 Redesigns that Transformed Stale Identities into Successful Brands. But Jeff, in his immodesty, came to me for some, and they appear in his new book, along with quotations from Jack Anderson of Hornall Anderson, Sean Adams of AdamsMorika, Bob Domenz of Avenue, Tony Spaeth of Identityworks, Debbie Millman of Sterling Brands, design educator and author Robin Landa, Robynne Raye of Modern Dog Design Co. and Mark E. Sackett of Reflectur.
   It’s very US design-focused, but from what I know of Jeff (this is not a book review—I have only seen the teaser pages, viewable in PDF), it should be excellent. He’s been blogging from his space for quite some time, and you always know you get good value from him.
   While his own firm Jeff Fisher LogoMotives’ work is in there, it’s certainly not a brochure, as he has mixed it with other case studies.
   The US$35 his publisher is asking seems a reasonable price for a hardcover title that should give designers, in particular, inspiration as they deal to their side of the rebranding equation. Go to Amazon and it’s just a little above US$23. On shelves October 27.

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21.9.07

Have you flipped a Ford … lately? 

[Cross-posted] The Ford Motor Co. has complained about the below TVC from the New Zealand Land Transport Safety Authority (the agency is Clemenger BBDO, I believe). I have to say I agree with its complaint. The car is identifiable as a Ford Falcon XR6 or XR8 model, resembling the one still on sale. Even those who do not know much about cars may subconsciously register the vehicle’s shape and think negatively about the XR6. And there is some literature on how cars are judged not just by their badges, but by the way they look.
   I would have used, maybe, the previous-shape ’01s, or something not on regular sale. In the past, a lot of LTSA advertisements have used older model year cars.
   Even even now that I know what this TVC is for, my first thought is, ‘Damn, this is a good Ford ad.’ Judge for yourself below.

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19.9.07

Open source is nothing new 

On Johnnie Moore’s Weblog today: open source is nothing new. Thomas Chippendale was doing it in the 18th century. It stands to reason: the fact there are so many Chippendales today, real and fake, is down to the man using these very ideas, ensuring a legacy that lasted centuries. Had he not promoted his styles in this fashion, then Chippendale would have been a far more obscure furniture designer and manufacturer, known only to specialists.

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Make poverty history, Ladybrille- and Lucire-style 

[Cross-posted] I was honoured to be interviewed by Uduak Oduok, lawyer, fashion model and journalist, for Ladybrille. Lucire readers may remember Uduak as the writer of a piece in an earlier issue on a fashion show in Nigeria, and I was honoured to be her subject this time.
   Years ago, I was inspired by Simon Anholt’s Brand New Justice, a book that emphasized that brands, not monetary hand-outs, help poorer nations out of their predicaments and allow them to raise their incomes. Simon’s viewpoints have held firm and many from his research found their way into the Medinge Group’s first co-authored book, Beyond Branding.
   By this time, I was heavily in to branding and CSR, and I attempted to set up a forum that would connect first-world advisers with entrepreneurs in less wealthy nations. Sadly, we never got proper first-world support—not enough people willing to give their time—and I admit it was one of the things we didn’t look after properly while we had some difficult staffers at Lucire creating internal problems.
   It was very much the third world’s loss as we had a few entrepreneurs sign up. But I have always taken the opportunities to extend some of those early-2000s ideas and appearing on the Ladybrille blog–zine was an ideal way to help specifically African businesspeople involved in this rather crazy fashion world. I hope I have contributed to helping them with my interview answers.
   Most importantly, the Ladybrille site attempts to do what I could not do with my forum: provide intelligence for entrepreneurs so they can raise their businesses and communities toward greater incomes, addressing this planet’s rich–poor gap. It is a noble goal that Uduak has set herself—and she has the courage and passion to succeed.
   The interview was done piecemeal since I could not spare a solid time period to answer Uduak’s questions, so please excuse any changes in expression or style. The URL is ladybrille.blogspot.com/2007/09/lucire-magazines-jack-yan-offers-tips.html.

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17.9.07

Shout-out to Mark Di Somma 

While I can’t publicly talk about the proceedings for BrightStar’s inaugural location marketing and place branding conference (at which there have been some great speakers)—they’re reserved for the paying attendants—I will note that it was a pleasure to finally meet Mr Mark Di Somma in person.
   Mark and I have known each other virtually since the early 2000s, when we were the original contributors to Allaboutbranding.com, Christine Arden’s brilliant branding resource. But despite living in Wellington, we actually never met.
   Mark’s a brilliant speaker and I like the guy more since everything he said was in agreement with my views on branding: that it is a participatory and engaging exercise. He blogs, too.
   I’m back to chairing the conference in the morning: so this is what nine to five feels like.

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15.9.07

Help us find the Face of Air New Zealand Fashion Week 


[Cross-posted] Lucire is among the supporters of the Face of Air New Zealand Fashion Week, on the public days of September 21–2. It’s an initiative from Nova Models, Talent & Actors (with whom we have worked very successfully for Cadbury Dream Model Search) and Catwalk Studios (whose Amanda Dorcil was one of Lucire’s print edition’s original photographers). We tagged along thanks to the generosity of Caroline Barley, Nova’s owner.
   Here’s what it entails. ‘For $10, guys and girls can get photographed in a special studio at the Rumpus Room at Air New Zealand Fashion Week (that’s the one with the fashionable Freedom furniture) on September 21 and 22, 2007, where you’ll be treated like a real model, getting made-up, photographed and styled. And you’ll walk away with a gift bag with goodies plus a CD of your photo shoot.
   ‘But there’s more. Not only do you walk away feeling like a star, you could be one. Nova will name someone Face of Air New Zealand Fashion Week on September 22 at 4.45 p.m.
   ‘That someone will get a modelling contract with Nova Models, Talent & Actors, a runway fashion course with the premier training institute, Catwalk Studios (valued at $600), a $250 wardrobe from Jeanswest, a $200 voucher from Freedom, a pink Sony Cyber-shot W80 camera valued at $549, a yummy chocolate hamper from Cadbury Pinky, make-up to the value of $200 from Phoenix Cosmetics, and an appearance in the next issue of Lucire.’
   How’s that for engaging our reading public?

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Not for sale 

I have had two enquiries—though they are by no means the first—from people who want to buy various domains I own. The most common request is for jya.net, which I assume is appealing due to its brevity. (Jya.com was bought by John Young Architect a long time ago and Mr Young and I have had a good discussion about it.) Yesterday, I received one for lucire.com.
   Neither email is detailed:

Hello,

I was wondering if jya.net is available?

Jim


and:

Hi

I was searching for domains and came across your contact details.

I would be interested in purchasing the website lucire.com.

If you are willing to sell then please contact with a price your willing to sell for.

Kind Regards,
Lee


Now, Lee has been more sensible in writing a longer-winded post, but note he doesn’t want to just buy the domain, it’s the entire site.
   You have to wonder.
   For starters: if you guys are domain name dealers, I am not going to negotiate with someone writing me from Gmail or mail.com. (An address with name99@mail.com sounds very dodgy.) It doesn’t elicit much confidence.
   The second question I have to ask is: did you even look at the sites? Do you not realize there are businesses behind them? Businesses with 10 and 20 years’ goodwill?
   I replied to one of these enquiries once (they all read like Jim’s one) and asked what sort of figure I would be turning down. No reply. In fact, I used to reply to a few of them declining their enquiry, but now I am getting more convinced they are spam address harvesters trying to confirm if the address works. (In such a case, the cheeky bastards succeeded.)
   As to Lee, I started off writing a reply, along the lines of: ‘If you buy this, then it comes with several print magazine editions and licensing deals for products. The starting price is …’ and I named a figure closer to my time and monetary investment. I also noted the trade marks involved. I couldn’t finish the email without sounding like an arrogant prick, so I decided to lay off and treat the message as spam, too.
   Lee, if you are reading this, sorry dude, it ain’t for sale. I would seriously recommend you change your approach if you’re legit.

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12.9.07

Napoleon Perdis seeks new face for ’08 

[Cross-posted] Here’s one of two modelling contests that I want to let folks in on—the first is the Napoleon Perdis Model Search that my friends at StarNow are running. And Napoleon is one of the community of internationally minded Greek entrepreneurs that I seem to be in contact with regularly. So there are two groups of friends here that I want to help—and maybe those who want to be the face of Napoleon Perdis might be able to help themselves.
Napoleon Perdis Model Search 2007   According to the site, this is what the winner can get.

You could win a photo shoot for Napoleon Perdis—starts August 27!!
And there’s more! The winner will also receive:
• Return travel and accommodation in Sydney for four days
• An AUS$500 Napoleon Perdis Product voucher
• Napoleon Perdis Paparazzi Ready Personal Makeup Skills One Day workshop (valued at AUS$195.00)
• Complimentary makeover and photo shoot for Napoleon Perdis
• Your photos on the Napoleon Perdis Advertising Database for one year
• One year complimentary subscription to StarNow.com
• A collection of branded StarNow.com clothing
• Featured interviews and information about you on StarNow.com


If you sign up now and say that you heard about this through Lucire, you will be able to get the StarNow membership for free.
   They want someone confident and creative, over 18, and a resident of Australia or New Zealand.
   Entries close Monday noon, Sydney time. Let Shona McGregor at StarNow.com know (email convention there is firstname.surname@starnow.com) if you want to join up.

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Remembering 9-11: what were you doing on September 12? 

050911-9-11-4[Cross-posted] This is my 9-11 commemoration post and in case you thought the title is a typo, I can assure you it’s not.
   Mention to any New Zealander ‘9-11’ and while we would understand the reference, to us it all happened on the morning of September 12, 2001.
   I remember switching off the TV before 1 a.m. on September 12 thinking that there was no big news that day, and went to bed. It really did start off as a quiet news day.
   All night, I dreamed about people—probably Americans—channel-surfing. No matter what channel they got to, it was the same news item. I could not make out what the news item was.
   I was awakened by a phone call from my friend Edward Hodges, who knew I had people in New York covering Fashion Week. He also knew of my close ties because I was in New York in August 2001. I was outside the Twin Towers weeks before, declining a friend’s invitation to visit the Observation Deck because I would be back in October.
    Edward filled me in. I don’t remember panicking. I just remembered that I had to find out what had happened to my friends. The charitable would call it grace under pressure. The less charitable would call it an automatic reaction to shock. Maybe they are both correct.
   September 12, 2001 was the first day of the Wellington Fashion Festival. No one was in a mood to party. I had to get back from the breakfast do at Kirkcaldie’s to find out what had happened to friends and colleagues. One, the husband of my host in New York, was normally due to exit at the WTC stop on the Subway at exactly the time the first jet hit.
   I found he was OK after calling but I kept my conversation short. ‘Is everyone OK?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Right, I’ll hang up then.’
   I don’t know how I found time to do it, but I wrote an editorial in Lucire that day. I was flattered to find that it touched such a nerve that it was forwarded in emails around the world at that time. Our website cover background went from red to black. The event did inspire me, perhaps, to preach my humanist agenda more and a lot of its thinking was found in my 2005 book, Typography & Branding, which I actually wrote in 2002.
   That evening there were three Festival events: one at the National Library (where Susan Bartels told me that she had a friend who did not make it to work because his alarm did not go off—otherwise he’d have been in the World Trade Center), a second one in the sheds on the wharf for Minx Shoes, and a third installation on Cuba Street, at which I met the jewellery designer Mandi Kingsbury.
   The following weeks were strange. I had a friend who was a waiter in NYC and he noted a change in behaviour for a fortnight after 9-11. People were nice to him for two weeks, then became bastards again. I don’t know if his being black and gay had anything to do with it—African–American friends indicate to me that it might. An Arab–American friend down in Princeton told me how her friends were getting kicked out of cafés, some just for reading a newspaper printed in Arabic. These days, those weeks seemed more surreal than the actual attack.
   Down here, we were united with the US and we even sent troops that time to Afghanistan.
   We were also united in prayer. Churches organized prayer vigils. The US recorded a statistic where a clear majority of Americans prayed on and immediately after 9-11.
   I returned in 2005 to pay tribute to those who perished in the Twin Towers, joining thousands of mourners on the morning of September 11, eastern time. By then, it was a very different world again.

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11.9.07

Dame Anita Roddick DBE: leadership is about humanity 

[Cross-posted] I cannot be sure whether, if Dame Anita Roddick had not lived, Lucire would have taken the ethical, socially responsible route. It’s not so much that we don’t believe in corporate social responsibility (CSR). However, would we have had the courage to have become the United Nations Environment Programme’s first fashion industry partner in 2003? Dame Anita had showed that CSR could work in the fashion and beauty business, so when I started harping on about it, I didn’t look like a freak. She had already paved the way in the 1970s and dealt with the sceptics. Our lives were made easier through Anita Roddick.
   I cannot say that it was Dame Anita who made me aware of CSR, but I wonder whether it would have had as high a profile if she hadn’t practised it. Her business’s transparency in the sourcing of her products’ ingredients was also an insightful move.
   I had made the decision at the turn of the century that, as a businessman, I had to use the company that I had built up since 1987, and Lucire which had a good international profile, to promote ethical causes. In that, Anita and I came to the same decision, though she was quicker and earlier.
   She wrote on her personal site, ‘Businesses have the power to do good. That’s why The Body Shop’s Mission Statement opens with the overriding commitment, “To dedicate our business to the pursuit of social and environmental change.” We use our stores and our products to help communicate human rights and environmental issues.’
   I remember when Dame Anita endorsed my friend Stefan Engeseth’s latest book, One: a Consumer Revolution for Business. This was a big deal: someone that Stefan and I both admired endorsing a book that we both worked on (he did the hard work of writing it; I created its layout and directed its typography). Stefan, no stranger to the ideas behind CSR and the power of the consumer, emailed me almost immediately.
   She wrote, ‘If corporations don’t open the door to consumer power voluntarily, they’ll soon be forced to. ONE is about keeping up with changing times.’
   I believe Dame Anita to be right, hence my work with transparency and ethics over the years. And she has proved to be a step ahead of all consumer trends, reminding us how we should look after our planet and the lives on it.
   It’s time for us to reflect on her life and how we need to stay focused on our causes, globally. We should look deep in ourselves and understand how leadership is founded not on confrontation, but on bringing forth humanity’s universal truths. And in Lucire today, we look back on her life and her accomplishments.
   I wish it wouldn’t take the passing of a leader like this to force us to look at these issues in such a reflective manner. We should live to lead and make a positive change every day.

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9.9.07

Lucire ‘Insider’ blog débuts 

I think we might be ready for prime-time. Lucire has a blog—after I resisted it for years. The idea: to write about some behind-the-scenes stuff. I see no reason about having any “mystique” behind what we do. We work—hard.
   Some of you in the marketing world will know that I did not think much of blogs originally. And that led to my refusal to go with a Lucire blog—after all, the forum was pretty successful from 2002 to 2005 before our hard drive conked out in 2006 and a lot of the data disappeared (they’re buried on the server somewhere, I am told by the team).
   But the world has moved on, too, since 2005, and putting the occasional op-ed in blog form doesn’t seem too bad an idea. As long as it contributes to the community and allows us to talk to our readers, why not?
   It’s been repeated in the first post of the new blog, where Lucire ‘Insider’—the name comes from the print edition, though I did toy with ‘Oracle’—is stated to complement the Forum and Facebook group.
   What I am wondering is how long my MySpace opposition will hold out, now that I am eating humble pie on this issue. As mentioned, the idea of a JY&A Media publication appearing on a Murdoch Press site feels funny.

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One page is too hard for Calif. GOP to write 

[Cross-posted] I know Gov Schwarzenegger divides opinions, but I was interested to read this in the Mercury today:

Schwarzenegger recently proposed distilling the state GOP platform—the party’s statement of core values—into as little as a single page focusing on lowering taxes, limiting the size of government and building a strong national defense. That proposal, in a letter to party members, made no mention of abortion, gay marriage or other social issues that often divide party members.

   Taking politics aside, a one-page summary of the brand’s core values makes sense. In fact, a one-sentence summary makes even better sense. How else can a disparate group of people be united under a banner?
   Starting with what an organization agrees on and building from there is one of the wisest things that a CEO seeking to transform it can do.
   Reading through the Mercury report, it seems that this routine matter is too darn hard for those in the political process. The leader says one thing, the people beneath him take ten times longer than any corporation, probably due to selfishness and an absence of generosity.
   What those stalling such processes, and they are rather minor in the grand scheme of things, fail to realize is that news of divisiveness makes the GOP even harder to fathom as a party with any direction.
   And since the liberal media are widespread, similar divisions in the Democrats—and I am sure they exist, perhaps more so—won’t be exposed as they champion Clinton and Obama. Even conservative media following the dollar might want sufficient scandal for sensationalism’s sake.

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7.9.07

Fred Thompson delivers his third way 

[Cross-posted] Fred Thompson announced his candidacy for President of the United States, on Jay Leno’s Tonight Show a few nights ago.
   A great analysis appears in the Murdoch Press, where the conclusion is that the former senator from Tennessee stands a good chance, not because of his political views (closer to those of Sen. John McCain than his other opponents), but because he is a celebrity who looks the part.
   The Tonight Show audience in Los Angeles was delighted with Mr Thompson’s announcement, though it was noticeably silent when the Iraq war was discussed.
   Applause returned when Thompson noted that the United States had spilled a lot of blood for other nations’ freedom, an idea that still has resonance in that nation.
   This shows the division that must come in the US: a country known for defending and promoting freedom, yet tired of sacrificing its own in a war that its own President warned would be a lengthy, tiresome fight when he was campaigning in 2004. Yet Americans do have their pride in their history and what they stand for. And rightly so.
   For those torn between a pro-war and an anti-war position, which the one Tonight Show audience seemed to demonstrate, Thompson may offer a third way. Toward the end of his interview, he hinted that the War on Terror, under him, would have more allies: he would try to unite all the good guys against the bad guys. France was a powerful example, as Thompson cited how Nicolas Sárközy, before his win in the Presidential Election there, came to the US to meet President Bush. He returned to France saying that he would be more pro-American. The French elected him.
   Sárközy’s win wasn’t anywhere near that simplistic, but in the age of sound bites and people getting their news from late-night talk shows, it was a skilful move. In Thompson-speak, it means: let me get other countries involved so we don’t have to sacrifice as many of our boys and girls.
   It is a tricky third position to be in, but it may appeal to some voters who feel that the pull-out position of Sens. Clinton and Obama is unpatriotic at worst or risky at best. There is always a difficult ‘What if?’ that comes from any withdrawal, especially given that the US still holds the peace together in Korea with its base there, and maintained a lot of troops in West Germany during the Cold War—so why not the Middle East? Those who are internationalists may see a point. It will definitely appeal to the pro-war brigade.
   The staunch members of the anti-war brigade will not welcome Thompson, regardless of a third, intermediate solution.
   Nevertheless, this tact highlighted several things about Thompson: he is a gifted actor and once he was a skilled lawyer. (Lawyer-haters might not have a choice this time around: Clinton, Obama, Romney, Edwards and Giuliani all have practised law.) He has an image that has been fuelled by his Hollywood appearances. A southern accent makes one look down-home—and his choice of URL, fred08.com, also looks very personal. He knows how to use his words, and to use them well. All these ingredients make him a powerful opponent to the Democrats.

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5.9.07

Listening Post, a second time 

I caught this on a rebroadcast, rather than on the 31st, but here is yours truly, by invitation, for a second time on Listening Post on al-Jazeera’s English service.
   The first segment goes after the Murdoch Press (Fox News) and contrasting it to non-US media. My little part is, as some of you know, was fleshed out in my blog post last week. Forward to me at 7'39": I think this is the strongest reason behind any particular angle on the Iran story, rather than saying that Fox is trying to do the White House’s bidding on creating a war with Iran.



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4.9.07

NZ’s Unsolicited Electronic Messages Act comes into force—but not much will change 

There have been a lot of domestic businesses emailing me of late out of fear that, if they sent me more bulk emails, they would violate the new anti-spam legislation that comes into force in New Zealand tomorrow.
   This has been good in the case of NZ Post, to whom I never gave permission to spam me. It has also allowed me to get off another list that I sent a remove request to some time ago that was not honoured.
   But the majority are from businesses that need to communicate with me as a member of the press. Why they need to verify that I wish to continue on their mailing lists seems a waste of time.
   Of course journalists need to continue receiving press releases, and the Unsolicited Electronic Messages Bill, in its final draft form, provides an exception for them.
   The interpretation part of any legislation is always interesting as you an infer some of Parliament’s intent there. ‘Consented to receiving’ means, inter alia:

consent that can reasonably be inferred from—
   (A) the conduct and the business and other relationships of the persons concerned; and
   (B) any other circumstances specified in the regulations;


It goes on to provide other interpretations of consent, e.g. when an email address has been ‘conspicuously published by a person in a business or official capacity; and’ there is nothing to suggest that the person does not want to be spammed; and:

   (C) the message sent to that address is relevant to the business, role, functions, or duties of the person in a business or official capacity; but
(b) does not include the circumstances specified in the regulations from which consent cannot be inferred
[.]

   For those businesses (like ours) that have mailing lists that only includes people that have specifically and expressly requested to be on it, then this Act presents no problems. The only ones where we have compiled addresses are press mailings, covered by the definition of consent.
   It shows that by respecting laws over a decade before they are drafted, we are sitting pretty.
   In fact, I am not sure how this law might apply to us, with the only problem being false addresses that are fed in to our request forms. It does mean that we need to keep more records, which is a burden on honest businesses.
   We, and the many emailing us, may actually have a final out, with the following not qualifying as unsolicited commercial email (UCE):

provides notification of factual information about a subscription, membership, account, loan, or similar relationship involving the ongoing purchase or use by the recipient of goods or services offered by the person who authorised the sending of the message, or the recipient’s ongoing subscription, membership, account, loan, or similar relationship;

which largely covers notices that we send out.
   I wanted an anti-spam law here in New Zealand because I was getting unsolicited junk email from the ACT Party over the course of maybe one year. But when one considers the bigger picture, the majority of spam in New Zealand is not from New Zealanders. The majority is from American, Russian and eastern European countries, often routing through Far East servers. And this act does nothing to prevent them.
   In that frustration, I foresee a rush to judgement by regular people now panicked by all these extra-cautious requests from companies. What if they had signed up to a list and forgot about it? Does this Act now arm them, making them into amateur Perry Masons who believe that they have one up on legitimate, honest companies? Honest people will be pursued.
   In such a case, is it fair to shift the onus of proof on to the sender, when the sender might not have kept records prior to the Act coming in to force of the original subscribe request?
   I believe honest companies can discharge the onus of proof by providing evidence of how their emailing lists are compiled. In our case, we send an initial email, outlining that someone had signed up with that address. We ask the recipient to notify us immediately in case of fraud. Since 2006, we send out two emails to confirm the fact (one acknowledgement, one confirmation) with clear removal and feedback links.
   Sorry, Kiwis, tomorrow will not be a spam-free day. We will receive as many spams about penis enlargements, drugs and porn as we did today. The same SOBs will email us about wins in lotteries we never entered, or ask if we can transfer funds for some ousted African dictator. It targets the wrong people, but then, Parliament cannot exactly enact laws that go outside our borders—and that is where spam mostly comes from.

Disclaimer: don’t just rely on me. Seek legal advice.

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3.9.07

Reunion time 

Contact with yours truly this week will be patchy due to St Mark’s Church School’s 90th jubilee, in which I am fairly involved as a former old pupils’ association president. So for those kind souls emailing me via the feedback form, please note that I may take a while to respond. Since my email volume numbers hundreds of messages per day, please also note that ‘a while’ may mean the spare time during the Christmas–Hanukkah break.
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Niue levels the playing field 

My friends Nicky and Simon at Seekom have a great new announcement. I have known about this for some time, but the embargo came off today. Imagine: a company developing real-time booking software for the tourism industry of an entire country, in this case, Niue.
   The UNDP, which provided some of the development funds for the country, sees the online world as a great equalizer, holding firm on to the ideas that drew so many of us on to the internet in the 1990s. And to a large extent, I still maintain those ideals.
   Pardon the advertisement, but it’s easier to excerpt from the release below.

Niue turns to Kiwi innovators for on-line booking system

Wellington, September 3 (JY&A Media) Niue Island is making history by installing its very first-ever real-time booking and distribution system as part of developing their main economic industry—tourism. Christchurch-based SAFI Technologies Ltd. won the contract with funding made available from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), undertook an extensive international search and chose Wellington, New Zealand-based Seekom Ltd., developers of an innovative, tailor-made real-time booking distribution system.
   ‘We were delighted when we found that the best product came from a New Zealand company,’ says Tim Johnson, managing director of SAFI. Mr Johnson says that Seekom’s system won the day as it could handle accommodation, rental vehicles, tours and activities and could provide instant confirmation booking capability not only to the public, but also to the trade.
   ‘Because Niue has a small product base, it was critical to have a system that could distribute real time availability to international sales channels on a shared, rather than allotment, basis,’ he says. ‘Seekom can provide this.’
   ‘By bringing our technology up to date, we can level the playing field and compete successfully with first-world countries. We will now be able to give our visitors and business partners the convenience and certainty of real time availability and instant confirmation. Our local tourism operators are very enthusiastic and excited about the system as it will help them improve operating efficiency to boost bookings and increase bottom-line results,’ says Ida Talagi-Hekesi, Director, Niue Tourism.
   Seekom’s booking system and GDS has been installed for Niue Tourist Office, according to managing director Simon Casey.
   ‘While we’re accustomed to developing systems for companies and chains, we’re very enthusiastic about this new agreement with Tourism Niue, which will see us creating one for an entire nation,’ says Mr Casey.


   There’s more at the press release.

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1.9.07

Chinese Leyland 

When talking about the proposed between automakers and in , a lot is being discussed as though it were a done deal, where SAIC acquires 100 per cent of NAC (including the ) and NAC gets some stock in the new company. And with good reason.
   Former premier Jiang Zemin has a lot of friends in . It’s a nice way of saying that the power base in the Beijing is influenced by Shanghai , home of SAIC. And in turn, as I had said, SAIC has some influence on the NRDC, the National Reform and Development Commission which controls these enterprises’ fates.
   Let’s not kid ourselves with all this market economy– build-up stuff: this is a totalitarian we are talking about. And it shows in the way the SAIC–NAC merger has been handled, reminding the west of the real political situation and undoing the goodwill of the Olympics’ lead-up.
   A government putting pressure on the companies controlling MG, Austin, Morris, some of the remnants of Rover and a local bus manufacturer to band together to create an ultra-large national company? And to do so without regard to the individual strengths and how they might compete in export markets? Hang on, that sounds familiar. And I had hoped that we Chinese, with such interest in history, would have been able to learn from the British experience. Maybe these companies will yet.
   Otherwise, by year’s end, expect a company called the Chinese Motor Corporation to emerge, building some new cars, some buses, and some other cars well past their sell-by date.
   Where’s Jim Slater these days?
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A layman’s view on terrorism and the media 

I was surfing YouTube a second ago, putting in a reply to yet another westerner who is wondering why the service allows a -sponsored channel on it. He or she was referring to .
   Al-Jazeera is sponsored, the last time I looked, by His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, the Emir of , who, when visiting the , pledged his and his country’s support to and the . It is sponsored by an ally of the very countries from which its critics reside. Since the critics tend to be pro-War on Terror, I find it unpatriotic of them to attack their own allies. Heck, even the US Marines have training sessions at Qatari bases.
   While I understand that there are Qatari nationals in , need I remind people where Timothy McVeigh and his mates were from? We in the west have these rogue elements, albeit less grouped into a virtual organization such as al-Qaeda. And it’s not like the country of Qatar gives these guys a pat on the back for killing Muslims and other people: they are considered thugs and murderers.
   Al-Jazeera has never shown a beheading—that is an which a very good friend of mine has heard reported as fact in his country.
   (It’s like saying Rambo helped the in the fictional Rambo III film, which I’ve also seen online from westerners. Sorry, he helped the Muhjahadeen. I am not an authority on anything Afghan, but I thought those guys became the Northern Alliance, who helped US troops fight the Taliban.)
   The other argument is that al-Jazeera is in league with terrorists. Their evidence is that terrorist organizations send their video footage there.
   If this argument holds true, then NBC is in league with school shooters like Cho Seung-hui, who had his DVDs sent there, and that the entire British were in league with the , who were busily blowing up British people.
   These bastard terrorists and murderers have been sending their messages to the nearest media outlet(s) for most of my lifetime, so why do these critics believe al-Jazeera should operate under a different set of rules?
   If anything, terrorists’ messages have often sent them to the people who are against them, such as the IRA’s ones. When al-Jazeera broadcasts, say, an extremist group blowing up a US convoy, the effect would probably solidify American support more readily than the watered-down versions shown on anything from ABC to Fox in the United States. Such footage is no worse than officially sanctioned Pentagon-released videos of successful air raids on terrorist targets which, equally, makes our enemies more determined.
   I do feel that al-Jazeera is more than, say, the Channel, but it is probably no more anti-war than Dan Rather or the late Peter Jennings were. These days, I must admit I prefer the less flashy Voice of America TV broadcasts for “fair and balanced” when it comes to American news. Just give me the facts.
   Hang on, I figured it out. They have -sounding names. That’s why they need a different set of rules.
   And as to why US companies do not carry the channel, it’s not about patriotism. It’s about money.
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Entries from 2006 to the end of 2009 were done on the Blogger service. As of January 1, 2010, this blog has shifted to a Wordpress installation, with the latest posts here.
   With Blogger ceasing to support FTP publishing on May 1, I have decided to turn these older pages in to an archive, so you will no longer be able to enter comments. However, you can comment on entries posted after January 1, 2010.


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