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27.7.09

Racist emails are bound to backfire 

Flickr photo by http://www.flickr.com/photos/disco62/A shocking series of racist emails attacking job applicant Julie Eru, living on the Auckland North Shore, which have been traced back to a -run company called Brightstar, has been exposed on 3 News.
   It was generally agreed by Brightstar that their computers had been and a police report has been filed.
   The boss of Brightstar has limited English so we can easily rule him out as being the writer of these messages, which point to a native English speaker.
   The question was raised in the report, ‘But why would a hacker attack a small business in East Tamaki?’
   I would have thought the answer very easy. The hacker is a racist.
   I said not long ago on the blogosphere that those who make accusations of racism so readily, as the writer of these offensive emails does, are usually racists themselves. It’s an easy explanation, because someone who is not a racist would naturally think of other explanations or, in the case of a hacker, other insults, first.
   In fact, my own mind wouldn’t have turned to this explanation either, if it had not been for the “inspiration” the writer of the emails had given me.
   Their motivation is to make an , in this case, Chinese, company look bad, and to create a rift between Chinese and .
   It was a failed attempt, trying to revive the sort of irrelevant muck that yesterday’s politician, Winston Peters, specialized in.
   It’s less disgusting than the attempts by racist groups some years ago of simultaneously desecrating Jewish gravestones and sending pork to Muslim families, but the ideas are similar.
   That time, we could rule out the perpetrators being Jewish or Islamic; this time, we can rule out the hacker being either Chinese or .
   The net effect of the racists’ actions last time was making our country look bad, so we can call them unpatriotic, too.
   That time, too, it brought Jews and Muslims closer together in New Zealand; this time, I can only hope that both Chinese and Māori, who have both experienced , either as immigrants or in our own homeland, can come closer together, too.
   It’s not as though our peoples have any tension between us: our cultures have similar roots, so whomever decided to use the racist tack isn’t terribly smart, either.
   We can surmise that the hacker is prejudiced and thick, which is a laughable combination of talents.
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18.7.09

Walter Cronkite deserves today’s praise 

Image from http://www.flickr.com/photos/islaclairvaux/It’s quite sad to learn of the passing of former anchorman today. Although Cronkite had not been on the nightly since his retirement from that show in the early 1980s, his job taken over by , he remained in the public eye with occasional documentaries and interviews. Even young people who were not alive during Cronkite’s nightly news broadcasts will, arguably, have heard of him.
   I imagine one reason for Walter Cronkite’s reverence is the idea that the past is seen through rose-coloured glasses. The early may be painted as a time of innocence, never mind the extreme racism that the considered its norm. Associated with the period is Cronkite’s solemn announcement of President ’s assassination and subsequent passing, giving the time in eastern and central zones. It may be one of the enduring images of news from the early ’60s.
   The era of Rather might have ended too recently for us to consider as romantically as we did the days of Cronkite, his archive footage beamed in black and white. Although Rather resigned from his CBS post under a cloud, there was no real applause for him when he left. No one asked Rather to run for President, or called him the most trusted man in America. Equally, no one said the same of John Chancellor, Rather’s rival, who retired shortly afterwards, or Peter Jennings, who passed away during that period.
   Perhaps Cronkite represented an era when the were more . It is not to say that bias was absent from the American networks. But whatever rose-coloured glasses we look through, the news were not as divided across lines as they are today, and Cronkite represents a time when an anchorman could indeed establish a sense of trust without resorting to engagement through new media. The mass media could be trusted, or at least the people thought.
   He, of course, had something extra. Chet Huntley and David Brinkley, his rivals, reported much the same thing. That extra element was arguably Cronkite’s common touch, something else that anchors of new seem to forget as their faces are plastered on advertising hoardings as though they were Hollywood . In some countries, where there is still state television, they are only civil servants. Celebrities they are not.
   Walter Cronkite even allowed us the opportunity to laugh, guest-starring on The Mary Tyler Moore Show as himself, meeting his biggest fan, the fictional, inept newsreader Ted Baxter. Baxter (unlike the actor who played him) was what Cronkite was not: Baxter was vain, a figure that was unusual then and, probably, commonplace today.
   Cronkite never forgot that he was on American TV screens nightly to do a job, not to have his ego boosted: his later work was totally in line with his image as trustworthy source, a man who gave us the feeling that he was one with the audience.
   Surely that is the essence of good ? But not just good marketing: it is the essence of forming decent human friendships. Cronkite’s and warmth made him the most famous anchorman in the United States, and one who deserves the reverence being delivered by the American media today.
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Check your Facebook settings: your face may be selling dodgy products 



I see has walked into another little problem and, correctly or not, has shifted the blame on to developers.
   Lee Mathews at Download Squad noted a problem where a Facebook user found his wife’s photo selling a singles’ ad to him. Mathews then provided steps to get one’s photo off Facebook , which Cheryl Smith, the woman whose face appeared in the advertisement, also gave. Mathews’ version is below (original emphasis removed):

All you have to do to prevent this is sign in to Facebook and click through to (get ready) -> Settings -> Privacy -> News Feed and Wall -> Facebook Ads -> Appearance in Facebook Ads and click “no one.” Unless, of course, you want to be semifamous and have your picture used to push some garbage product or website without your knowledge.



   Mathews was forced to back-track a bit as it was discovered that this isn’t Facebook’s fault, but a breach by some developers.
   Well, Lee, I don’t think you were in the wrong with highlighting this issue. First, you showed us how to get our photographs off Facebook . Secondly, I’m not so sure that your finger wasn’t pointing in the right direction.
   Facebook, as you rightly pointed out, made a big song and dance about getting us, the user base, to review its terms and conditions, on the grounds that we should have control over the property that we upload. This was after a big furore when eagle-eyed netizens spotted a term that allowed Facebook to do whatever it wished with our uploads.
   But how sincere is any of this when Facebook, by default, allows our photographs to be pillaged for advertising purposes? I didn’t even know there was an extra tab there (since the settings’ pages change constantly) specifically dealing with invading our privacy this way.
   Surely if Facebook were sincere with that review, it would have turned off sharing by default and asked us to opt in if we wished to be semi-(in)famous?
   In my case, I have no quizzes installed on Facebook (I ensure they are deleted after I have taken them), but I have seen friends’ images in advertising, so Smith is not alone. A sincere company would not let developers access this information anyway, full stop.
   This continues the arrogant behaviour that I have written about in the past with a service that, while “free” (paid for with our eyeballs on its advertising, of course, just like so many websites out there, including this one), seems intent to find ways of making suckers out of us. Perhaps it is a giant curriculum vitæ for folks who, after they finish up at Facebook, might wish to apply for a job at the US Internal Revenue Service?
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12.7.09

Recommended business and marketing books for 2009 (so far) 

For those who missed it, my friend and colleague Nicholas Ind has come out with a new book, The Organic Organisation. If you’ve ever read any of Nicholas’s work in the past, you’ll know he is one of the most lucid thinkers and authors in the world. And he can back up every one of his assertions with real research.
   The Organic Organisation is based on his Ph.D. research, and while the word isn’t used in a big way, the themes are very clear. From the introduction, The Organic Organisation’s core idea is that exist to provide fulfilment. It’s an idea that I happen to believe in, but this book goes far further. By being organic, where the individual and organization are working together, people can discover their purpose. It also explores ‘the ontology of organisations’, where the traditional relationship where the person is considered untrustworthy, is ultimately damaging to the organization as well as the potential for creativity and fulfilment.
   It is a must-buy, and is out at Amazon UK.
   Nicholas isn’t the only Medinge director with a new book. Patrick Harris’s The Truth about Creativity is being released shortly. This new book explores a related idea: that is ‘key to finding new solutions and developing dynamic solutions.’ This can be harnessed to benefit the organization.
   Patrick’s credentials are also very impressive: he oversaw the activities of the Orange think-tank before going out on his own at Thoughtengine, which deals with strategy and solid, futures’ based work. His book will be out at Amazon UK this month.
   Finally, if I may give one more push for my friend Stefan Engeseth’s latest book, which I had the honour of working on. Called The Fall of PR and the Rise of Advertising, the title is a cheeky take on (though not a full disagreement of) Al Ries’s earlier work. (In the foreword, you discover that he got Ries’s permission to use this title.) Stefan argues that half a decade on from Ries, ’s effectiveness has somewhat become limited, and he uses the same techniques he employed in his earlier Detective Marketing and One books to reveal novel things companies can employ in the new landscape. You have the option of downloading an electronic version for free or buying it via Amazon.com.
   As to my writing work, you’ll have to hold on. I have a small contribution to a title in India this year, which I will blog about in due course.
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11.7.09

Is New Zealand Post now in the spam business? 

Seriously, does anyone think remotely people will fall for this? But then, people fall for Nigerian 419 scams, so maybe the answer is yes.
   I was surprised to receive this brochure addressed to me in my post box last week, from no less an organization than New Zealand Post:

NZ Post spam permission form

   Essentially, this is a form requesting your details so you can be added to lists.
   Ironical that in with anti-spam legislation, another government department is prepared to sell our personal information to (including foreign spammers which our law enforcement agencies cannot pursue readily), and believes one’s identity is only worth a maximum of $15,000.
   Specifically, New Zealand Post says, so there is no confusion about my statement above:

By undertaking the New Zealand Post survey, your and your partner’s name, address and other information you supply (including your email and telephone numbers if you tick the boxes below), may be provided to companies and other organisations from New Zealand and overseas to enable them to provide you and/or your partner, with information about products and services relevant to your responses to this survey. New Zealand Post may also use this information for the same purpose.

   There is no word on any guarantee that a consumer might have in terms of one’s data being used . There is no mention of a real . (New Zealand Post thinks the above is it! It refers to an online one, which repeats the same thing.) We do not know who the spammers might be. We do not know if we can ever opt-out of these mailings, or if there is any way we can identify them as having come via our participation in this so-called survey.
   We all know what happens after this, as anyone who has been on the internet for any reasonable amount of time has discovered. addresses, phone numbers, cellphone numbers and other information have a funny way of “leaking” out to less than scrupulous types.
   The above clause is already in something like 7 pt type on the original. Would you believe there is “small print” on the back in 5 pt?
   There, New Zealand Post disclaims liability for ‘any claims, losses, damages, injuries, costs and expenses suffered or sustained or incurred (including but not limited to indirect or consequential loss), arising out of or in any way connected with the competition and/or its prizes except for liability that cannot be excluded by law.’ It doesn’t give me much assurance: it can’t really be found guilty of passing on information that a consumer submits voluntarily, and based on this term it won’t be found guilty of contributing to the spam problem that we are all trying to fight.
   While New Zealand Post hasn’t technically deceived, I think this is an awful and should be reported to the Consumers’ Institute, or to the Ministry of Consumer Affairs’ Scamwatch programme.
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9.7.09

Using the internet to reward safe driving 

Red light, from http://www.flickr.com/photos/9858329@N03/Earlier this year, the New Zealand Police introduced Roadwatch, where motorists could narc on others. It’s not a bad idea: drivers are pretty appalling by western standards, and as I noted on my personal blog, I have found plenty of people running red lights of late. (Not yellow, red.) Those filing reports have to include their own name and the registration of the car they are , and have to be pretty certain about other details: without being exact, the will do nothing.
   But if the cops have a method through which bad can be recorded, why not some positive behaviour? It’s not a new idea. New Zealand Police had tried, one summer, stopping people for driving well as a trial, but I imagine that they no longer do it since you had perfectly innocent motorists getting freaked out on why a police officer might be approaching them.
   The internet seems to be a very good way to reward motorists instead. Among the TVCs running here is one featuring a group of young men, and a designated driver being seen as a bit of a hero by his mates for “taking one for the team”. So how about a positive version of Roadwatch?
   Roadwatch, as I understand it, does not result in actual prosecutions. The police simply use it to send out a warning, so that the person reporting the offence does not have to serve as a witness. It is in the interests of road safety: the police do not make a cent from this, but putting a careless driver on notice for, say, running a red light might just save lives as well as added expense to the taxpayer if an accident were to take place.
   Equally, a “positive Roadwatch” report need not result in providing a motorist with merit points, but it could earn that motorist everything from a free warrant of fitness check to having six months of their registration paid for.
   Alice Palmer, one of our interns, tells me that she and her fellow students might forgo heading out with their friends for a get-together because they have to save up to pay for their registration. The registration is a huge expense for young people, and since the young, especially the 15–24 male, is a big target for road-safety efforts, why not encourage them to earn a registration through good behaviour?
   The plan is not flawless (would those predisposed to being boy racers bother?), but I think it is worth a shot.
   Kiwis are already used to accruing points for mundane things such as shopping, earning credits which can be redeemed on airline flights. Giving young folks a coupon for six months’ registration seems a small price to pay if it means saving lives or paying for emergency services in accidents.
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Lucire reveals the all-new Jaguar XJ with first official photograph 

Jaguar XJI’m rather happy today that we may have been the first to publish a photograph of the new , without breaking the embargo. While the British press was scooping the car on various websites and breaking the embargo, they seem to have missed a photograph that was not covered, which we ran at Lucire this morning.
   There’ll be more on the XJ on many websites: the launch at 8.30 p.m. BST will be carried on satellite and other services. This looks to be one of the great launches of 2009 and a clear sign that has cast off its retro design bug—one that was always present with the XJ, which always seemed to look like the XJ6 model of 1968—for good.
   I say that Jaguar is finally being true to its : some of us remember when Jaguars looked futuristic and pouncing, and were not old men’s expresses. It has taken the many years since took over as Jaguar’s head of to revamp the line-up, and he has succeeded with great aplomb.
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7.7.09

In memoriam: Colin Morley 

On July 7, 2005, my friend and colleague Colin Morley set out on the London public transport system, and was one of the victims caught up in the bombings that day, namely at Edgware Road.
   We at the Medinge Group remember Colin, and each year we pay tribute to him by presenting the Colin Morley Award to a non-profit organization that has excelled at branding. Colin was also one of the guiding forces at Be the Change, which continues its work on creating and sustaining positive change in our world (see below).
   My sympathies once again go out to Ros and the rest of the Morley clan as we all remember Colin on July 7.


UK symposium trailer from Nick Hart-Williams on Vimeo.
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2.7.09

Has Twitter blocked Mrs Slocombe’s pussy? 


Above: When searching for the hashtag #MrsSlocombesPussy, Twitter refuses to give any results.

Ten to one comedienne is having a great laugh from Heaven.
   I have just discovered that every other search works on , just not one for a new hashtag, #MrsSlocombesPussy. The reason, says one Tweeter, is that this hashtag has been blocked.
   If this is true, then shame on Twitter: it is either down to ignorance (they do not know the cultural impact of ), xenophobia (American admins balking at British ), disrespect (to the memory of Mollie Sugden) or overreacting political correctness (everyone else outside Twitter HQ knows that this refers to Tiddles, Mrs Slocombe’s pet cat). Yes, we also know the meanings of pussy, but at least in the rest of the English-speaking world, double entendres are acceptable.
   As SensualStories, a fellow Tweeter, pointed out, it seems hypocritical for Twitter to block a mention of Mrs Slocombe’s pussy, yet they have allowed countless spammers to set up accounts continually, for weeks, under the name of Britney F***** Vids.
   Americans scared of the word pussy also balked at Honor Blackman’s character’s name in Goldfinger, Pussy Galore. That was in 1964. Not much has changed since then, even if American TV is fine with violence, gore and sex scenes.
   Just don’t say, ‘Pussy.’ You might annoy some computer geeks sitting at Twitter HQ who think f***ed is a perfectly acceptable word, but pussy is offensive.
   I say we keep Tweeting #MrsSlocombesPussy in Mollie’s memory, and to show the at Twitter and their double standards for our freedom of speech.

PS.: A further check reveals that one can still search for #pussy as a hashtag on Twitter, so this seems targeted unfairly at Ms Sugden by xenophobes.
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Note

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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