Posts tagged ‘Beyond Branding’


The ex-Vox testimony

22.11.2010

A phpBB forum for former users of Vox (I am one) started in September 2010. I posted there today, going through my history with the service. The below is a repost, which I thought would be of interest to readers of this blog (some of whom have come from Vox). It’s a small summary of my last seven years of blogging, geared to former Vox users.

For those who don’t know me, I’m Jack, and one of the Vox beta testers from 2006. I ran a number of groups on Vox: fashion, fashion magazines, fashion professionals, cars, Chinese (on which I was promoted to admin), RetroVox (which I was also promoted to), TV and New Zealand–Aotearoa.
   I first began blogging in 2003 at the Beyond Branding Blog, but was initially dismissive toward blogs in general. Some of those early experiences were clouded by some amateurish blogs out there—the sort that pretended to be authoritative but were anything but. Of course, these now form the majority of blogs today (!) but we have come to position them in our minds more accurately as personal journals. Back in, say, 2001, I remember some early bloggers pretending to be legit news sources and people believing that they were.
   In 2005, only two of the original authors of Beyond Branding remained at the blog, so my friend Johnnie Moore, who was a regular, but had moved on to his own space (http://johnniemoore.com), wanted to shut it down. By the end of the year, I decided I would take John’s lead and blog at http://jackyan.com/blog. I already had the domain, had some experience with Blogger, and gave Johnnie the all-clear once I told my last remaining author that I intended to move.
   In 2006, my blog opened. I called it ‘The Persuader’, after two sources: the old Persuaders TV show, and the book on advertising, The Hidden Persuaders. It’s quite quaint thinking back to those reasons, but more on that another time. The blog was picked up very early by some high-powered sources like Der Spiegel, but other than those initial highs, I settled back into a more personal blogging style.
   That same year, Vox started, and I had a beta-testing invitation. Initially, I did not know how to divide the use of the two spaces, but by 2007, again I had settled: Vox would be my personal musings (especially my relationships—those were set to private, which I liked) and Blogger would have my more business-oriented ones. The split worked quite well.
   Some Australians like Ninja and Snowy will remember that in August 2009, they were locked out of Vox. They were eventually allowed back in, but Six Apart never gave them a reason for the lock-out. By October, I experienced an identical bug, but Vox denied anything was wrong. It would take anywhere from a few hours to a few days before the compose window would come up. The usual blame occurred: it must be you, it must be your computer, it must be your use of your computer, it must be your ISP, etc. I travelled up and down the country and it was the same. Eventually, tired of all of this, I gave the ever-helpful and wonderful Daisy my password, and asked her to pass it on to Six Apart techs. They, too, could not get a compose window inside Six Apart HQ.

Days blocked on Vox
Above A graphic I have pasted in a few places out of frustration in December 2009: red denotes the days I was blocked from composing on Vox, and the reason more personal posts have reappeared here this year. Pink represents the days when the compose window took a few hours to load.

   Not that it was ever fixed. I put up with it for two months, because I probably had some mild form of OC and liked needling things till they are sorted. And probably because two years’ blogging habits were hard to break. (Imagine if I were a smoker!) By the end of 2009, I had decided I would return to blogging at ‘The Persuader’ exclusively, and Vox could be left as is.
   A temporary second account at lucire.vox.com came to little. I hated not blogging under my own name.
   I still took responsibility for my eight groups. I would come in and delete sploggers (I had decided by this time that reporting them to Six Apart would be pointless) and moderate comments. Eventually I shut off my blogs to comments, since all they attracted was comment spam. It was clear to me, especially with the most popular group topics being Indian escort agencies (and had been for years) that few folks gave a damn inside Six Apart, but I felt I had a duty to my group members to at least keep their blogging worlds as clean as possible. I would visit monthly (roughly), despite having a very busy political campaign.
   That was the other reason that I was happy to leave personal blogging as part of my past. In September 2009, I announced my candidacy to run for Mayor of Wellington, New Zealand, and probably the last thing I needed was an extra distraction. In some ways, I welcomed the technical problems I had. But this also meant that in September 2010, when Vox was shut, I took the easiest option possible for my old Vox blog entries: export them to Typepad. Last six weeks of the campaign, I wanted as few hassles in my technological world as possible.
   With Blogger being even bigger assholes than Six Apart could ever be (see this story for details), I moved my blogging over to a self-hosted Wordpress platform. That took 14 hours to customize and it still looks funny on Chrome, but I was quite happy starting 2010 with everything changed: no more Vox, no more Blogger (which led to a subsequent de-Googling of everything) and a new platform at jackyan.com/blog (that looked vastly identical to the previous one).
   In some ways, not blogging about my private life was a good thing. Not venting meant I had to deal with my issues, but the important thing was that campaigning became part of my life in 2010. It’s hard putting the genie back in the bottle. For venting, there were always Twitter and Facebook—things that were not mainstream in 2006. They are now, and ideal for the pithy off-the-cuff comments. With all that was going on, the shorter medium of Twitter suited me well …
   Despite having left Vox earlier than many of you, I’m glad this forum exists. The greatest sadness of leaving Vox in December 2009 was breaking so many of the connections I made there. While many have become friends in other places—Linda-Joy, Pete J. and Paikea come to mind—it’s good to have somewhere that I can still talk to a few of the folks who discovered this forum. It’s good to see Snowy registered here. I hope Xmangerm and a few others will pop by, too; I always liked what Xmangerm had to say.

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Posted in culture, internet, New Zealand, publishing, USA | 7 Comments »


How MG Rover mirrored the developments at Lada

02.11.2010

I still have Adam Curtis’s The Mayfair Set, a TV series charting the decline of British power and the rise of the technocracy, recorded on video cassette somewhere. I consider him someone who can see through the emperor having no clothes, and in The Mayfair Set, he certainly saw through the Empire having no clothes.
   As I type this, John Barry’s ‘Vendetta’ is going through my head as an earworm: the series used this piece as its theme tune.
   On my friend Keith Adams’s Facebook page was a link to Curtis’s blog at the BBC website, titled with a reference to another song, this time from Maurice Jarre’s Doctor Zhivago score. Curtis begins by saying that he uncovered a 1977 film about two British Leyland workers heading to Togliattigrad, where the Жигули (Zhiguli, or Lada to those of us outside the Soviet Bloc) was built.
ВАЗ-2101   At Togliattigrad, the managers used the chaos that was allowed to prevail to set up their alternative economic structures to line their own pockets—and corruption was rife.
   He writes, ‘What then happened is murky, but it is alleged that the managers in effect looted their own factory.’
   So far, so good. It read as a story about the bad old days of communism—till Curtis draws the clear parallels between Togliattigrad and what happened in the last days of the remnants of British Leyland. The Phoenix Four used money meant for the plant for themselves.
   Curtis again: ‘The Phoenix directors systematically restructured the business. They did it in a way that ensured that many economic benefits flowed not to MG Rover and the thousands of workers, but to the directors themselves and the man they appointed chief executive of MG Rover.
   ‘The [government] report [into the collapse of MG Rover] is over 800 pages—and it is a fascinating snapshot of our time. It lists all sorts of schemes with names like “Project Slag”, “Project Platinum” and “Project Aircraft”—all of them designed to try and bring profits not into MG Rover but into the holding company set up by the Phoenix consortium.’
   No more western superiority here: chaos—whether in the political, social, cultural or commercial realms—breeds opportunity for many. The trick is always to ensure that the opportunists are those who can put things right, rather than selfishly benefit themselves.
Beyond Branding cover   Some might see Curtis’s blog entry as a criticism of the monetarist, technocratic system—as was The Mayfair Set.
   But it is equally a story about how the absence of transparency breeds systems that benefit the few—regardless of whether the background is communism or capitalism.
   These are themes that we at the Medinge Group explored as early as 2003 in Beyond Branding, written in the wake of the Enron collapse. We’ve partly stayed on the same theme over the last eight years, because history shows us that transparency is often the enemy of inequity and unfairness. And even the technocracy.

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Posted in branding, business, cars, leadership, politics, TV, UK | 1 Comment »


Beyond Branding Blog removed from Blogger today

23.02.2010

As of tonight, the Beyond Branding Blog, where I first cut my teeth blogging, is no more.
   The posts are still there, but no further comments can be entered on to the site. The nearly four years of posts remain as an archive of some of our branding thought of that period.
   The blog had a huge number of fans in its day, but as each one of us went to our own blogs, there seemed little need to keep it going. Chris Macrae and I were the last two holding the fort in late 2005. Since January 2006, no new posts have been entered on to the site. No new comments have come in a year.
   Google’s announcement that it would end FTP support for blogs in May spurred me into action, and I advised the Medinge Group’s membership this morning that I would take it off the Blogger service.
   I altered the opening message to reflect the latest change.
   I was very proud of the blog, because it was the first one I was involved in. It was also the first I customized to match the look and feel of the rest of the Beyond Branding site, which I designed in 2003. While the design is one from the early 2000s, it has not dated as much as I had expected.
   Beyond Branding’s core message of transparency and integrity remains valid, so while the blog is no longer updated, I think the book remains relevant to the 2010s.

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Posted in branding, business, design, marketing | No Comments »