Nov 23, 2010

Google Instant Preview

The big G has launched the new Instant Preview feature a week or so ago.  Basically it gives you a small screenshot of search result with the search term highlighted within the image for your viewing pleasure.

Although quite a nifty little feature, there's a few questions being raised from an SEO point of view.

Firstly, if searchers can preview your page before deciding to click through, does this impact on the number of visits that you'd normally receive?  We're assuming that normally a person would click on the link, then quickly scan your site before deciding to bounce away if they haven't found what they're looking for.

Now they're essentially making up their mind about the result based on a partial screen cap of your site.

Secondly, by displaying the tiny screen cap, will searchers be more likely to be making up their mind on whether to visit your site based on its design?  Will it be a case of design over relevance?  Following that train of thought, will site owners now be more likely to try to optimise their site for Page Preview display?

Should we be spending our time browsing search results or browsing the actual result pages?  Is Google now trying to own the entire search experience?

Food for thought...

Nov 9, 2010

Aww Sony.... so close!

Apparently Sony doesn't quite know the difference between a webcam and a piece of rubber...

Was the graphic designer having a bad day?  Or is Sony so clever that they've developed a webcam/microphone that looks like a little rubber pad thingy?

I'll never understand their genius!

Oct 7, 2010

ACCC & Optus

Optus recently ran a set of ads that got the attention of the ACCC. The complaint isn't that the supersonic deer ad that it ran recently was a blatant ripoff of a series of US ISP ads, but that the ad didn't actually mention the throttling that reduced you to almost dialup speeds once you reached the cap.

The judge hearing the case has had some pretty amusing comments.  Advertising unlimited broadband gave customers the impression they were getting a Ferrari, ''but what is disguised is the fact that the steering wheel disintegrates after 10 kilometres,'' Justice Tony North said in the Federal Court in Melbourne.

Sep 20, 2010

Making Movies painful

Hoyts is one of the major cinema chains in Australia & New Zealand.  I've been sitting in their cinemas since I was a kid and intermissions still existed.  They form a huge part of some of my earliest cinema-going memories and helped fuel my ever growing passion for movies.

But I have a big problem with their website.

I dread every time I need to check a session time for one of their cinemas.  The navigation is painful, the site is completely cluttered, it doesn't use any type of smarts or autodetect, it ignores my profile information and the mobile site is next to impossible to find.  Yes, I'm going on a bit but let me qualify this a little more.

Firstly,lets talk about browser detection.  The design of the main site is the most mobile un-friendly site I've visited for a long time.  Surprising for a site that you'd think would have a lot of mobile traffic with people checking session times for a quick last minute decision to go see a movie.  There is a mobile site but good luck finding it.  Which brings me to my point - why do I have to go find the mobile site myself?  Why doesn't the site direct me to it automatically?  Who knows...

Next there's the fact that we're urged to 'buy tickets' wherever you look.  Now I know that selling tickets is almost the cinemas's number one reason for being (ripping you blind at the candy bar is their primary one), but do we need to have it shoved down our throats everywhere?  How about a softer sell?  How about 'session times' leading into a purchase funnel?

Correct me if I'm jumping to wild conclusions but I'm suspecting that most people that visit a cinema's website is to see what's on, when it's showing at their chosen location and finally, to buy tickets.  In that order.

So why flip the whole thing around?  Why make it hard for me to get to what I want?  I know where my local cinema is, I know what I want to see and I prefer to buy my tickets in person.  Just tell me when it's on please.  The irony is that the links to Bing in both the nav section and in the big ad sitting on the site both give you exactly what you want with quick well formed search string.  Session times in an easy to read format for my local cinema - heaven forbid.

I really hate it when I register on a site but every time I go there, I have to introduce myself all over again.  It's like a visit to old relative with alzheimers' - It's stuck in the past, technologically retarded and with no idea about who you are or why you're there.

To the point, how many people visit the site undecided about where they want to watch the movie?  I mean there's not exactly a cinema on every street corner.  You go to the Hoyts website pretty much knowing where your local screens are.

But the site has no idea.  And why should it really?  Well for a few reasons actually.  Firstly, it should know where I am and recommend my closest venue.  Secondly, if I've bought online before, this should be even easier for them to suggest.  Lastly, and more annoyingly, because I'm a Movie Club member!  They not only know where I live, but which cinemas I go to and what I see.  They even ask me for my preferred cinema!

Like sitting near a loud talker.  Like a mobile going off.  Like the frozen Coke machine being out of order.  Like not being able to open the choc-top pack (and having to deal with there being no banana flavour as advertised). ... You've failed me Hoyts.  :(

Sep 3, 2010

Of flying people and colourful things

Lately I've noticed a growing trend in TV advertising towards featuring people flying around in slow motion.  Throw in some motion blur, or even better, colour splashes of some sort and you seem to be on a winner.

Try to resist the urge to fill or empty yourself during the next ad break and pay attention to just how many times you see this type of creative.  The flying people thing seems to work for selling everything from cars to perfume,  televisions and clothing.

To date, every one I've seen of this type has been pretty clear in what it's advertising. Except for this latest effort for Van Heusen.  Check it out and let me know if you can figure out what they're flogging...  good luck.

BTW, their website doesn't make it any clearer - mainly cause most of us already know what these guys are famous for. Is this a clever marketing tactic or a massive oversight? There's a fine line between genius and... you know.

Aug 21, 2010

The funnier side of politics...

As Australia goes to the polls, I'm reminded of this gem from a few years back.  Sure George W was a bit of a joke, but I don't think anyone could ever really accuse him of being boring.  I think our own pollies could do with a speechalist of their own - just after they get a personality implant ;)

Aug 20, 2010

Aussie election goes social - but still isn't interesting

Australians are getting ready to go to the polls to decide who gets to call the shots for the next few years.

In the past few weeks we've been bombarded with political ads and the requisite debates by what has to be the dryest, stiffest and most boring set of politicians I've ever heard.  (I thank the powers that be that Gruen Nation keeps us awake throughout the process).

This time around, both major parties have taken a leaf out of the Obama campaign book and embraced social networking as part of the campaign strategy, so I thought I'd take a quick look at what they've done.

The incumbent ALP has integrated a custom built platform into its website that provides a range of tools to help visitors rank, comment and share information throughout the site.  However, there is a lack of ability to be able to share any content directly from the home page as we'd normally expect.

The Labor Connect feature is a walled community (built by a social networking software provider, Community Engine) where you can form groups, connect with local representatives and chat to other community members.  It doesn't seem to enable connectivity to other networks such as Facebook.  The things that I don't like about this feature is that it firstly keeps the community locked away and in doing so, puts up a barrier to participation - why do users have to register and provide so much information just to collaborate?  Annoying.

The Liberal Party site has a very similar approach minus the 'Connect' type tool.  In what I think is a  slightly more subtle implementation of social tools, their site keeps all the collaboration on the top layer and not hidden away in a private network.  They connect with Facebook well and unlike their opponents, have the ubiquitous 'Like' button.  It also has a cleaner feel and appears a little less cluttered.  A reflection of their policies perhaps?  Who am I to say?

I think at the end of the day, even though the ALP has put in place what is probably a first in Australian politics with their custom community feature - my vote goes to the Liberals and their softer, more familiar and more accessible implementation.

Remember kids, there's nothing social in a walled community.

Aug 11, 2010

Old Spice Case Study

Here's a great video that shows the results of the fantastic Old Spice Guy campaign. At the end of the vid there's a bunch of interesting stats on site visitation and views - but the most important at the end of the day is the whole point of the exercise; the massive increase in sales over the previous periods.

Check it out.  This post is now diamonds!

Aug 5, 2010

Google Wave Wipes out

Funny how things go - a year ago Google Wave was being touted as the next big... something in collaboration, instant messaging, twitter and pretty much everything else you could think of.

Well I, like many others, always doubted exactly what it actually was and what practical use it had.  Some found it useful as a collaboration tool but it seems that a bunch of Aussie comedians and a group of Google employees does not a market make.

So it's no real surprise that it was announced yesterday by the Google VP of Operations (and Google Fellow no-less??!!) that Wave is to go the way of the dodo.

"Wave has not seen the user adoption we would have liked. We don’t plan to continue developing Wave as a standalone product, but we will maintain the site at least through the end of the year and extend the technology for use in other Google projects."

Sorta good to see that even the big boys can admit that not everything they touch turns to gold.

Aug 3, 2010

Where is spam originating? - Google Postini

Google Postini has a great feature that shows you in real time where spam messages are being born.  Each red dot on this map shows where spam messages are originating in real time. Saturated areas show high concentrations of malicious IPs. 

The surprising thing is that countries with spam legislation in place like the USA and Australia (where penalties are in the hundreds of thousands and up to the millions for repeat offenders) are still generating spam.  But the most surprising aspect is the fact that France, Spain, Brazil and the UK are still major spam sources.

And here I was thinking that China, Russia and India were the main offenders...

Aug 2, 2010

Who's in the Blogosphere?

I'm a big fan of visualising data, and I also happen to blog occasionally - so this article from Flowtown based on data from a Technorati survey breaking down who does what in the blogosphere is right up my alley.

Especially when there's pretty pictures to compliment it.

Slightly ironic that I'm blogging about blogging...

Aug 1, 2010

Shutterbug Photography contest winners

The Shutterbug Photography Festival is an annual event held in Sydney for up and coming photographers.  This year's winner is Mark Tipple with his collection called The Underwater Project.

Mark created a great collection of underwater photography that reminds me quite a bit of the stuff that Eugene Tan produces each day with his fantastic Aquabumps updates (join his mailing list or Facebook).

The two runners up also created some impressive works, check out the collection over at the Shutterbug website.

Jul 30, 2010

Internet everywhere + save on an iPad 3G

Here's a way of not only saving some cash but also get a great piece of kit that's going to let you get internet access with all your wireless enabled devices.

Wi-Fi modems like this one from Virgin Mobile not only let you get internet access wherever you can get 3G coverage but they're got a built-in wireless router.  This router lets you connect up to 3 devices to it's little protected network.

That's your laptop, iPad, phone, whatever.  Just turn it on, throw it in your pocket or bag and you're online.

I have no idea why you'd want a standard USB modem anymore.  And also why you'd bother to buy 3G versions of whatever it may be.

Price-wise it will save you $20 if you buy a 64GB Wi-Fi only iPad and this device - plus you'll get 5GB included data with the Virgin offering in your first month for a $150 investment.  A no-brainer really....

Jul 14, 2010

Old Spice Genius

These series of Old Spice ads featuring Isaiah Mustafa doing the rounds on the social networks are just brilliant. The most impressive aspect of this campaign is the fact that there's hundreds of video responses to tweets sent to the @OldSpice channel.  Probably one of the best uses of the channel and example of through the line advertising.

Check them out if you haven't already - you know you should. Man.

I'm on a horse!


Jul 9, 2010

African Tigers...

This is the splash screen for the Optus 2010 FIFA World Cup mobile application.

Tigers in Africa?  Seems that someone somewhere along the line needs a lesson in either biology or geography, or both :)

And while I'm at it, that 32 panel black & white Telstar ball hasn't been used since 1974!

Jul 5, 2010

iPad Camera Connection Kit Withdrawn?

Apparently there's a 'problem' with the iPad Camera Connection kit from Apple's point of view in that it allows you to connect more than just a camera to the device.  This lets you use things like a USB keyboard, Skype headsets etc, which apparently aren't 'supported devices' as suggested or provided by Apple themselves.

It also apparently allows the loading of software other than via iTunes, making Jailbreaking and running third party apps much easier.

For this reason, it seems that Apple has withdrawn them from sale (or more correctly, not currently re-supplying them to stores), until they've been 're-engineered' and locked down.

An Apple store employee told me as such yesterday and a ring around most iPad suppliers seemed to confirm the supply issue and rumour.  The Apple store online says that none are shipping for another 6 weeks.


Jul 2, 2010

iPad, the photographers friend

It's been a few weeks now since I laid hands on my iPad, and to be honest, there was a little bit of "what the hell did I just do" when I walked out of the Apple shop with my brand new 'designed in California' piece of kit.

I'm not an Apple fanboy in the traditional sense; meaning I don't own a Mac of any description. I do however have various iPods and I'm on my second iPhone, so I guess I'm more into the 'i' stuff purely cause of the geeky, gadgety, gotta have it cause Uncle Steve told me so. Plus the packaging is always cool :)

Anyhow, the reason why I was a little regretful was the fact that it really did dawn on me that I'd just slapped down a grand for what was really just a 'big phone' as my niece calls it. What could this iPhone Maxi really give me that I didn't already have on my phone? I mean pretty much every function on the iPad is identical to the iPhone - and pretty much every app for the phone runs on the pad. It's just more cumbersome and sucks up slightly more power.

In the past few weeks, I've really now learnt to love this tiny laptop. It's funny cause although it's is just a big iPhone in so many ways, I use it completely differently. Firstly it's an e-reader. I read Wired, The Australian, BBC News and ABC iPad editions every day. Although a little heavy, its big, bright screen is easy on the eyes and a cinch to use.

I also use it as an email reader, the mail application is really easy to navigate and really fast.

Of course there's a stack of games on there too, but for now they're pretty much ports of the iPhone versions. However Scrabble gets the thumbs up for its 'party play' mode that hooks up the iPhones as your tile holder. Nice.  Unlike my phone and iPod, I rarely use it for playing music.

But the single best use for the iPad for me is for photo viewing.

As an amateur photographer, I love to show off my work to family and friends. With the pad, this is now so much easier to do because of its beautiful, 1024x768 132ppi, 9.7inch screen. Photos really come alive on such a large display.

Putting your photos onto the device is really easy too, you can either use the Camera Connection kit and copy photos straight from an SD card or your cameras USB port, or you can just use iTunes. I prefer the iTunes method as you can keep your albums nicely organised. Just create a subdirectory on your PC and it will appear as a new album in the photo viewer - just like the iPhone.

By way of apps, there's quite a few good photography related apps available that do a variety of things from connecting to Flickr to manipulating images. Of these, really like Colour Splash and TiltShift Generator. The first allows you to add spot colour to a photo, the second helps you create an artificial tilt-shift for that miniature effect (check out my Flickr photo set for some examples).

When it comes to having a bit of fun, the camera sharing apps such as Duplicam do things like letting you control one or more iPhone cameras straight from the pad itself. You can even do some cool Matrix 'bullet time' effects if you have enough iPhones lying around ;)

I'm not saying that it's a replacement for a good PC (or Mac) and Photoshop or Lightroom, but the iPad really holds its own when it comes to portable image viewing, backups and quick and simple editing.  Now if someone were to develop an adaptor that allows you to use the iPad as a camera remote like Camera Control from Nikon, I think we pretty much have the perfect companion for photographers at every level.

Go iPad!

Jul 1, 2010

HTML5, Flash and YouTube

YouTube has posted a blog update discussing HTML5 and how browser-native video support shapes up in its future.

The short version is that in order to achieve the same level of functionality that Flash provides, HMTL5 seems to have a long way to go.  Video streaming, Content Protection and Embedding seem to be the biggest speedhumps in the future of the new standard.

Check out more at the YouTube API blog.

Jun 25, 2010

Flash & apple

There's been a lot of talk about the lack of support for Flash in mobile devices, particularly for iPhone and iPad. While security is one of the main reasons often mentioned, there's an even more fundamental reason that's rarely mentioned.

The issue is that our touchscreen devices can't (currently) cater for the mouse-over or cursor function that's so commonplace in many Flash applications.

Check out this article for more on this from the perspective of a flash developer.


Jun 23, 2010

Little town

One of my favorite photos from a recent trip. This one has been given the tilt-shift treatment that makes it look miniature. I think it works really well.

Check out more in my flickr channel over on that right hand column :)

Jun 21, 2010

No s%$t sherlock

Great opinion piece on Mumbrella discussing a sad SMH article on building relationships online.

If you're a business looking for a PR firm to help you with your digital strategy, don't know jack about the 'intarwebs', live in the mid 90's and find those Internet for Dummies books way to complicated... sounds like you need to drop a telegram to these Burson-Marsteller guys.

Jun 20, 2010

Vuvuzela Hero

Not sure how well this one is going to sell outside of South Africa...

Jun 11, 2010

identity crisis?

My niece calls the iPad the 'big phone'.

This error message seems to support her theory...

Jun 9, 2010

Google Caffeine

Given that Google has today announced it's new enhancements to it's search algorithm, which are aimed at giving search results up to 70 percent fresher than the current batch, I thought it a good idea to look at what the main changes are.

The following points are some that I've collated from various sources around the traps discussing this right now.

Fast Indexing
With the introduction of Google Caffeine, there will be no more “sandbox”. The indexing time frame is down to about 15 minutes now if you have a dynamic sitemap submitted to Google Webmaster Tools. This means that unique, steady content will take even more precedence in search engine rankings.

Load Time
Matt Cutts stated in November 2009 that many engineers in Google are making the argument that the “load time” of a web page be included in the algorithm of Google. So, we know that they have been working on this. Make sure that your images and all page elements are optimised and that your sites load fast. Nobody wants to lose ranks because of this.

Flash Sites
Based on the information above, this is bad news for Flash sites because they take forever to load. Do not expect to rank high with full flash sites.

Paid Links and Age of Link
No more buying links to push ranks up in a short period of time! Google says that the age of links matter and stable links will get you up in the SERPs. So, if you plan on buying links, make sure you keep them for at least 8-12 months. That can be a bit costly, we still recommend building naturally occurring links.

Analytics Data
As controversial as this is, Google might use the analytics data of webmasters in their algorithm due to the fact that it provides a huge amount of information about user interaction of a web site. 

The new Google seems to rely a lot more on keyword strings to bring better, more relevant results.  This makes the SEO's jobs a little more difficult.

In essence, it seems to mean that many SEO related businesses - and those that are still involved in search arbitrage, may have to re-evaluate how they go about doing whatever it is they do...  The improvements are definitely more geared towards the user experience rather than making life easier for the marketer.

How it should be i think :)

For more, check out Mashable's detailed test of the new algorithm.

May 1, 2010

Tourism Australia changes comp T&C's

The recent uproar over the restrictive and unfair terms and conditions of the Tourism Australia "There's nothing like..." photography competition has finally been heard.

The AIPP reports that it, together with the ACMP and  has successfully lobbied to have some amendments made to remove the exclusivity aspect of the entry mentioned in clause 11.

They have also removed clause 45 in which the entrant surrendered all their intellectual property to the promoter.

Well done to the AIPP, the ACMP and to the numerous other organisations and forums that have gotten together and caused enough of a stink to make the changes happen.

Marketers take note.  This is how social media should be used...and feared!

Apr 27, 2010

A shared sadness

So the 3.5 inch floppy disk is officially to be come extinct with Sony deciding it will stop producing them next year. :(

It seems that some people are taking this pretty badly...

What goes around...

The latest twist on the iPhone saga sees the home of Gizmodo's editor raided by police.  I was wondering at what point the police would get involved in this debarcle.  I guess that puts the rumours of this being an Apple publicity stunt to an end...

Karma's a bitch Mr Chen.

Apr 23, 2010

Morals & Ethics, where have you gone?

Imagine this.
You're walking along the street and you notice a brand new Ferrari concept car sitting by the kerb with the keys in the ignition, the engine running and nobody around.  You wait a while and then figure that it doesn't look like anyone is coming by to claim it so you jump in and drive it home.
You hang on to it for a few days and then call Ferrari to tell them that you've found one of their cars.  But they don't believe you or don't return your calls.
So you take some photos of this car and send them to a few media outlets to show them what you've found.
You eventually decide that you're going to make some money off this and start shopping this car around to a few of the more interested car blogs and media outlets to see who wants to buy into this guaranteed scoop.  You eventually sell it for a very tidy sum to a prominent auto blog.
Now as Farrari has remotely demobilised the car, the auto blog then goes about pulling the car apart and examining it from the inside out.  All the while fully knowing that they have bought something that didn't belong to the person selling it in the first place.  
Inside the car they find the drivers licence and photos of the test driver who had apparently been driving it before it was 'lost'.  They publish his pictures and personal details online and make light of the fact that he was the one that 'lost' it in the first place.
They make as much money as they can from this story before Ferrari contacts them and asks for it back.
Sound familiar?  No?  Well this is basically the same thing that happened with the recent loss of an iPhone prototype by an Apple engineer in the US.

My question is around the morals of the person that found the phone in the first place.  Who finds something then takes it home and keeps it?  Why not hand it in to the police or management of the restaurant where they found it, like any normal person would do?

And what type of 'respectable' media outlet buys something from someone that is obviously not theirs to sell and makes no attempt to return it to the owner?  What type of ethics allow the people at Gizmodo to operate like this?  In my mind it has turned what once used to be a reputable gadget blog into nothing more than a cheap tabloid.

Finally, why the hell would you go about systematically ruining the reputation of the engineer that seems to have been the one that lost it?  Publishing his name, his photo and even his flickr photostream.  And all the while with not one single sign of remorse or wrongdoing in any way.

The redeeming factor here is that he backlash against Gizmodo has been severe.  The community has overwhelmingly condemned their actions in ruining the engineers' reputation.

Shame on you Gizmodo.

Photographers and their rights

Further to the discussion around the unfairness of the copyright grab by Tourism Australia, comes this interesting article regarding the rights of photographers for shooting in public spaces, courtesy of

While I can somewhat understand the issue around using/exploiting public spaces and buildings for commercial purposes, it gets really hazy when we start to talk about what's permissible at all.  Many of these regulations are not really specific whether an image uploaded to Facebook or Redbubble are breaching their guidelines/laws.

One of the things that really surprised me is that Waverly Council in Sydney requires a permit for any filming and photography undertaken in their public open spaces.  What?  I need a permit of up to $300 to take snaps of family or friends at Bondi or Centennial Park?  Not surprisingly the actual wording and terms of the permit are completely hazy and makes no distinction between commercial and private use.

Activities requiring permit
You will need a permit to engage in any of the following activities:
  • Film and photography
  • Organised sport
  • Picnics or other informal gatherings of over 50 people
  • Wedding ceremonies
  • Erection of any structures, including marquees, jumping castles, etc
  • Use of any equipment, including barbecues, public address systems, scaffolding, etc
  • Corporate promotion, product sale, charity events
  • Fitness training: please see Fitness Groups & Personal Trainers Policy
Please note that users of Council property can be asked by Council officers to produce a valid permit.
Even the famously restrictive Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority seems to allow commercial photography in most areas around the harbour without a permit as long as you have under 10 crew members and only use handheld or a tripod.  This is fine for the weekend gaggle of wedding photographers - but the more interesting aspect is that they might not realise that having the Opera House or Harbour Bridge as the backdrop for that shot is probably breaching copyright - a different conversation altogether.

And finally, if a wedding photographer thought that they could go anywhere in Sydney Olympic Park and take a few shots, they could do it free of charge.   Oh, sorry, as long as you apply in writing and pay a $500 bond!

The Arts Law Centre of NSW have more detailed information on what rights we actually have as street photographers right here.  It seems to imply that some of the regulations that local councils and authorities try to implement are apparently not completely binding.

Apr 21, 2010

Planes or volcanoes?

Information Is Beautiful has a great visualisation of the comparison of CO2 emissions from Mt. Unpronounceable compared to how much the European Aviation industry belches out every day.

More details are here

internet - all you can't eat

In Australia, truly 'unlimited' internet plans are as rare as flights to London right now.

This great article on Lifehacker explains why it is that we pay more and how most of our plans are based on the 80/20 rule; a calculated gamble on the part of the ISP that most of us won't use our monthly allowances.

Check it out

Apr 20, 2010

Whose preferences?

As you may have gathered from previous posts, one of my pet peeves is marketers that don't listen to their customers.

For a long time now, the two that I would consider the worst offenders are Ticketek and Grays Online.  Not just because they batch and blast with no segmentation whatsoever, but because both like to highlight their extensive 'preferences management' sections on their websites. They point to these in their emails and all over their sites and seem to be quite proud that they ask you stuff that they both promptly ignore.

The funny thing with this is that both publishers use the term 'My' to denote these sections, trying to lull me into thinking that these preferences are actually mine.  To be fair, when I actually check these sections, those checkboxes are actually highlighting products and events that I have actually chosen. So what's happened to these when they go to communicate with me?

Who knows?

The best examples of ignoring me has been when Grays tried to sell me a boat mooring (I don't have a boat and haven't told them I'm interested in marine auctions) in Queensland (they know I live in NSW), earthmoving equipment (pickup) and food processing machinery.  Yeah, just the stuff I needed!

Ticketek likes to send me offers to see events that they know I'm not interested in.  I don't have kids and don't want to go sit in the audience with a thousand 4 years olds to watch the Wiggles - in Victoria.  Nor do I care about Fashion Weekend (but at least they got the Sydney part right)

But it's not just these two retailers that do this.  David Jones does a good job of ignoring me too. The most humorous was where they emailed me about some new vibrating mascara!

I'll put it down to that CERN particle accelerator. It apparently hasn't destroyed the universe as the tin hat brigade predicted, but it seems to have slipped us into an alternate dimension where preferences don't matter.

It's either that or the effects of the ash cloud from that unpronounceable volcano (why not leave some consonants for the rest of us?)

They're someones preferences, but they're definitely not 'MY'.

Apr 19, 2010

Crikey goes at Tourism Australia

Crikey has also picked up the story on the unfairness of the Terms and Conditions of the new Tourism Australia 'There's nothing like...' campaign.  Much like the article discussed right here recently.

So far there seems to be no response from TA or the agency on the subject of every entry, regardless of it being a winning one or not, becoming the exclusive, perpetual property of TA.

Apr 9, 2010

Inbox roundup: Rags to riches

Miss Money Penny is a great Australian online small business success story. Their model is pretty simple, the site is designed to help people sell their unwanted designer clothing and accessories.

In the style of ebay, upload your product photos, the description & price and when it sells, the site gets a cut.

Putting aside the issues that I have with the usability and user interface of the site itself, I'm going to look at their email communication for now.  It's ripe for some tweaking.

First up, the subscription process is an interesting one.  While the form is pretty standard and concise, the resulting email is not a subscription confirmation or a welcome at all - rather it's an inquiry confirmation and seems to be a product of a questionable CRM.  Secondly, it's from Vanessa D, rather than MMP.  Lastly, this email states

Campaign Newsletter Subscriptions
[Miss Money Penny Newsletter] - requires you to verify your subscription.
There's no link here so I don't know what the purpose of that copy is at all.

So, about the email itself, I think there's a lot of things that can be improved.  Let's start at the top, the subject line (Just In Designer Resale Finds) is missing a hyphen or a colon or something after Just In.  Is re-sale hyphenated?

There seems to be a bit of a waste of space above the header with a few lines of blank white before the read online and unsub text.  Trimming this down would help get more content above the fold considering that the header is so big.

Next up is the centered text. What's up with that?  There's a reason why GeoCities doesn't exist anymore and this is one major one.  If this text blinked and the background was a repeating pattern, I could swear I was back in the early 90's!

Grammatically, this is a little epileptic, with the random use of capitalisation and the repetition in the "Click here for our Fave's our Fave's".

To improve the aesthetics and overall effectiveness of this email, I would put this feature item first and re-write the copy to be a short, personalised intro.  I'd crop this photo so as no to suck up so much real estate. Then I'd stick the first four images at the top of the email below this feature.  I think that layout makes more logical sense to the reader and flows nicer.

As for the last third of the layout, I get the idea of having a quirky image to sign off with but I think this section can be improved a little.  The whole site is about buying and selling desirable designer brands.  Those brands mentioned in the copy below the photo should be much more prominent and hyperlinked to the site.  It's a great CTA, use it!

I think there's a great opportunity for testing and optimisation of this email.  Guaranteed that whatever clickthrough stats are being achieved now could be improved with a bit 'designer alteration'.

Apr 8, 2010

Inbox roundup: Wishful thinking?

I got this one from Wotif this morning.

Now seeing as the long weekend was last weekend, I'm trying to work out which of the following is true:

  1. This is a poorly worded attempt at trying to state that you should create your own long weekend any weekend.
  2. That they somehow got the dates wrong and think this next weekend is the Easter long weekend.
  3. That the campaign scheduling is out of whack (they didn't send a long weekend promo out the week before last)
  4. That it's just a mistake.
In any case, they got my attention so I guess it's mission complete in that respect.
Wotif they actually got things right for next week?

Apr 7, 2010

Inbox roundup: Spell (Un)check

We all make spelling mistakes now and then.  But when you have a spell checker button staring you in the face, there's really not much excuse for not writing the Queens' English the way she intended - especially when (supposedly) a bunch of people have read and checked the copy before you publish it to thousands of recipients.

Slightly more forgivable is leaving out some punctuation...

The travel sector is the main offender for today.  The winners are:

Qantas - "Pernter" in paragraph 3. - Missing "$" in paragraph 2.

Top 30!

A couple of my shots from my recent photography course have been selected for the top 30 for this semester :)

Check the set out here.  If you're interested (and in Sydney), the gang at SPW run really good courses and one day workshops.  I've done one of each and highly recommend them!

Apr 6, 2010

Adobe CS5 goodness!

Register for a preview of what new goodness the new CS5 will bring.

One of the most impressive features in Photoshop is the new Content Aware fill feature which basically takes cloning to a whole new level.  It's really impressive what this software can do.  Check out this video for a walkthrough of this amazing tool!

Apr 1, 2010

There's nothing like...

Tourism Australia is launching its new advertising campaign, and this time, it's asking ordinary Australians to do the work for them.  They're launching a competition that asks entrants to upload a photo and finish the tag line, "There's nothing like..."

While it smacks a little of laziness on the part of both TA and their agency, DDB, I can see where they're going by trying to crowdsource their advertising.  Kraft famously cocked it up with that cheesy vegemite 2.0 garbage so I guess TA thinks it can do it better with their effort.

Good luck with this TA, cause that tag like is just begging to be abused.

But one of the things that I have a problem with in the competition aspect is that it stinks of an attempt to build a royalty free image library.  Often brands will run these types of photo grabbing competitions in which every single entry, upon submission, belongs to the promoter - regardless of whether it wins or not!

Checking out the terms and conditions reveals clause11 that says:
11. By entering the Promotion, Eligible Entrants absolutely and unconditionally assign (and agree to use their best endeavours to procure any relevant third parties to absolutely and unconditionally assign) to the Promoter all right, title and interest in all intellectual property rights in their entry, including ownership of intellectual property rights in any photograph that forms part of an entry.
And refined further in clause 12:
12. By entering the Promotion, Eligible Entrants acknowledge that their entry may be used by the Promoter, the Promoter's related entities, agencies engaged by the Promoter, or any other third party nominated by the Promoter, for the Promoter's current and future promotional and marketing purposes without further reference or compensation to them.  Eligible Entrants unconditionally and irrevocably:
(a) consent to any act or omission that would otherwise infringe any of their moral rights in their entry (as defined in Part IX of the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth)) and present and future rights of a similar nature conferred by statute anywhere in the world whether occurring before or after this consent is given (Moral Rights); and
(b) waive all Moral Rights in their entry that arise outside Australia.
And in case you don't bother to read all that, they sum it up again for you nicely in clause 45:
45. Entrants agree and acknowledge that all entries and any intellectual property rights subsisting in their entries become and remain the property of the Promoter.
Note the word Entrants, not Winners.

While the prizes sound more than fair if you win, why should I give up the rights over my photo if I don't win? That hardly seems fair whatsoever as TA and their agents can use it for free, forever.

The cynic in me also questions whether this will be a competition at all when they can use any and every image  uploaded for promo purposes.

On a final note, a very interesting side-effect of this type of promotion is that all images become the property of Tourism Australia.  ALL images.  This means that if anyone uploads an image of something offensive, or even illegal (child porn for example), TA then own the rights over that image and are therefore legally liable for being in possession of such material... interesting.

There's nothing like.. claiming copyright over everybody's holiday snaps - even the offensive and illegal ones!

Mar 31, 2010

Crowdsourcing turns 10

Threadless is one of many online retail success stories.  While there's stacks of Tshirt etailers, these guys have distinguished themselves by being the best example of community sourcing or 'crowdsourcing' when it comes to ideas for a new designs.

The idea is simple, ask customers to submit a design idea, put the design to a vote and make the best ones.  You kill two birds with one stone - the users do all your design work and, cause they all voted for the best one, they'll then buy it from you. Brilliant.

They've done a fantastic job of building a community around their product.  You can recommend or advertise your new purchases to your friends via Facebook Connect, go Threadspotting where you can submit photos of designs spotted 'in the wild', speak to the designers, watch Threadless TV or simply interact in the forum.

These guys started up 10 years ago this year and have been going strong ever since.  They are now a multi-million dollar business and have started to spread their wings into other areas including thongs (flip-flops for your northern hemispherians) and even wall decals.

Aside from the business model, one of the main things about Threadless that I've always admired is their clean and powerful user interface.  This is no wonder considering that they were originally a web design company that started to make the odd in-joke and industry related Tshirt.  They make great use of the latest web technologies to give a really tidy experience.

My favourite is not only being told how many items of a specific size are still available, but also getting email alerts when something in my shopping basket is about to run out of stock.  Why don't more retailers do this??

Good work Threadless.  May you keep me clothed for many years to come :)

Oh, btw, check out the book if you want to read more about the Threadless story: Threadless: Ten Years of T-shirts from the World's Most Inspiring Online Design Community

Mar 30, 2010

Inbox Roundup: To test or not to test?

Clearly, as an email marketer for 7 years, I firmly believe in the medium.  Email is the epitome of direct marketing - incredibly customisable, timely and measurable.  And it's also incredibly simple to execute.

This power and simplicity is obviously a recipe for disaster.  In a matter of seconds, you can not only make your brand look silly, but also cause PR nightmares (or dreams, depending on how you spin it).

I think there's really no reason to send your email campaign without testing it - aside from laziness.  Maybe when people think email testing, they think about the more complicated optimisation excercises such as A/B split and multivariate testing etc and their eyes glaze over.

But here all I'm going to focus on is something far more fundamental and simpler to understand.  The layout and design.

With the plethora of tools available online such as, Litmus and Return Path, to name a few, it's a wonder that things like this from Wotif can still make it through to my Inbox.

Clearly someone hasn't bothered to take a look at this in Gmail and see that it's all over the place.  A quick look points to the fact that someone wacked in a extra vertical blue border to the right of the banner which has blown everything else out.

Using one of the tools above would have identified this very quickly and not made the Wotif people look silly.

To test or not to test?  Is that really a question?

Mar 22, 2010

See all evil

Web Seer is a funky little app that compares Google results for two search terms and shows where they overlap.

Hours of fun, here's one to get you started :)

The Internet Vs Television

Mar 18, 2010


good work Nandos

Dear F@$*face

A while ago I was working with a client who had an issue with their data capture process.  The problem wasn't exactly with how the data was captured but what type of data they were collecting.

They specifically had a problem with the fact that there was no obscenity filter applied to some of the fields.  They thought it a problem that if someone signed up and called themselves "fuckface" for instance, that they would take issue when they received an email addressed to Dear Fuckface.

This raised a discussion around what's deemed offensive and to whom and whether a name such as this would cause damage to the brand.  Well that's a whole other discussion.

We finally installed an obscenity filter, which we advised wouldn't be the best solution due to false positives.  What if Dick Chaney wanted to sign up to their list?  Sorry Dick, no offers for you, you're name is too, well... dicky.  The only real solution would be to use a combination of the automated filtering and human checking - which is what they settled on.

So the reason for this post is that during this exercise, I decided to sign up to a bunch of newsletters using offensive names.  Only 1 out of 10 retailer newsletters rejected my offensive name.

I'm still getting regular emails from the others without alteration.  I wonder if they know and don't care or if they're oblivious to this?  In any case, it's something worth thinking about next time you look at your subscription process.

the campaign is dead?

Discussions at Ad:tech Sydney yesterday turned to the subject of stand alone campaigns and how they fit into the overall conversation that a brand has with its audience.

Doesn't it make perfect sense that once you engage someone and lure them into your circle, you need to have a plan for them?  Marketers too often have an extremely short-sighted view in their marketing timelines.  Is this because their performance reviews are quarterly?  Is it because they really just don't care about the bigger picture?

In any case, hopefully more marketers will slowly start to get the fact that firstly, all marketing is direct and the second you stop the conversation, be prepared to lose customers.

Put it into a face to face real world scenario.  You wouldn't start talking to someone if you're just going to walk away mid-conversation would you?

Would you?

More over at Mumbrella

Mar 17, 2010

Inbox roundup: Empty promises?

It brings a tear to the eye when you get an email like this one from the gang at Cameras Direct.
It's not exactly setting the email marketing world alight for a few reasons.  Firstly, it features a pretty redundant subject line - Camerasdirect - New Canon 550D.

Remember kids, there's no point mentioning your brand in the subject line when it's sitting in the 'from' field just a few pixels away.

BUT this is completely forgiven by the fact that they seem to know this and want to fix it.  Check this out

Just the promise of wanting to know more about me and using this in the future is good enough for me.  So on I go to fill in their preferences form by clicking on the link and I get a nice and simple pre-populated form to complete and send.

Thanks CamerasDirect for taking the time time to put together a simple and effective data enrichment program.  Now here's hoping you'll actually use this next time you speak to me :)

For more great ideas on improving your email marketing, check out The Constant Contact Guide to Email Marketing

Mar 16, 2010

ad:tech Sydney

If you're in Sydney this week and have any interest in marketing whatsoever, then you're probably already going to Ad:Tech.

If you're not going, you can follow the action over at Mumbrella.

Feb 18, 2010

Digital amnesia or just don't care?

So imagine you're in a store and the shop assistant comes up to you and greets you then asks you what you're looking for.  You give them your name and tell them what you're after and hand over a few other bits of info too, like where you live and what you like.

The assistant looks you in the eye and listens to everything you say.  They make a note of everything and tell you that they're sure they can help you find that perfect product.  They tell you that they might not have anything right now but they'll send you a letter or catalogue the second they do.

You've had a conversation.  They've listened and taken notes.  You're happy they've taken the time.

Then you go home and get a letter from them a week or so later with their latest offers.

As you read, you realise that they must have made a mistake.  The letter you got must be someone else's, because not only does it list products that you're not interested in, it also features services and events in completely different geographical locations!

Surely this is a mistake right?  The shop assistant took all your details, they wrote them all down and even asked you to confirm it before they saved it.  They stored the information in a secure location and assured you that nobody else could touch it.

So why did they send you something that has no relevance to you at all?  Why did they bother to waste your time?

Why did they pretend to care?  Why did they lie? :(

You wouldn't put up with it in a bricks & mortar store, so why put up with it online?

Email marketers do this all the time - it's like a virus spreading throughout anyone that runs an e-commerce website.  Get as much info as you can - then ignore it... but get it anyway cause that's what we're supposed to do.

So here's a simple list of rules for anyone that wants to capture customer data.  4 very simple ideas that will get you thinking about how you treat customer information.

Data capture golden rules
  1. If you don't plan to use it, don't ask for it.
  2. All fields should be mandatory.  If it's not, don't ask for it.
  3. Validate client-side - in the fields as you go
  4. Verify server-side - by using confirmation pages and emails
Basically, don't pretend you care when you don't.  Nobody likes a liar.

Blaise Aguera y Arcas demos augmented-reality maps

A fantastic video from the guys at Microsoft discussing how their mapping application is going to one-up Google courtesy of

It's interesting how both groups just do a copy & improve of each others' work yet seem to take complete credit for it.

Check out the impressive presentation from the dude with the equally impressive name.

Feb 17, 2010

email newsletter basics

It's a bit general but this guide by Smashing Magazine on email newsletter design is pretty comprehensive.  I particularly like the section to do with data collection.  It's definitely one area that most marketers fall over on.

Being Smashing, the main crux of it is very design focussed.  It's a good read regardless.


Feb 16, 2010


From one of the founders of The Pirate Bay, comes a new concept in paying for content.  Flattr is a social micropayments system that lets you pay for content as you consume it.

The idea is pretty simple.  You decide how much you're willing to fork out for content each month.  Then you just click on the icon in the content, for instance at the end of this blog post ;) and at the end of the month, your contribution is split evenly around all those that you've clicked on.

It raises some interesting questions around honesty and whether people will pay at all - when you can still get it for free.  But it will be an interesting social experiment nonetheless...


Sometimes people don't quite appreciate a surprise as much as you might think.

I think this was the case with Google when they decided to Buzz us gmail users recently.

Seems the community decided that getting auto subscribed with no user input, plus making it difficult to change settings and figure out what is public or not, was a bit too, um, surprising?

So Google has decided to backtrack and fix a couple of settings to be more obvious. Perhaps something they should have done in the first place?!

Wondering how much of this negative feedback was via Buzz itself?...

Feb 14, 2010

crying wolf in your inbox

Here's a great article on three things you can do to try to establish a sense of urgency in your email subject lines.

There is nothing more annoying than receiving an offer one day then an even better offer a few days later (when they clearly haven't achieved their sales target).  

Go on, cry wolf.  Good luck!

Feb 11, 2010


Google Buzz - Google's answer to twitter?

All this Wave, Gmail, Buzz stuff coming out of the same place is really starting to get confusing.

Am I alone in thinking that they seem to just be pushing out stuff without really much though to how it all fits together and, more importantly, how people are going to use it?

Feb 8, 2010

iPad mayhem

Now that the initial burst of media crazyness (26 posts in 48 hours from Engadget alone) surrounding the new Apple iPad has abated slightly, I thought I'd take a bit more of a look at what exactly this little bundle of electronics is and why I'm told I will be a better human by owning one.

When it comes to Apple, I'll sadly admit that I'm a slave to their marketing machine.  Even though I wont ever own a Mac of any type, I'll gladly buy whatever else Uncle Steve tells me I need.

But this thing, even though it's shiny and has the requisite logo I need, just doesn't do it for me.  But Stevo tells me it's magical and revolutionary so lets see if he's right.

According to, magical is 'of or pertaining to magic' and magic is defined in a few different ways.  My favourite though is this:

the art of producing illusions as entertainment by the use of sleight of hand, deceptive devices, etc.; legerdemain; conjuring:

When we look at the definition of  'revolutionary', we get:

radically new or innovative; outside or beyond established procedure, principles, etc.:

I love it!  Deceptive devices and illusions indeed!  And where exactly is the innovation here?  Where is anything being developed or produced or invented that is outside of 'established procedure or principles' when all this is is just a big iPod Touch?

As far as I'm concerned, the only thing I would have considered 'magical' about this device is it's marketing campaign, were it not for the fact that they accidentally put an 'r' in front of  'evolutionary'.

As for me, I'm happy with my iPad Nano - my iPhone :)