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 Onlineopinion.com.au

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.
Travel.com.au - 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!