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Archive for February, 2008


February 29th, 2008

3G iPod – Smartphone No-Brainer by Summer 2008

3G iPod – Smartphone No-Brainer by Summer 2008

When the iPhone launched last year, an awful lot of people lined up to say an awful lot of gushingly good things about it. And why not? On the face of it, it’s a brilliant little convergence device: the interface is superb, the screen is gorgeous, it fits nicely in your shirt pocket and iPhone owners genuinely smile when they use them (do try and stop that though).

However, there were at least two obvious drawbacks that prevented me and many other gadget-happy people becoming early adopters of iPhones.

Firstly, they are extremely expensive to own – partly because of the wanton wallet-opening lust they inspire in an endless line of consumers happy to pay almost any asking price, and partly because of some very shrewd exclusive regional mobile operator deals struck by Apple at the direct expense (literally) of its customers.

Secondly, for a smartphone, the current generation of iPhones really isn’t all that smart. You can’t add more memory, you can’t swap out the battery, you can’t run MS Exchange or Office on them and worst of all, what were Apple thinking not supporting 3G, the fastest mature mobile network out there, on the ultimate convergence phone? We still don’t get it.

Well, as far as the Total Cost of Ownership issue goes, we can’t see anything changing very quickly. Unless you’re happy to buy an iPhone unlocked on eBay and gamble on avoiding any automatic updates drawbacks or other form of censure, every indication suggests you’ll need to sign-up to a costly 18-month contract with your local iPhone purveyor – O2 in the UK – whether you want one of the current batch of iPhones or the next generation.

However, there ARE lots of rumblings that a proper 3G iPhone is just around the corner. TrustedReviews originally hoped for a January 2008 launch. The Register then predicted a May 2008 release. TimesOnline now thinks we’ll see them in the UK in June.

Overall I think we can agree 3G iPhones will ‘probably be here in the Summer’, but that’s about all. What we still still can’t fully fathom is why Steve Jobs really had such a downer on 3G in the first place? Was it truly all down to battery life and his belief just a year ago that WiFi support somehow made up for a lack of genuine mobile web browsing? (You’ve got to see this MacWorld clip from September 2007 by the way) Or do you think offering a huge suckered install base a rapid upgrade path and a new locked-in 18-month contract only halfway into their current deal was just too damn lucrative and dastardly a plot to resist?

If you see us smiling into our pockets on a commuter train this Summer, we might admit to being overly cynical. Watch this space.

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February 26th, 2008

Do all corporate execs use Internet Explorer?

Do all corporate execs use Internet Explorer?

Here’s a story from the UK side of the pond that I thought needed a bit of American commentary: FT’s $3,300 Per Year Social Network Fails At Firefox

As the story goes the UK’s snootiest newspaper, the Financial Times, set up a social network aimed at upper level corporate execs. The idea being that they could socialize with anyone else who is willing to spend $3,300 a year for membership. Yes, that’s right: the social network has a $3,300 annual fee. With the vast majority of experts agreeing that social networks are the key to targeted advertising, it never occurred to me that someone would pay for a social network.

But wait! It gets better: as Mashable points out in the article linked above, FTExecutiveforums.com renders improperly in Firefox! As an avid Firefox enthusiast (that admittedly has replaced IE on friends computers without them knowing) I think it’s only fair to point out that Firefox holds nearly 30% market share in Europe, where the FTExec is based.

So anyone out there that was rushing to grab a credit card to sign up for this exclusive online club, be forewarned: your Firefox browser will have some problems. Also, you should know that there are plenty of free social networks out there, that will happily display in Firefox.

Well, at least this gives FT-Exec members something to talk about beyond the yacht clubs, or what shade of white their business cards are, or what type of wood their desks are made out of…

(Transparency disclaimer: this post was indeed written in a Firefox browser)

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February 22nd, 2008

The Guardian gets it wrong

The Guardian gets it wrong

If you ever needed evidence that the media is still learning how to make use of Web 2.0, this is it.

When people post their views in comments sections across the internet, they are not shy about saying what they really think. The Guardian discovered this last week when it made… well, let’s just call it an error of editorial judgement.

The Guardian’s problems started when it published a travel blog on its site (click here to see the horror for yourself). The blog was to follow the ‘adventures’ of Max Gogarty, 19, as he embarked on a trip to Thailand and India. The Guardian readers were far from impressed, and their reaction was vitriolic.

It did not go unnoticed that Max Gogarty is the son of writer Paul Gogarty, a freelance writer that features regularly in the Guardian. The message boards erupted with accusations of nepotism. Commenter ‘saxonwhittle‘ summed up the general feeling quite nicely.

“Oh God, please spare us from poor little middle-class children trying to tout themselves on Daddy’s/Mummy’s newspaper, so they can follow in their parent’s footsteps.”

The fact that the blog was hackneyed and patronising just incensed people further. After all, the worst thing that a blog can do is patronise the reader. Isn’t it? Isn’t it? Yes it is, oh you are a clever reader.

“He looks like a cliche, talks like a cliche, and is about to embark on a monumental cliche,” wrote ‘lameplanet‘.

I must confess to having a little sympathy for Max, who could not have expected the torrent of anger directed at him. Having said that, a lot of the comments were valid – it is difficult to see how something of such low quality could be associated with the well-respected Guardian.

This will have been a valuable ‘learning experience’ for the Guardian, more aware than ever of the direct power Web 2.0 gives its readers. These readers have spoken and it is unlikely that we’ll see part two of Max’s blog.

Still, at least he’s having a nice holiday.

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February 20th, 2008

Don't misquote me!

Don't misquote me!

No amount of media training can stop you being misquoted, but the FT has some tips to minimise the likelihood of being misrepresented. In a story that rounds up famous examples of people apparently saying things they didn’t intend to, the FT advises interviewees to end with a conclusion that provides an accurate soundbite, to look out for ways your opponents can lift your words out of context, and to keep a native speaker to hand to stop you getting into trouble if you’re speaking a foreign language. The whole story is well worth a read.

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February 13th, 2008

HVDFP [Happy Valentine's Day From Prompt]

HVDFP [Happy Valentine's Day From Prompt]

AT&T; issued a press release this week, declaring Valentine’s Day as the busiest texting day of the year. Reports indicate the amount of text messages sent on February 14th jumps 33% higher than an average day, with Christmas a close second (30% higher) followed by New Years (26% higher).

AT&T;’s VP of Data Marketing (a man who gets paid to promote text messages) said “Today’s etiquette allows for serious or meaningful messages, like those sent on holidays, to be sent via text messages,” implying that there is a decreasing need for us to be in any real contact with our loved ones. It’s a little surprising to me that on the day Hallmark wants us all to send each other cards and go out to fancy dinners, it is now supposedly acceptable to just send out a text message.

The press release even provides a handy list of text message shorthand content that will be common on Valentine’s Day:

2G2BT [Too good to be true]
4EAE [Forever and ever]
4U [For you]
AML [All my love]
D8 [Date]
FTBOMH [From the bottom of my heart]
GNSD [Good night, sweet dreams]
H2CUS [Hope to see you soon]
ILU [I love you]
IMU [I miss you]
ISLY [I still love you]
IWALU [I will always love you]
KOTC [Kiss on the cheek]
KOTL [Kiss on the lips]
MUSM [Miss you so much]
QT [Cutie]
TY [Thank you]
TOY [Thinking of you]
URH [You are hot]
UW [You’re welcome]
XOXOXO [Hugs & Kisses]

I suppose they are saying that if you can’t be with the one you love, text them. Hopefully not too many people out there take this release to heart or there could be thousands of angry women all over the country this Thursday. But if you are planning a romantic text for Valentine’s Day, then you might actually find the following, lesser known, sms shorthands a bit more useful:

BMSLGF? [Be my Second Life girlfriend?]
2N2C ITGR8? [Too nerdy to call, isn’t texting great?]
RFR2$… @}-,–>—- [Real flowers are too expensive, so here’s a virtual rose]
W2D8NWOW? [Want to date in World of Warcraft?]
ILU BENE2C [I love you, but evidently, not enough to call]
IMASVA [I am alone, so very alone]
W2C2MPB? [Want to come to my parents’ basement?]
ROFL@ATT [Rolling on floor laughing at AT&T;]

So apparently cell phones don’t cause cancer, but they can still kill relationships…

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February 7th, 2008

Mobile phones don't cause cancer. Hooray!

Mobile phones don't cause cancer. Hooray!

A friend of mine has a theory about the emergence of the chav. He believes that extended mobile phone use has caused tumours and damage to the brains of these people, leading them to act, talk and dress in a particular way. The reason for this theory? ‘Chavs are always on their phones, aren’t they?’

Clearly this is absolute hokum, lacking any kind of scientific basis or logic, but it’s difficult, and infuriating, to argue with him – he just claims that there’s no real evidence that says he’s wrong.

So thank you Professor Naohito Yamaguchi of the Tokyo Women’s Medical University. Professor Yamaguchi was lead researcher in a study that examined the effects of hand set radiation levels on the three main parts of the brain. The team compared 322 brain cancer patients with 683 healthy people and discovered no increased risk of brain cancer from regular mobile phone use.

The brain cancer patients all suffered from one of three types of tumour – glioma, meningioma, and pituitary adenoma. The researchers rated the participants according to daily mobile use and the number of years they had used a mobile phone. They also studied the radiation emitted from each phone and ranked the devices according to radiation strength. No connection between the devices and cancer could be found.

The anti-phone groups are unconvinced. Campaign group Mast Sanity claims that the research indentified an ‘increase in glioma on the side of the head where the phone is used’. The research team put this down to reporting bias, but Mast Sanity believes it is evidence that can’t be ignored.

It’s a win for the pro-phones though, but more importantly it’s a win for me. Forget the implications to society – I’m just looking forward to the next time I go for a drink with my friend and he claims there is no evidence to refute his theory.

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February 7th, 2008

Ebay to ban negative feedback against buyers

Ebay to ban negative feedback against buyers

Ebay has announced plans to stop sellers from leaving negative or neutral feedback on their buyers, according to the BBC. Under the new system, the only way sellers will be able to warn other sellers about dodgy buyers will be to leave feedback tagged as positive but containing negative comments.

Ebay owes its success in part to the feedback mechanism where both parties in a transaction can leave public comments about each other when it concludes. Feedback can be scored as positive, neutral or negative. All Ebay members have a feedback rating calculated by totalling the number of positives and subtracting the negatives and that score is used as an indicator of standing in the Ebay community. You wouldn’t buy a Wii from someone with a feedback rating of zero, for example.

The problem is that sellers use the threat of negative feedback to coerce buyers into leaving favourable feedback for them, even if the buyer paid on time and got a load of rubbish in return. It’s interesting to note that on Amazon marketplace (where buyers have no feedback rating at stake), sellers tend to have lower feedback ratings than on Ebay.

Banning sellers from leaving negative feedback would shift the balance of power in the community towards buyers, and would undermine the spirit of equality that pervades transactions. It would also make it harder for newcomers to gain the trust of the community. Under the present system, members can shop on Ebay to build up their rating before attempting to sell something. That won’t carry much weight if the only option was positive feedback and the number of transactions without feedback isn’t reported.

As someone who’s both bought and sold on Ebay and who has a feedback rating of over 200, I can see something needs to be done but I’m not convinced this is the right solution.

Ebay has recently introduced detailed feedback scores for sellers, which covers things like how accurate the description was and how reasonable the P&P; charges were. As well as leaving the ‘positive/neutral/negative’ score which is publically attributed to them, buyers can leave anonymous detailed feedback. The scores are averaged and only the average is disclosed to the public (and then, only after ten people have left a rating). Perhaps a similar approach could be used across the whole site, so that it’s harder to see who’s left negative feedback. That would cut the risk of retaliation and encourage both buyers and sellers to be honest in their ratings. The downside is that buyers and sellers would effectively lose the right to reply, which enables them to explain what went wrong in response to any negative feedback. The average would also tend to smooth out any negative feedback, when it’s important for the community to know if 10% of parcels never get posted.

Anyone else got any ideas? I’m sure Ebay would appreciate the feedback.

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February 5th, 2008

Censoring social media

Censoring social media

This morning I learned that the Prompt TechBlog is starting to pick up in popularity a bit, which I am initially very excited about. Unfortunately, the way I discovered this growing popularity is through an increase in our amount of spam comments. We will eventually need to institute a captcha, or a more rigorous login system, but I think that it’s a tricky task to encourage a community response while at the same time making it difficult for readers to chime in.

This brings me to a moment this morning when I deleted a questionably spammy comment. It wasn’t on topic and the author’s name linked to an unrelated .biz site. This is a no-brainer delete, right? Well what is strange is that I feel slightly guilty about it.

As idealistic as this might sound, I don’t think social media should be censored. Obviously spam is a different case, but the point of “Web 2.0” is interactivity and involvement online. Altering a user’s ability to interact takes the “social” out of social media. Or, maybe I’m just sensitive to this concept due to the numerous recent examples of Web 2.0 censoring.

Social bookmarking site Digg has been under constant scrutiny this past month, as users have learned of secret editors who can bury stories that go against the company’s interests.

Expedia, the popular discount travel site is in the midst of a scandal which suggests that it has been censoring negative reviews of hotels that are the site’s paid sponsors. Apparently, negative trip reviews on Expedia drastically decreases a hotel’s popularity, a fact that was costing Expedia until negative reviews were removed.

Then there’s the shadiness behind Amazon’s “Top Reviewers,” who are, in fact, paid by independent companies for their positive words on products.

Transparency is the number one rule in good blogging; shouldn’t this extend to the rest of social media? As I said earlier, it’s idealistic to assume the social web could go uncensored, but it’s just sad to see the depths to which it is already falling.

I guess we can only hope that Web 3.0 technology will include some fancy integrated utopian functionality, or at least some quixotically themed widgets.

And lastly, to our censored commenter: “Ryan”- if you truly are a real Prompt Blog reader and you wanted to use our comment section to spark a conversation about some billionaire in NY and his illicit affairs, please email me. I’ll gladly republish your comment and open a dialogue on this completely irrelevant topic.

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