Monday 29 October 2007

Kiss my sweet ass

Rob Campbell over in Singapore is warming up for some trouble making. I know this because he asked me on Facebook what I thought of the Nokia N95 and I told him straight. I was hoping to do an in depth review of this model, because its a complex bit of kit and even the iPhone is not yet performing perfectly in the smart phone category, as I've noticed from a few people's twitters, including my friend Steve Portigal who is quite the champion of user operability.

Anyway now that Rob has forced my hand (Charles shakes fist in an inappropriate and very suggestive manner) I'd better just crack on with it and describe my N95 experience thus far.

But before that I want to compare it with the smart phone called the i-mobile 902 I owned in Thailand, 2006 which did 70% of the functions the N95 had, but with a much more sophisticated digital camera and which I blogged about over here, along with examples of the photography. That phone cost me about 280 Euros which if you remember that 1 Dollar converted to 76 Euro cents when it was launched and now will get you 56 Euro cents gives you an indication of what we planners call a 'trend'. I digress I believe an N95 can cost up to 700 Euros, which a year later is at least twice as much as the i-mobile I bought in Thailand - Economics lesson over ;)

So the bottom line is that the N95 is a bit of a slug, either the processing power isn't sufficient or the services that sit on it are too cumbersome. It's not fast enough in layman's language and furthermore my experience with the example I'm packing is that it's prone to shutting down or occasionally needs a reset by removing the battery. But what worries me most is that Scoble twittered today some problems he is experiencing. That's not good because I think Nokia gave him the phone to test-run and he's an A list blogger.

But let me tell you why I think Nokia brands really shine compared to Sony Ericsson. My first experience of Nokia apart from the double chocolate chip user interface was the experience of dropping one to the floor. You know what I'm saying?


Allow me to share a little. Here is my friend Lauren's phone.

You question the veracity of the shot?

Lauren, we got a deal for that shot. Not a brand book deal. A human to human deal. You get my drift.

Then there is my backup phone.

This is the phone I use when my battery has run out on my swish N95. It looks a bit beaten up doesn't it?

Here's a closer look.

It's a bit blurred as indeed I was when I took the shot (a cheeky red or two) but you can see the screw exposed on that corner still held in place by the molding. My God they build those Nokia phones sturdier than a Rob Campbell mercurial point of view dancing from one Fred Astaire light footed soliloquy to another Falstaffian bluff or other.

Yes the N95 is a flawed, and possibly a precocious genius, but time will tell who is going to own the Smart Phone segment and I can say that I've had a look at the N96 which is quite impressive although I can't say anything about it quite yet. Good on Rob for being a sport and buying a competitive phone to really put it through its paces and I'm looking forward to his write up on the N95 although I don't expect anything vastly different from what I've been saying. Perhaps a little more vitriolic though :)

Sunday 28 October 2007

Nokia N95

I'm road testing the Nokia N95 which means I get to take a load of pictures and videos so here's a sample of the what I've been up to. (Update: Few format probs to sort out here)

First I went to Oulu in Finland 200 Kilometres south of the Artic Circle.

But it wasn't snowing so it looked like this really

and this

The we paid a visit to the Nokia Future Labs where they get to play with lots of cool shit like M does in the Bond films.

And I was so loving this dog that I forgot what the connection with mobile phones was, but it must have been good right?

And a phone that can sort the shopping out for the fridge can't be all that bad a replacement for shopping lists can it?

But with so many toys around the joint there's a serious charging job to do.

And of course you need some kick ass remotes as well.

Not to mention some heavy duty mobile command telescopic spying devices

The engineers enjoy a certain genre of postcard. I couldn't figure out the name though.

And of course testing those phones means they have as many chargers as we get lumbered with

But it's OK for them because after all that 'where's my charger' action the Finns take their saunas quite seriously (it's a religion I overheard), and they are all over the work place, like here on the third floor

and here on the fourth floor in case you need to relax on the way up the stairs ;)

But they are into the coolest stuff

Which is ace by me because those software scientists and Nokia guys are developing the killer app to end all killer apps for people like me who are learning to speak Chinese but will probably never be able to read it well. A phone that can translate Chinese text on the go. Awesome!

There was loads of other stuff too that I can't talk about, because if I did I'd have to kill you or send over one of my Ninja guys to take care of things if you spilled the beans. You know how it is. More on that review later because I've got a whole lot more to say on the N95 and it aint gonna win me brownie points.

Onslaught Turns Into An Avalanche?

Via Paul Isakson

Update: Russell has chipped into this discussion.

Wednesday 24 October 2007

The Heart of Darkness - Pol Pot's Car For Sale

One of the things I love most about Cambodia is that on each visit I see new growth. I don't mean the X.X% GDP growth that will choke us all in good time anyway if we don't rewire the economy, I mean the kind of growth that means the kids look a little cleaner, and a little less grubby. I guess it's the kind of growth that is really a reversal of growth in some ways, as a diminishing number of children are seen running around wearing shabby rags as clothing.

On my first visit, my driver called Elephant, took me around the killing fields and the notorious Tuol Sleng prison which was a school before it became a dark horror story of a torture concentration camp, a place where the Khmer kids were more barbourous than any of the adults could ever be, where they thought up the most ingenious ways to cause pain and suffering to the prisoners of the Khmer Rouge regime, which really only came to power because there was a hell of a shit fight going on in that part of the world through Vietnam and another war on something terrorful for safety. I'll never forget when I asked Elephant if he had lost any family members, how dispassionate he was retelling the story where his brother was killed by the Khmer Rouge after he stole a car to run away from the commune. He was caught, bound and immobilised before being run over in the same car he had taken. Stories like that are two a penny a Cambodia and few people want to think about the bad old days.

Anyway I could go on about how 300 kilometres or more north of the capital Phnom Penh lies the temple Angkor Wat, which in my mind is profoundly mysterious to the history of civilisation with it's Indian architecture dedicated to the God Vishnu, and how much fun I had hiring a motorcycle trials bike and generally just whizzing around on my own, playing with M16 guns and grenades on a range, and partying hard in the Heart of Darkness, but maybe that stuff isn't really interesting but it was a part of my life that I look back on fondly. Or maybe it was the butterflies that flew over the burial pits in the killing fields, on a beautiful day as I reflected on the whole thing that gave me a lot to think about.

One of the oddities of that period was the discovery by a friend of mine that Pol Pot's stretch Limo (Don't all agrarian economy Marxist tyrants run around in stretch Limos?) was being used to ship melons to the market in the capital. I felt at the time it was wrong to profit from that vehicle but like those kids who not only look cleaner on each visit but also have no recollection of that insane time, I think time has moved on. I'm particularly pleased that a portion of the profits now that it is on sale will go towards a charity. You know who you are if you are reading this but the bigger the chunk that goes towards the growth of Cambodia the better the Karma. What goes around comes around.

Sunday 21 October 2007


Well of course I love this next commercial and the values it stands for, but as I've said in the comments over here and here, and indeed to the client Unilever (the owners of the Dove brand), I don't think it's honest for a multinational to put 'keep-it real-credentials' in the 'Campaign for real beauty' while they sell skin whitening creams to among others, Indian subcontinent and South East Asian countries that are by nature blessed with dark skin.

Just doing the focus groups for these kind of products can be quite tough for those of us who think a bit about the effects on the culture of the societies that we make advertising for. Take Thailand for example, based on qualitative research, some office secretaries (for example) will choose who they take lunch with in groups, based on the whiteness of skin.

The darker skins are considered too 'rural' for those who want to climb the whiter skinned ethnic Chinese communities that effectively run S.E. Asia big business.

The aspiring English classes also used to take a dim view of darker skin in previous centuries because it indicated an agrarian lifestyle working in the fields. So I'm not trying to speed up cultural and media literacy development in these countries (or maybe I am), but I am suggesting to Unilever that specifically on it's skin whitening creams, it puts a disclaimer on ALL those products that Unilever embraces skin of all colours.

Otherwise its a bit hypocritical to be a campaigner for real beauty, when it's fake beauty and discrimination that powers one of the fastest growing skin care categories in many parts of the developing world.

Update: I see that the original video was pulled for copyright reasons but that that a remix is now resurfacing for the same issues of resource exploitation but this time the targets are Nestle.

Friday 19 October 2007

Four Continents Capital

As we approach 'Peak Oil' it makes perfect sense that the city boys will look towards the developing economies for a source of cheap energy, you know, like being run around town and saving on electricity for household chores not to mention maintenance. There is an alternative source. I'll write about this a bit more if this provokes any comments.

Wednesday 10 October 2007

White Swans

I've been borderline garrulous recently about a potential new model for the marketing communications business which is classic recombinant culture theory that I nicked off Faris. It would take some balls from an agency and even more from their respective clients to seriously implement but in principle it's about mixing and remixing some transmedia planning along with fair chunks of the book, The Black Swan which I talked about at length here.

To save a wee bit on time I want to cut and paste from that post:

"Our view of history is always explaining backwards as best we can. This is a linear approach that cauterizes the true story. Even more breathtaking is the idea that viewing history by working backwards is a fallacy, because history is actually always moving forward."

I ran this by Johnnie Moore the other night (you should check out his ace podcasts) at The Endurance pub in Soho while Piers was in town, and without even ruminating for a second, Johnnie cheerfully fired back that Kierkegaard wrote something similar as follows:

"Life is understood backwards, but is lived forwards"

This was the first seductive simplification that knocked me for six, and I scribbled it down quick on my hand because I knew it was, as are many of Johnnie's thoughts and occasional silences on lots of stuff, really important. It was lovely to see the ink on my skin the next day to remind me to give him a shout about it. I just did. Thanks Johnnie :)

So it's not like I've really discovered anything new, or I'm responsible for inventing anything seminal, but earlier today, as once again I ran the thoughts I've been bundling together on "transmedia-planning-meets-black-swan-mashup" by a generously attentive listener who works in the strategy game, she encapsulated the bit about The Black Swan that takes ages to explain. Describing narrative fallacy and how it leads to the illusion of predicatability that many draw from so called dependable data is not easy, and is actually probably just me trying to be too smart for my own good, but in essence Tania my listener, chipped in and captured the thrust of my long monologue with a lovely expression which she and her colleagues call 'the upside of risk'.

That made for two very seductive simplifications.

That'll do for the time being as I've still got lots of things about China that I'm practically bursting to blog about. So in the spirit of some timely recombinant culture media here is that White Swan I saw walking down the road in Marlow. The file wouldn't open from the Sony mobile phone when transfered to a Sony Vaio PC which Rob has nothing to do with, so instead, I've squirted a Nokia N95 mobile phone video on to it. I may come back and rotate it to portrait, if I find someone who can actually do important stuff like that, but in the meantime here's a White Swan doing a 'Black Swan'. Or put another way, a bird walking down a street that is right up mine.

Sunday 7 October 2007

The Management

While taking a walk early in the morning around the Compleat Angler in Marlow (a beautiful part of England) last week where I was attending the most intensive customer segmentation gig of my life, I came across a rather large Swan walking down the road. It was too incongruous not to whip out the only camera device I had, a Sony P 900 and film it in regrettably low resolution. Anything better than nothing I thought. Sadly it wont play on the 'puter for what looks like anti convergence reasons, and I'm a bit miffed so while I figure out a solution, I'm going to post a couple of shots from the infamous i-mobile 902 that I took inside the supper club side of Bed Supper Club in Bangkok, as it was closing down. Mucking around with light gain is one of those camera features that turns a snapper into an accidental photographer.

Incidentally for those who might want to know Q Bar was looking dangerously like it has lost the plot. Brimming with hookers and low on customers this veritable clubbing/music institution needs a creative director if the night I dropped by was typical of their weekends. However it was really terrific to see the staff again who really are some of the most professional in Thailand so I might as well post some relevant Q Bar (staff) shots too. They were always so nice to us and made us feel welcome. These are also for Dino who I'm hoping gets to play a set in Bed should I be in town.

Bed Supperclub

Q Bar

So that Swan? I'll nail it somehow or someway and next time not digress so wildly either.

Friday 5 October 2007

Disco Diva - Finnish Dance Moves

Finnish nightclub dancing emerged during the Boney M debate and this morning, in an attempt to get some energy into a NOKIA conference/induction thingy I'm attending, I was summoned up front to do some Finnish Disco dancing

It's too coincidental not to blog so here it is. Stuff like this just cracks me up.