Thursday 24 December 2009

Crackunit Predictions

Iain's done the only predictions for digital in 2010 that has wetted my appetite.

Tuesday 22 December 2009

How Tiger Woods Got Big

Looks like Men's Fitness had to shaft the golfer for this interview in 2007, which ostensibly breaks his contractual interview obligations with Golf Digest. Full details in the Wall Street Journal

My marketing criticism is that his sponsors have dropped him, just as the guy sheds his  monotone personality and gets interesting. 

That's accenture, Tag Heuer, Gillete (wouldn't it be great if Wilkinson got their swordplay on by responding with a redoublement?) and Gatorade who slip down the ranks of brands without balls. Nike are standing by him so far.

Monday 21 December 2009

We're at a crossroads

Here's a brief history of money and intellectual property, however Doug Rushkoff (who put me on to Terence McKenna) is not in his best media format to present his case in my opinion. 

He's evidently under time pressure to pack in almost a millennium of financial history into fifteen minutes. He's a writer first and I think Doug comes across in a much more persuasive (and idiosyncratic style) on his podcasts over at the media squat. He's also more funny when relaxed and mulling over the world than in this video.

I still think it's important because the substance is nuts and bolts rewiring of our economies. Something I've been eager to champion long before the economic crash grasped the stock exchange's new found ability to ventilate and throttle money supply now that credit is the new cash flow (or maybe it always was).

Like Doug, I've a healthy scepticism of the digirati's enthusiasm for free. I think Chris Anderson's free-thinking about free is a bit weightless because it largely applies to the digital aristocracy. That's white boy Gen X'ers like me who get a lot of free services from Google (even though I don't put their ads on here). 

I don't see how Moore's law and free chips can put food in the mouths of hungry people if I'm on a buck a day which is a billion or so people on the planet. Paradoxically they are more prepped for what Doug Rushkoff is talking about because exchanging value is a lot more easier to do with a cart of melons and a mobile phone. But it's still not free of course. Neither is barter but it does sidestep use of fiat currency.

One thing about this spanner in the freeworks thinking is that while Doug might not have put his latest book out on the net for free, as an electronic amuse gul if you will, he's been kind enough to let me read his latest book Life Inc which I think is one of the more influential books that tackles the notion that 21st century fiat currency is an operating system which is past its sell by date. You can check out the reviews and order Life Inc over here.

Saturday 19 December 2009

Show Me The Money

This isn't quite the version I saw earlier on the bus and which had me howling with laughter but it's not far off. I like the lobster mounting the other lobster or is that just my imagination going to far? 

On a more sober note, there's lots to be talked about in this commercial. The rap posturing is vintage grandma gang sign hand flicks and says a lot about both who commissioned it and who it's aimed at (low income not asocial) It also reveals something I've asserted about Hong Kong for quite some time. It likes to keep its shop assistant and blue collar classes less educated than other tier one Asian economies. I've a theory about this but will probably run it by some more people before building a hypothesis about population density, per capita GDP and land resources and so on and so forth (My new McKennaism)

Right, time to chase an invoice.

Friday 18 December 2009

What is Transmedia?

It's fair to say that if you work in media and haven't caught on to Transmedia Planning then you are probably not part of the solution for 21st century communications. The old top down hierarchical control of media messaging that belonged to the 20th century and its devastating cultural enforcement through propaganda techniques are beginning to erode and the good thing is that it allows creativity and real engagement to flourish. What's transmedia? There are lots of explanations but flexibility and room for a story to breath is my sound-bite.

Thursday 17 December 2009


Tiger Woods quit golf, his wife left him today and as I recall accenture announced on May 26 this year that their Board of Directors had unanimously approved changing the company’s place of incorporation to Ireland from Bermuda. Via Jason

Friday 11 December 2009

Terence McKenna - Culture & Ideology Are Not Your Friends

A few weeks back I was listening to Doug Rushkoff's media masters podcasts and introduced to an unusually voiced character (actually they all have strange voices - Robert Anton Wilson, Bucky Fuller and Tim Leary) talking about Marshall McLuhan.

The person who captured my attention was Terence McKenna. His vocabulary is compelling. I've never heard anyone speak as interesting as this remarkable man although in a different way I'm also completely wrapped up in James Ellroy's spoken word too recently.

I've been hoovering up his entire Podcast oeuvre this last couple of weeks. So far this is probably 30 hours of first time listening and then as I tend to do repeats of exceptional episodes you can add another 15 hours on top of that - I've probably got another 20 hours to go on topics that have been repeated elsewhere or shared discussion formats, so I'm coming to the end of his solo audio captured work and I'm pretty sure now that there's very little I don't know what it took the man 50 years or so to accumulate before he died prematurely just before the millennium. It was the same when I got into Chomsky a few years back and I wouldn't mind if these discoveries happened a bit more frequently, but the reason they are greats is because they are few and far between.

I can't tell you how awesome it is to listen to someone who is exceptionally erudite and articulate expound on topics as diverse as James Joyce, Ethnobotany of Shamanism and Marshall McLuhan talk on two or three subjects close to my heart that I've never heard anyone else articulate. One of those is Culture & Ideology are not your friends and I think it's a terrific introduction to the man's work. You may or may not recall I wrote something similar here.

If you like that podcast, you may find his unusual adventures into the use of hallucinogenic sacred medicines as at the very least some of the most original thinking I've come across. Even if we discount his experiences in different dimensions I haven't explored since I did this tattoo, I find his thinking, hypothesis and conclusions rewardingly creative and intelligent.

You can download "Culture Is Not Your Friend" Over Here and below is a Scribd document of the speech. You can add the iTunes library of McKenna's free flowing and unscripted orations that defy conventional use of language over at Psychedelic Salon on Matrix Masters as they  raise the bar for the spoken language of English. Terence fucking rocks. Word.

Friday 4 December 2009

Book Competition - Chief Culture Officer

It feels like there's an air of unreality and hyper reality colliding in a mid jet-stream spectacular of post-modernism meets earnest-but-pedestrian commercial cheese. 

Well anyway that's how I would start writing a critique of the above video before tapering off into silence, because the task Grant has set out to is challenging but definitely not humourless.

All you need do is head over to Grant's blog Cultureby because he's giving away a copy of his warmly anticipated book Chief Culture Officer which is easily the most compelling argument for pinning down the stiffs and psychopaths in the boardroom and letting the humans of our species inside. You know it makes sense.

Thursday 3 December 2009


Square is a new micropayment/mobile phone payment system by the co-founder of Twitter Jack Dorsey.  It raises an interesting question about trust which is something I want to write more extensively about soon because trust is something that works on many levels including the media we consume. TV is (generally) a more trustworthy media than the internet because it costs a lot of time and money to get a communication message onto mainstream media's traditional screen but in any case I think this could be the most disruptive business model to the credit card business ever. 

Which would be a good thing. 

I think Paypal have blown it by being greedy, slow and thinking like a 20th century business rather than trying to figure out how to be truly revolutionary which often involves waiting a bit and not screwing the customer.

What interests me is that Jack Dorsey has already shown with Twitter that he is much more interested in doing the right thing than squeezing any business venture for immediate profit or Twitter would be looking different than it does now. Because of this I immediately trust him and take this new business seriously. The picture above shows the 'dongle' require to make payments and which works with an iPhone or an iTouch. Japan is way ahead of the game on the built in micropayments system for their mobile phones and may explain why Twitter always seem to pilot ideas in Japan first, but you can read more about Square over here.

Wednesday 2 December 2009

How To Fix Capitalism

The recession and the crisis and banking are the least of the reasons for thinking that we need reforms. the crisis of capitalism goes much deeper: the influence big business has on governments (and the warped policies this leads to), increasing central control of the economy and the general move away from free markets.. I have some modest proposals on how to fix capitalism.

Break up monopolies and oligopolies

Under existing competition (anti-trust in American) laws, it is necessary to prove abuse of the monopoly. This allows a business to avoid competition, because it has not been proved to have used particular practices. Competition may be locked out (for example, by network effects) and consumers may suffer from a lack of innovation or product quality, but none of that is illegal.

The solution is to assume that monopolies are harmful and should be broken up. Either this should be an invariable rule, or it should be up to the monopolist to prove that the monopoly is somehow beneficial. An exception should be made for natural monopolies, but the price of that should be tight regulation, nationalisation, or (best of all) mutualisation.

That still leaves the problem of oligopolies. The answer is simple: break up any company with enough market share to have a noticeable influence on prices — say more than 5% nationally or 10% at a city/county level. Again, they would need to make the case of exceptions.

Doing this would also mean that there would be no "too big to fail" banks, so a financial crisis would be easier to solve: let them go bust and nationalise the assets and liabilities.

Remove barriers to entry

Abolish patents. They have not been proven to speed progress: the evidence seems to be to the contrary. They definitely increase costs, are an inefficient way of funding R & D and allow oligopolists to block competition.

Reduce the copyright term to the optimal length suggested by research of about 15 years. It ought to be obvious that works produced in the reign of Queen Victoria should not be in copyright in the 21st century.Exclude works distributed with DRM from copyright to ensure that copyright works do fall into the public domain when the copyright expires. Reduce the copyright term on computer software to two years, and make copyright contingent on disclosing source code (so others can alter the software when it comes out of copyright). Abolish region of origin rules. It should be legal to describe a Cava (when selling it) as having been made in the same way as Champagne. Abolish unnecessarily restrictive licensing. Many US states require people to be licensed to work as interior designers or hairdressers. I can understand requiring doctors or auditors to be licensed, but these are just barriers to entry.

Reduce bureaucracy

The best example of the problem (or opportunity from his point of view) that I have heard, is something Ted Tuppen, the founder and CEO of the huge British pub chain Enterprise Inns, said. I may not have got the wording exactly right, but, as I remember it, it was:

There will always be pubs available to buy because owners of free houses are driven out of the business by the amount of bureaucracy.

Small businesses cannot cope with tight regulation. Big businesses can hire teams of lawyers and paper-pushers. This is one of the many problems with patents. The government, far from discouraging oligopolies, is actually encouraging their formation.

Stop being "business friendly"

People seem to be thinking much less clearly about this now than they did in the 18th century. Back then, the business friendly ideology was called "mercantilism", and this was the primary source of opposition to free markets. Now, governments profess to be in favour of free markets and "business friendly".

Of course, businesses sometimes want free markets, for example they do not want to regulated. On the other hand they also want to minimise competition, reduce costs, receive subsidies and form cartels. Businesses are usually in favour of free markets in general, but not in the specific case of their own industry.

The new mercantilism is the root cause of the problems most of my other proposals seek to solve. It has also lead to a failure to regulate properly. The obvious examples are the clear failures in the regulation of banks (such as allowing deposit takers to have high risk investment banking operations), but there are others: the US broke up Standard Oil and AT & T, but failed to break up Microsoft, reflecting the general trend towards letting businesses do as they like.

New mercantilism has dropped the one aspect of the 18th century form that I find has some redeeming features: economic nationalism. Democracy is compromised by the economic pressure tyrants can bring in a globalised economy. I also find it extremely odd that governments will minutely examine an applicant for a holiday visa, but allow a dubious foreign tycoon to gain great influence within their country by buying influential businesses.

New mercantilism is dishonest. It does not openly oppose free markets. Instead it relies on conflating free markets with capitalism.

Financially penalise large businesses

This idea is simple. Tax big companies more. This will discourage mergers except where there are clear gains. British tax law already has lower rates for small companies, but this does not go far enough. The rates should keep increasing as companies get larger (at the moment there are no further increases on companies with profits greater than £1.5m: I would suggest bands at say £15m, £150m and £1.5bn as well). Obviously, we would need similar systems in all major economies.

The size criteria should not be based on profit. It should be based on value added: so a big company that has a bad year would not see its tax rate reduce (obviously taxes paid would do down in proportion to profit).

Give shareholders control

Shareholders are supposed to the owners of a company, but in the case of large listed companies this control is limited. This does lead to problems:

Shareholders have to resort to expensive and disruptive means such as accepting hostile takeover bids to replace incompetent management — this also tends to encourage consolidation where there is no real economic benefit. Management have an incentive to focus on the short term. They can take their bonuses and leave, while accumulating problems for the future. Management tend to overpay themselves. As J.K. Galbraith said: "The high salary of the chief executive of a large corporation is not a market reward for achievement. It is frequently in the nature of a warm personal gesture from an individual to himself." Management indulge their egos, buy engaging in exciting takeovers, and risky businesses, rather than getting on with the humdrum but reliably profitable. It is impossible to prove what people were thinking, but it is hard not to believe that this contributed to the destruction of GEC/Marconi

Reject the corrosive "greed is good" ideology

Adam Smith never intended that the idea of the "invisible hand" should be interpreted as meaning that people should pursue their own interests, and that this would lead to an optimum outcome. He wrote extensively on morality.

The reason for those troublesome bonus schemes for directors is that it is assumed that they would not run the company as well as they could unless they were "incentivised" with payments for success. This contradicts management theory: Herzberg classifies pay as a "hygiene factor", a poor motivator compared to, for example, job satisfaction.

What is even worse is that by telling people that they are expected to be selfish, they become more selfish. Economics students become more selfish because they are repeatedly taught to expect that people are rational and selfish: the association between the two can only strengthen the effect.

Society is permeated, especially in business, politics and economics, with the idea that is people pursue their own interests, this will automatically lead to the best outcome, and that, therefore, people should be selfish. This cannot be fixed by endless incentives to align interests: life and business is too complex for that to work. A free market is not a substitute for integrity.

Break the loop

What matters most is the rejection of the new mercantilism, which will at least stop things getting worse, but we still need to undo the legislation and the structures that have been put into place at the behest of the mercantilists. The two go together: the rise of the new mercantilism is partly the result of the lobbying power of large corporations. Break them up and reduce their power and they lose their influence.

Education is also important. Most people cannot, at the moment, distinguish between capitalism and free markets, or see the parallels between the original and the new mercantilism.

Via Graeme

Simple Solutions

While Adam and I are still hammering out the details on the big economic/geopolitical stuff that probably wont really be of any consequence anyway, my friends over at Baby Creative in London have squeezed out this little film which I think has a nice simplicity to it worth bearing in mind.

Tiger Woo - MKULTRA Sports Edition

Y'all know Tiger Woods is an MKULTRA right?

Where did you think that Golf prodigy programming came from.

I don't usually take an interest in public figures lives and I really don't have any interest in Tiger Woods other than his mother's Thai extraction. But there's always been something quintessentially money focused about his golfing talent and a lack of interest outside the world of golf and money that I hope is a bubble which may now have been pierced.

This clip from Taiwanese TV gets away with far more than we're accustomed to and looks strangely accurate as well as a taste of the future.

The unusual spelling for this posts title is explained here, it's what the internet was invented for isn't it? 

Via Grant