Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Freight Train

There are so many things I should blog about. Our recent social media one-day workshop, for instance, or our trip to Taupo, Napier and Rotorua (here are some photos, anyway).

But what I'm going to blog about today is a freight train I saw. I'm smacking my head (metaphorically) that I forgot to take a photo.

Commuter trains are kind of cute. They have much more character than buses, and there's something ... comforting about them.

Freight trains are something different. They are wild horses. They are ravenous beasts. They stop for no one, and their roar is shrill and piercing. They carry a kind of pain and urgency, as they break through the bells that signal their arrival and hurry on, their empty ribs speeding past, wordlessly threatening anyone who dare cross their path.

At least, that's what I thought as the freight train went by this morning.

Thursday, 17 April 2008

And the winner is...

Marie and I went to the Hitwise Online Performance Awards last night, and I gave a 5 minute speech (here's what I planned to say).

It was good to see the winners, find out some interesting statistics about online, and meet others in the industry.

But it could've been a lot better, without increasing the budget at all.

Admittedly, Hitwise hit their target, which was speed. They successfully announced 165 winners over an hour and a half.

But what about the suspense?

Each category was announced, and then the winners were shown on screen, while the Hitwise staff read out each name.

It was like watching paint dry.

And we got pretty sick of hearing "" ... but I guess that's an occupational hazard when dealing with New Zealand websites.

Then there was - almost like an afterthought - the explanation of what it meant to win a Hitwise award. And even then, it wasn't in much detail.

What could they do better? Storytelling.

Instead of reams of (very useful) statistics about the industry, how about some information about what it takes to be a Hitwise Online Performance Award winner?

How about - at the very least - keeping back the winner's details until they're announced?

How about analysis of trends, seeing who are the long-term champions and who's new to the top of the table?

How about some storytelling, the way they do sport here in New Zealand? And in Australia, where all the Hitwise staff came from.

And how about some decent grub!

Complaints aside - the good points were, good venue, good sponsor (ahem), and good networking.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Jump In#19: Your comments + the Jump In story

More info: The people have spoken! See video comments from Ron in Oaxaca and Gideon in Brisbane, and hear Adam's audio comment from Prague! Then see Simon's uncensored podcasting presentation at a recent event hosted by the Internet Bureau. The competition's still open, if you want to be in to win Joseph Jaffe's Join the Conversation. Just send in your video or audio comment to

Friday, 11 April 2008

India, not China

This morning at a business breakfast I sat next to an elderly couple who'd been missionaries and publishers in India for years.

I asked them what they thought of India's mammoth growth into a world power. A very interesting reply:

"Not many people realise that India is going to be much bigger than China. China is growing faster because it's a communist autocracy, but India will outgrow it because they have a stable infrastructure."

He pointed out that a lot of that infrastructure has to do with India's colonial past, which has led to a democratic government, a supreme court that parliament can't overturn, a share market and an amazing rail network that's working 24/7.

Jack Yan pointed out something very similar in his press release warning that New Zealand may regret its recent free trade agreement with China.

I don't have much to add - yet. I have, however, nearly finished The Dragon and the Foreign Devils, a history of China's foreign relations for the last 6000 years or so.

It's shocking just how recently China was an absolute wasteland, during the cultural revolution in the 1960s. It is incredible how quickly things have turned around, thanks to the canny wisdom of Deng Xiaoping and, to a lesser degree, his successors. But still there remains an unhealthy tension between closed, undemocratic government and free markets.

Next on my reading list is The Tiger and the Dragon (I think I've got the title right), a look at both India and China. I'm looking forward to it!

On another completely different note, China's well-known for its bad human rights record with Tibet, Falun Gong, etc. What's less well-known is the intense persecution of Christians in India's rural areas.

(Thanks to leicui for the image!)

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Kevin Roberts

saatchi roller
Originally uploaded by loop_oh
Just listening to Kevin Roberts on the Knowledge@Wharton podcast.

Some observations:

1. Kevin's accent, like any Brit who's spent some time in NZ then lived in America, is really fun to listen to.

2. He's demonstrated the power of lovemarks by essentially branding observations that anyone could make, and using his own considerable personal charisma.

3. He's made the mistake many make, by thinking that the iPod's success is all about branding. Yet Apple doesn't fit the mould of Lovemarks, which advocates (correctly) that brands need to cede control to the customer. He says people will choose the ipod over other mp3 players because they've mastered sensuality, intimacy and mystery. Tosh. They've dominated the market because they've made it ridiculously easy to put music on your machine, and they've made it look cool. Sensuality, yes, but most of all, I don't have to think when I sync my ipod. That's what gives it initial success in the market; after that it becomes the default term for "mp3 player" ... kind of like Google, and for exactly the same reason. Usability.

That big mistake aside, it's a very interesting interview, both for its content and as a way of studying Kevin's interview style - he's an inspiring communicator. Good story about a Coke machine and a machine gun.

And - of course - some nice words about New Zealand.

Monday, 7 April 2008

What is the cinema industry's death wish?

5.24.06 Cinema
Originally uploaded by M J M
So we went to the movies on our tenth anniversary last week. We saw an average-to-not-so-good movie. But what bothered me was the disaster that is the cinema experience these days.

We don't get out much, and when we do, we sort of expect it to be ... I dunno ... good? What happened to the movies, that's what I want to know?

Maybe it's just my imagination, or nostalgia, or whatever, but I seem to remember the whole experience used to be magical.

Now, it seems there's a conspiracy to take away the magic.

Consider this:

1. Why is a popular, intelligent-looking film like Michael Clayton only playing at 1:50pm on a Friday? And why is there so precious little else on that seems appealing?

2. Why is it so easy to get lost at Village SkyCity Metro? (I mean, one thing they have got right is the architecture - it's a kinda cool place to get lost in, but it would also be cool to not get lost!)

3. Why is it impossible for the girl behind the counter to divide a large popcorn into two boxes? Not just difficult, absolutely impossible.

4. Why is my icecream in a plastic bag? That just sucks.

I guess my gripes come under three broad categories:

1. Clueless staff who are just there to pass the time and earn a wage.
2. Systems built for efficiency, not customer experience.
3. Crappy movies.

Okay, so a cinema chain can't do much about the crappy movies, but they could invest in staff training, and they could design systems that make me feel like I didn't make a mistake shelling out nearly 50 bucks to come to the movies with my wife.

The kind of service we get doesn't match what the price has become. Cinemas, wake up! Stop nickel-and-diming yourself to death. Your demise has been predicted many times, but you can actually make a difference, by focusing on the experience of your customers.

It's not rocket science. But it is. Very. Important!

Film review: Vantage Point

Is it really that hard to combine action, character and story? I guess it is.

From the trailer, Vantage Point seemed to have a lot going for it - the same, controversial event, seen through the eyes of multiple characters, in the style of Rashomon.

But at the end, despite a truly adrenaline-filled action ride, Marie and I left the cinema saying Vantage Point was OK, if even that.

Why? Maybe there were too many characters, and none of them had any discernible depth. I got excited when I saw Forrest Whitaker was in the cast, but he was sadly wasted as a two-dimensional, all-American tourist. The same with William Hurt's American President - he got maybe two really good lines in the whole piece, but apart from that showed very little complexity.

Vantage Point will satisfy you if you want 24, but shorter. If you want complexity that reflects the increasing complexity in our world, you'll find this movie wanting.

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Jump In #18: Breakthrough Strategist Jake Pearce part 2

(Find out more at This week we continue our talk about blogging with breakthrough strategist and Generation C expert Jake Pearce. Hear how a solo consultant uses blogging to amplify word of mouth, and get his ideas across. And dont forget to send your audio or video comment to to be in to win Joseph Jaffes amazing book Join the Conversation!  

Jump #18: Breakthrough Strategist Jake Pearce part 2

This week we continue our talk about blogging with breakthrough strategist and Generation C expert Jake Pearce. Hear how a solo consultant uses blogging to amplify word of mouth, and get his ideas across. And dont forget to send your audio or video comment to to be in to win Joseph Jaffes amazing book Join the Conversation!   

My first year in office

It's been a year today since I've been in this office in the heart of Auckland City.

And what a year!

About this time last year, Marie and I were busy unpacking desks, chairs, bookshelves and trying to assemble the kitset coffee table. It took all day, and it was soo fun.

We ended up eating Wendy's (where Marie used to work many years ago) at around 9:30pm.

Since then, here are a few lessons learnt:

  • Life is hard, and it's meant to be. You can't half-ass business, or life. There are ways to succeed, and they are always more expensive, more time-consuming and more detailed than you want them to be - but it is worth it, when you look at the long view.
  • In a virtual world, cities are more important than ever. I love being in town, not just because I can walk to most appointments, but because I'll randomly bump into people I know. Plus, people in the city tend to be doing more exciting things than the people in Waterview (the last suburb we lived in) - although that's only based on what I can see! :)
  • Sometimes it's hard to see when you've done well. Can I be really honest with you? Things have been pretty tight in the last year. Sometimes I wonder if I'm doing something wrong, but then I realise, hello!, I'm paying for an office in the centre of New Zealand's largest city, and my wife is working with me full time. All things considered, things have been pretty successful!
For this year, we're planning to share the office. Marie's now working from home most days, so there's a lot of empty space going begging. There's a bit of an echo in here! I want to soften the sound with some people. We'll be offering monthly, weekly and casual rates because I know often freelancers don't know their schedule (or finances) well enough to make a long-term commitment. More details soon!