Facebook and ‘The Man’

The Man

This article from the Guardian seemed to be the most visible thing on the Internet round these parts yesterday: With friends like these… by Tom Hodgkinson

Facebook has 59 million users – and 2 million new ones join each week. But you won’t catch Tom Hodgkinson volunteering his personal information – not now that he knows the politics of the people behind the social networking site

I got sent it a few times by different people. And I read it and and was shocked and outraged.

Forget religion being the opium of the masses, Facebook is the CIA owned crack-cocaine of the masses! We’ve all been duped. It’s a soul-harvesting machine designed to harness the creativity and friendships of the whole world and funnel it for the forces of darkness and oppression.

Or something like that.

Anyway I was all set to shut down my Facebook account and rush to the land of hope, goodness and light, but then I had a couple of thoughts…

  1. I’m almost certain that the boards of most US companies can be shaken-down to find a couple of neo-con sympathisers with links to dark secret societies. Like it or not my friends that’s just the way the machine works. So I figured I shouldn’t be altogether that shocked about it.
  2. There’s nothing that interesting in my life that I’d be worried about the spooks seeing. I’m sure they could analyse my musical tastes and cross-tabulate them with the events that I’ve attended and figure out that I’m probably in the upper quartile of people with a likelihood of having tried recreational drugs at some point in the past.
  3. I should spend more ‘real’ quality time with people. But I know that already. And Facebook isn’t a big time drain for me, I only look at it every now and again, so it’s not replacing or getting in the way of my relationships.

But that’s not to say I wouldn’t advise getting out of Facebook right now if you are:

  1. The kind of person who wears a tin-foil hat, doesn’t own a mobile phone and doesn’t use the internet because all computers have little cameras that are beaming to the base on the dark side of the moon 24/7.
  2. Listing your interests as: political activism, evolutionary fuel-cell development or time travel.
  3. Spending more time looking at/for friends on Facebook than actually being with real people.

So I’m staying in Facebook, in a limited way. For now.

I still don’t like it all that much though.

The Frat Boys Are Back

For me Frat Houses were always a thing of great glamour and mystery. I guess it’s the teenage viewings of films like Animal House and Porky’s that make it all seem so exciting. But this film really changed my mind about all of that. It makes fraternities look like a bunch of knucklehead jocks that rule the US education system using fear, bullying and general badness. Whether that’s the case or not I’ve got no real place to say. And the authenticity of the documentary comes in for some stick over at Metafilter.

It just did a good job of shattering my illusions of frat life.

I’m finding that the Google Video ‘Download to iPod’ thing is a real winner for my commuting.

Investing in Content


Jib Jab – US peddlers of funny animations and stuff (my description not theirs) have just raised another $3m in funding from VCs – in total they’re reported to have raised $6m.

Read/Write Web have more on the story. I found myself nodding at this bit:

While this was supposed to be the beginning of the era of user generated video – the reality shaking out is more complicated than that. Specifically, advertisers are just not comfortable with the brand risk inherent in user generated content. That is changing slowly and it may continue to over time – but there’s likely to be a huge market for shops like JibJab long into the future. Likewise, video tools are now commodities and it’s all about the content you’ve got in your video service. Professional content is good, professional humor is great, say investors.

One thing worth noting about Jib Jab though is that they’re not a video production shop. If you look deeper into what they do there’s quite a lot of interactive innovation in there too. Don’t forget about making things interactive. Just porting a load of short form video-making skills online is only going to take you so far (in my humble opinion). Oh, and they’ve been very savvy in terms of getting commercial sponsorships and stuff as well.

Why I Love Abel and Cole

Abel and Cole

We’ve been getting organic boxes from Abel and Cole. Apparently it’s the done thing when you’re greenish and in your mid-30s.

But in the couple of months we’ve been using them we’ve not ever really managed to finish a box. So we end up chucking stuff out, which isn’t good for anyone. No one’s fault, we’ve just been busy, or not fancied what was in the box on the right day.

So I wrote them a nice mail. Explaining that it was nothing personal and if our circumstances change we’d certainly consider going back to them. I also explained that we’ve got a good local organic shop which means that we can get hold of nice things quite easily.

This is the email I got back.

Thank you for your email. I am sorry to hear you have decided to stop your orders from ourselves, but I do agree that a local organic grocer is even a bit better than ordering from us. Thank you for taking the time to let us know why you are cancelling. If you would like to start ordering from us again in the future we’ll be happy to try and adjust the amounts of produce you receive to suit your needs a bit better. I confirm the cancellation of your account and, we will be more than happy to welcome you back if your situation changes.

I read it and went, aah, that’s nice.

Then I read it again.

And noticed they’d said what! That it’s probably better not to use them in this situation! How bloody good is that!

I thought to myself, what a wonderful bit of copywriting. Then I realised of course this isn’t ‘copywriting’ at all, it was a real person writing to me, and it’s genuine, and it’s not self serving (at least not directly).

Nice one.

If you’ve not seen the Zappos story about the lady whose mother died and how they went above and beyond the call of duty you should check it out. It’s another great example of a company being human and it’s gone round the web leaving positive feelings towards Zappos wherever it goes. (Zappos are a US footwear ecommerce store by the way).

How Much For An Ad On A Bus in Google Street View?

If you’ve not seen it yet Street View in Google Maps is amazing. Lifehacker reports that it’s now in 15 US cities (and it’s coming soon to the UK judging by the fact that we saw a Google cam car driving round London the other day).


I’ve you’ve not mucked around with it, get on a map of NY or Chicago and have a play with Street View. It’s almost more impressive than Google Earth.

While I was playing I came across this:


And wondered what’s the value of a bus side inside Google maps? It’s lot more appealing to me than the Coke Zero ads in the UK ;-)

Marc Ecko’s Latest ‘Stunt’


Marc Ecko, he of ‘Tagging Airforce One‘ fame, has come up with another big noisy stunt.

He’s bought a baseball for 3/4 million dollars. It’s a controversial baseball. It’s the ball that was hit by some dude (Barry Bonds) who got 756 home runs (which is a record). But rumour has it he’s on ‘roids so there’s lots of debate around the legitimacy of the record in the US.

So Ecko has a newsworthy baseball. And in his words he’s going to “democratize the ball”. Basically visitors to http://www.vote756.com can vote for what they want to happen to the ball.

  • Stick it in a museum
  • Stick it in a museum with an asterisk on it
  • Or blast it into space

So far 1.5m votes have been cast. And lots and lots of people are talking about it, online, in the press, on TV, and all the other places that people talk about sports (and marketing and culture).

The San Francisco Chronicle report:

“He’s stupid. He’s an idiot,” Bonds said. “He spent $750,000 on the ball and that’s what he’s doing with it? What he’s doing is stupid.”

And they go on to say:

Bonds’ issue with Ecko was not that one of the three choices on the 756-ball ballot is sending it to Cooperstown branded with an asterisk, an implication that his record is tainted by alleged steroid use. Bonds merely suggested the guy could have found a better use for three-quarters of a million large.

I’m not so sure. As the guys over on the Fallon Planning Blog rightly point out, $750,000 don’t get you all that much coverage in the US. And the website looks like it costs peanuts.

Based on the number of votes cast, let alone the PR impressions that he’s had across the US (and the wider world). That ball wasn’t such a stupid investment after all… (But as Igor just pointed out to me Mr Ecko could have tried to do something actually good with the money like cure AIDS, which is true also…)

I Consume Therefore I Care


Those ‘I am not a plastic bag’ bags really make me sad.

When they launched in the UK and created a consumer frenzy I was a bit upset. Now I read about their launch in the US I’m getting even more upset.

I think it’s such a shame that the only way to ‘make a point’ is to buy a designer bag. Sure it’s not made of plastic. But I’m pretty sure that the people who are queuing up to buy the bags aren’t the kind of people whose homes are void of bags.

I guess it’s making people talk about bags (plastic or otherwise). But it’s not the right thing to be doing… Is it?


Miami Nice

Sorry for lack of blogging. I’m in Miami.

I’m at the Clios Advertising Festival thingy. I’ll write some stuff about my impresions of what people have talked about and generally what’s going on when I’ve had a chance to digest and ponder. But in the meantime here’s some things that I’ve found interesting about Miami.

They have cool bikes, lots of big cruisers here:

Sometimes bikes have chickens on them:

There are R2D2 postboxes, which I’ve never seen before:

Starbucks really does sell music in the US now, bigtime:

And their touchscreen interface is pretty good:

You’re not allowed guns in the hotel.

It seems to be generally OK just to lie down wherever you like.

As I said I’ll post some real stuff again soon. But it is hard to sit down and think about doing a blog when the weather is nice. I’ve suddenly found a new respect for people who write blogs and come from places with nice weather…

A Couple of Cool Things

Burton have designed this (as yet unreleased) sleeping hoody. I’ve always struggled to find the perfect item of clothing for long journeys. This looks like the designers have nailed it (or at least had a damn good go). The Complex blog reports that it’s got:

  • integrated neck pillow in the hood
  • pull down light shield to cover eyes
  • cuff thumb holes
  • internal pocket for tickets and passports
  • hidden stash pocket with ear plugs
  • pit zips to keep you ventilated

So that’s one problem solved then.

But what about my issue with trainer storage? I have quite a few pairs of them and it’s tough to find something that holds lots, is usable, and doesn’t look too aweful. This thing looks pretty interesting. Although it’s only availible in the US.

Via: Josh Spear

Another Apple Post

This will just be one blog post about probably the most blogged about thing ever. The new Apple iPhone. Here’s a couple of thoughts…

  • It is the ultimate in gadget porn
  • Features some proper interface wizardry
  • Looks like another genre-defining piece of product design
  • Interestingly they’ve done deals with both Yahoo! and Google
  • It’s not as stupidly expensive as you might have thought
  • The queues to get hold of one are going to be massive
  • Whichever network gets territory exclusives on these these things is going to clean up (but they probably paid a fortune for it I’d guess).

But we’re all going to have to wait for months before we can get our hands on them. Even longer for us poor suckers outside of the US. There’ll be lots of people posting lots of smart stuff about this. So I’m not going to attempt to say anything much…

Apart from the fact that I think it looks like the kind of thing that I’d like to own, very much.