Archive for October, 2007


Tony is Alive!

Holy cow, Tony is alive. Kiefer promises that they’ve “pulled out of the stops” this season. Bringing back Tony and casting him as the baddy is simply genius.

Update: Fox has removed the trailer from YouTube (you’d think they wouldn’t mind people creating some free buzz about their brand). You can view it at 24trailer.com.

 Tags: Random   Published: 26th October '07

Henfield from Space

Google Maps has just been updated to include more high-res imagery, including the sleepy village of Henfield (where I was brought up). I’ve always been curious to see which of my neighbours have a swimming pool and now I can finally find out.

Update: I’ve updated the map to include some key landmarks in Henfield and the surrounding area. Zoom out and scan around to see some where they are, or view the map in it’s full screen glory.

 Tags: Random   Published: 24th October '07

“If you can’t, you must.”

I have lukewarm feelings about the ‘personal development’ industry that packages often useful advice in a completely dramatised and hyped up manner. I tend to resonate with the occasional piece of wisdom and this quote would be one example.

I can’t draw. So I grabbed myself a drawing pad and a pencil and gave it a go. Here’s my first stab:

Joao Drawing

I’ll post another picture in a month or so for you to see if I’ve made any improvements.

 Tags: Random   Published: 22nd October '07

Facebook Now Reveals Demo Data

Facebook has just made a minor but nevertheless interesting update to its Flyers Pro service. A minor tweak in the UI now reveals the total number of users who fulfil your selected targeting preferences. From this, you can deduce some quite random titbits:

  • There are 19.9m users in the US, 6.4m in the UK (1 in 10), but only 83,640 in China.
  • Facebook is not as youth focused as you might expect. 62% of UK users are over 23.
  • Americans are romantically challenged. 40% state they’re single (just 28% in the UK).
  • 120 people working for MySpace US use Facebook. Just 20 Bebo UK employees are users.
  • Almost 1m US users list Simpons as one of their favourite TV series, whereas Family Guy has 2m fans.
  • 0.38% of Liberals love Britney Spears, versus 0.26% of Conservatives. Go figure.
 Tags: Business, Internet   Published: 21st October '07

Internet Pet Hate

I’m a lazy Internet user. This means that when I go to a website, I’ll skip typing the www. prefix into the browser’s address bar. This is usually painless, and I’ll be swiftly taken straight to the site I want to access, or at least redirected to the homepage.

However, if I enter ryanair.co.uk into the browser, I’m lead to an error page (although, curiously, ryanair.com does work). This is absolutely crazy. Companies almost exclusively brand their website address as being company.com, and rightly so. It doesn’t sound great to pronounce the prefix in a TV or radio commercial and it looks ugly in print. However, it’s obviously crucial that it works.

Fixing this problem would take any savvy webmaster a matter of minutes. I’m quite positive that many users who reach the error page will switch off and go elsewhere. Companies that neglect to address this are losing millions a lot.

I’ve dropped Ryanair an email to bring this to their attention. I’ve previously been sucessful in convincing bet365.com and expedia.co.uk to make this change. Fingers crossed Ryanair will see the light and send me some free flights – excluding baggage fees, of course.

 Tags: Business, Internet   Published: 16th October '07

Great British Grub

British food gets a lot of stick. I have to confess that French or Italian food wins hands down any-day. However, whilst not quite culinary delights, English food really isn’t all that bad.

Here is some classic English fare:

  • Shepherds & Cottage pie
  • Roast veggies
  • Yorkshire pudding
  • Toad-in-the-hole
  • Bangers & mash
  • Fish & chips
  • Lancashire hotpot
  • Cornish pasty
  • Steak & kidney pie
  • Stew & dumplings
  • Spotted dick
  • Rice pudding
  • Bread & butter pudding

Marks & Spencer’s food TV spots are simply awesome (possible my second favourite campaign, behind Sony’s Bravia ads). If this doesn’t whet your appetite for some English grub, I’m not sure what will:

 Tags: Random   Published: 16th October '07

Is Facebook Worth $5b?

Microsoft’s rumoured interest in a 5% stake of Facebook will reportedly set them back $300m, valuing Facebook at a whopping $5b.

Facebook ValuationThe Times ran an interesting article making a comparison against other companies with a similar net worth, such as British Airways. Facebook makes just 5% of the profit and has a far weaker liquidity (jet planes vs. servers), so it appears to be a pretty wild valuation.

There is little doubt that Facebook’s growth will continue to explode, especially if they finally get around to localising the platform. However, there may be a valid concern that their growth may be limited to just English-speaking countries and across Europe. Norms of social interactions in Asia and the Middle East may be sufficiently different to prevent Facebook from gaining any significant traction. Moreover, competing networks have gained a strong first mover advantage, providing an impregnable barrier of entry for Facebook.

My prior testing with Flyers Pro suggests that whilst the product provides interesting targeting options and a healthy ROI for direct response advertisers, it’s proving hard to scale since their ad auction quickly ditches your campaign in favour of more profitable CPM based ads. I’m skeptical that the simple skyscraper ads will be enough to please brand advertisers, so it’d be my opinion that they really need to experiment with some more innovative advertising solutions to warrant their mammoth price tag. Embedded movie trailers, music streaming, or gadget ads could be a great way for companies to target specific demographics in a completely non-intrusive way. Another interesting option would be to allow advertisers to target ‘social butterflies’; specific people who are core to the social graph – for example, it could be really potent for Levi to give free jeans to a user who’s interested in fashion and has a bunch of friends in the same demographic.

I personally hope that Facebook stays independent and develops a kick-ass advertising product that provides more flexibility to advertisers and real value to users. I’d be quite happy to be sent some freebies or recommended a movie based on my preferences. Time will tell…

Update: The Economist has a superb feature on the looming acquisition and the value of social networks. In a nutshell; Facebook has “large crowds who are communicating without expressing specific interests” (ie. intent). That rules out direct response advertisers, leaving just brand advertisers who’ll only see results if they develop ways for users to interact with the brand via widgets. The resource requirement to this limits the ad inventory pushing up the auction value.

Update #2: Microsoft believes Facebook is actually worth $15b and has acquired a 1.6% stake for $240m. Read more at WSJ.

 Tags: Business, Internet   Published: 14th October '07

Bugs are Disgusting

I previously touched upon the fact that I’ve never intentionally eaten a bug, so it made sense to give them a try as the next part of understanding the viability of my insect restaurant concept.

Giant Toasted AntsSurprisingly, I was able to pick up a packet of Mopani Worms right here in Dublin. The verdict? Pretty disgusting. The flavour can be best described as very salty beef jerky and this opinion was almost unanimously shared amongst my colleagues.

Next up, I bought some Giant Toasted Ants from Selfridges in London. They’re described as being like “crispy bacon with an earthy taste” and whilst being somewhat more palatable than the worms, they still left you with the immediate urge to grab a drink to wash away the lingering taste.

This weekend, I shall be sampling a Green Crocodile Curry as part of our now customary weekly curry night. I suspect that a far simpler, tried and tested global food restaurant would be a far safer enterprise.

Update: It was rather quite tasty – something like chewy fishy chicken.

 Tags: Business, Ideas   Published: 13th October '07

1 in 5 Say They’d Eat Bugs

Facebook PollI thought I’d actually do a little more digging into the idea I posted yesterday.

In additional to Flyers, Facebook also offers another commercial product – simply named Polls. It allows for very quick market research, and for $26 I was able to ask the following question to 100 people in London: “Some cultures eat insects as part of their daily diet. Would you pay to sample such cuisine?”.

The question was posted at midnight and by the time I woke the results were in. 21% said Yes, with females being slightly more in favour. Hardly an encouraging statistic, but I’m also curious how many people would actually be willing to try Sushi too.

I’ve seen a few large shops stock products from Edible – who sell packaged insects such as cooked ants and worms. It’d be interesting to know how they’re doing. As a registered company in the UK, I was able to pick up their last annual return for a £1 from Companies House. Unfortunately, this didn’t reveal any financial information. D&B appear to offer the information I’m after, albeit for £7.50. Does anyone know any cheaper sources?

 Tags: Business, Ideas   Published: 1st October '07