There was a time when America’s Cup graphics company Virtual Spectator had the IT press, er, virtually eating out of its hand. So it might have expected a good turnout for a press conference scheduled for the Sunday before racing began in the second New Zealand regatta. Yeah, right. In the end, rather than risk the embarrassment of having no one turn up, the press event was rescheduled for the Monday. At which it was revealed that a new release of the software would reach a “wider global audience”. Just how wide is the globe these days?
The premise and promise of e-marketplaces was that aggregating demand would lead to discounts. As Fencepost.com sallies forth into the e-commerce world, it’s getting into the spirit of things with an irresistible opener. Savings of up to $32,000 are offered on 50-cow milking machines. Place your order here. Or there, rather.
Sucking the marrow
"Substantial finger food” will be on the menu at a Tuanz event next week starring Telecom head chef Theresa Gattung. We’re sure they’re more filling than insubstantial fingers, but what are you supposed to do with the bones? Perhaps we'll ask Ameritech and Bell Atlantic.
Which PR firm expressed dismay -- while having "a bit of a laugh” -- that Computerworld journos were unable to view the contents of their attached invitation to the Xbox launch? Could it be the same PR firm that sent a similar attachment to PC World last month that staff there also couldn't open? We think it might be, but rather than give them any more advertising, we're just going to include the term Xbox one more time to see if we can't win ourselves a trip to game conference E3 next year. As if.
Maybe we’re guilty for having first raised the question of sending doubtful pictures securely through combination camera-mobile phones (PXT: porn exchange technology?), but the telco marketers of the latest mobile devices seem to have developed a not-so-quiet obsession with nudity.
First there were the two male streakers painted with Vodafone logos who disrupted an Australia v NZ rugby test in August. Now Telecom has hit back with a full-page newspaper ad featuring an embracing couple wearing only their lower undergarments.
Neither of them appears to be carrying a cellphone, nor, given the close and near immobile nature of their ”communication”, to need one. But somehow it’s supposed to make us want to rush out and buy the latest Telecom mobile.
And last month Tuanz hosted an “After Five” meeting where Vodafone representatives showed a video of a “V24 Challenge” broadcast on TV3 (see Vodafone). The challenge on this occasion was to guess how many bras a Kiwi bloke could undo in a stipulated time, and text the answer to the organisers, with a prize for the closest guess. The bras were worn by real women (and one male, put in to throw the contestant off his stride) but all was in the best of taste with baring of backs only.
This is supposed to tell Vodafone and/or TV3 something immensely valuable about the demographics of texters and viewers. Whatever that is, it escapes us, and a senior Tuanz officer at the meeting, whom we asked later.
Maybe it tells us more about the deeper thoughts of telco marketers.
Spinning the wheel
Another press release last week took spin doctoring to new heights (or lows). "Software Magazine Ranks Peace Software," the heading on the release screamed. The text went on to tell recipients that "Peace Software today announced it ranked in the Software 500, Software Magazine's list of the world's foremost software and services providers." Revenue and staff number growth followed, as did details on the magazine and the survey's methodology, but one piece of information was missing -- Peace's place on list. Well, we agree it's not a bad achievement for any firm anywhere, but the lack of a placing means it could be, say, fifth, or it could be ...
Maketh the man
An Australian PR fellow emailed the following instructions to a Computerworld reporter on Tuesday last week:
"David and I look forward to meeting you at 9.30am on Thursday. Note that we will be in the lobby. I will be wearing a blue shirt, red tie and have brown hair and glasses."
We couldn't help but think that it's pretty unusual for an Australian male to have his wardrobe worked out two days in advance. Most – it is the 21st century but it’s still certainly most -- dinkum Aussie (and Kiwi) blokes we know wouldn't dream of being so sartorially organised. For most antipodean males, planning their daily attire consists of opening the wardrobe in the morning and grabbing the closest shirt, then grabbing the first tie in sight.
Good and morning
Another PR person (yes, we do speak to IT managers on occasion) made a slip of the keyboard recently when he sent an email to Computerworld staffers. Their email addresses were spelt out in the header, and the email duly reached both. However, upon opening it, they found the PR operative's greeting line was "Hi Andrea and Malcolm, see attached. Cheers." If this boutique – read small -- PR firm ever wins the Microsoft and Oracle accounts and is required to communicate directly with the companies' founders, will emails to them open with "Hi Bill and Gates" and "Hi Larry and Ellison?"
"On the Job" this week (Working for the love of the job) reports how IT managers gain added satisfaction from working for not-for-profit charity organisations, who in turn are increasingly turning to IT to push their party line. Take the Cafod (Catholic Agency for Overseas Development), which has produced a delightful e-animation to show how European Union farm subsidies wreak havoc on the developing world. The two-minute movie it produced, Moosters Millions, claims EU governments spend enough money subsidising dairy farmers to fly all their 21 million dairy cows around the world and give them each $1200 spending money. The cartoon shows the lucky herbivores flying to exotic locations like Rarotonga and Hong Kong, in cattle class probably, making the point that the EU Common Agricultural Policy gives the average European dairy cow a yearly income of more than half the world's population, while at the same time the CAP dumps milk powder in Jamaica, ruining its local dairy industry.
However, non government organisations (NGOs) are not alone in using the web to spread propaganda. The UK Online government portal has just had to set up mirror sites to accomodate a rush of surfers eager to see Prime Minister Tony Blair's dossier of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's programme to build up weapons of mass destruction.
A Guardian story on UK ISP Freeserve, which was sold to an online unit of France Telecom called Wanadoo for £1.65bn in December 2000, couldn't help itself.
"Freeserve has to absorb the new culture of its French ownership which believes Abensur is the man to navigate the broadband minefield. But there is still a chance, as one waggish analyst joked, that despite its premier position, the next few months 'could land Freeserve in the Wanadoo-doo'."
(Marketing slogan, Microsoft style: "What do you Wanadoo today?")
British job seekers hoping to beat the competition when looking for work can now sign up to a new text message job service. The firm TextMeAJob.com lets users stipulate the type of job they are seeking and where, so that when a vacancy arises they receive a text message. The service costs 25p.
Computer gamers are now safe should they visit Greece for business or pleasure. Its government created a furore when it banned such activities in a crackdown on online gambling. Now, following the closure of scores of amusement arcades and considerable difficulties for cybercafes, the Greek finance ministry says "there is no problem" so long as the games aren't used for online gambling. The controversial law was passed after a scandal earlier this year over arcade parlours that modified electronic games to become gambling dens.
German voters received help in their recent Bundestag elections on how to vote from a Vote-O-Matic website. Run by the Federal Agency for Civic Education with help from Berlin Free University, the website asked users 27 questions ranging in topic from gay marriages, legalising cannabis, immigration to defence, and based on their answers worked out which party was closest to their views. Aimed mainly at first-time voters, early trials showed many users had beliefs more in line with centre-left prime minister Gerhard Schroeder, whose Social Democratic Party eventually won the September 22 election. New Zealanders with German skills -- you know who you are -- should let us know of their leanings.