E-tales: Getting the message

Ever wondered what it is that makes search engine Google tick? According to Andy Lark, a Kiwi who runs Sun's US marketing and communications organisation, it's "basically one guy and 2500 Linux servers at $US240 a piece".

Ever wondered what it is that makes search engine Google tick? According to Andy Lark, a Kiwi who runs Sun’s US marketing and communications organisation, it’s “basically one guy and 2500 Linux servers at $US240 a piece”.

Lark was holding up Google as an example of how “the new breed of marketers” operate, during a visit to his homeland a couple of months ago. Google had achieved the status of world’s largest search engine but who could remember ever having seen a Google ad or been “touched” by a Google marketing campaign?

He told Industry New Zealand’s Anamika Vasil that Sun was borrowing the Google technique. “We’re spending less on marketing because we are getting cleverer … and are adopting strategies that have been applied by people like Google.” Namely, using the web.

Yeah, right. Might the reduced spending not also have something to do with the fact that Sun’s not quite as flush as it once was? A couple of Computerworld sales guys are on their way over to see Andy now to set him straight on the value of print advertising.

Waving, not frowning

Reserve Bank governor designate Alan Bollard has two claims to high-tech fame. One is his creation of a computer game (a sim, rather than a first-person shooter: players get to run the economy). His other high-tech connection is through wife Jenny Morel, of investment company No 8 Ventures fame. Morel takes particular interest in technology companies (the above-mentioned Andy Lark happens to be one of her investment advisers). She and husband were among the 400 or so invited participants in last year’s Knowledge Wave conference. Why do we bother mentioning that? Because it calls to mind a marketing possibility the couple are neglecting. Noticing the swirly hairstyle both favour, how about they christen it the “knowledge wave” and encourage all other knowledge economy cheerleaders to adopt it to signify their belief. Then again, it may not suit Helen …

Cuba libre

Maybe there's something special about looking after children. First, Child Youth and Family (CYF) department here had a frowning report from the Audit Office over implementation problems with its IT systems, and now Australian government workers at the Child Support Agency (CSA) have gone on strike over their bug-ridden CUBA system (the Australian Financial Review couldn't help itself, headlining the story "Staff walk out over CUBA crisis").

In March we reported that CYF and its outsourcer, Accenture, were discounting any lasting effect from problems with its Cyras (Care, Youth, Residential and Adoption Services) computer system, blaming teething problems. Last week 2000 CSA staff walked out after the public service union said the new system has caused a wave of problems for staff who already dealt with stressed clients. The Windows-based CUBA, which AFR suggests was seven years in development and two years overdue when it was implemented last March, was developed by CSA and contractors including Unisys (though it said it had completed its bit by 2000).


There’s a Computerworld T-shirt in the post to the first three small to medium-size people (the only sizes we have left) who can identify which of these two people is Colin Brown, head of the country’s biggest PC maker, The PC Company. We’ll give you two if you can name his lookalike as well. Clue: he’s a New Zealand author.

Email your guesses.


Andrew Janes, PR man to Telecomms and IT Minister Paul Swain, hardly thought it worth us reporting his going to 24 Hour Party People at the Embassy theatre during the Monday after the election. We noted at the time that he would have deserved it after all the hard work over the previous weeks. The main reason we noticed was that he was the only one wearing a suit to this celebration of Manchester club culture (mind you, so occasionally did the subject of the film, Tony Wilson, though that was a sharp 1970s number).

_ing bad timing

Armstrong Jones is to become ING, at www.ingnz.com, just at the same time as the demise of naughty Australian domain name registry ING, or Internet Name Group (see Domainz looks out for local companies). The holder of ing.co.nz is Marc Cohen, managing director of Southland ISP SouthNet. It's been gone since 1999, long before Armstrong Jones thought up ING, but there is currently no website attached. Cohen says it was reserved with the intention to sell fourth-level domains such as shopp.ing.co.nz and fish.ing.co.nz. But there are no active contents on the .ing domain at present, he says. “It’s reserved for future projects and [subdomains are] not offered publicly.”

SouthNet has reserved a number of New Zealand place-names and generic location names such as farm.co.nz, so clients can have email addresses like jim@robinson.queenstown.co.nz or mary.wheeler@mountainview.farm.co.nz. Cohen says another advantage of a fourth-level domain name is that it is more likely to be picked up by search engines than is a subsidiary-page reference (www.fancygoods.jones.co.nz is better than jones.co.nz/fancygoods) because some search engines only look at a site’s home page. For anyone who might like to pick up on the same subdomain idea, ers.co.nz (carpent.ers, groc.ers) is still available. But sadly the US-based fan super-site www.iscool.com, which had independently-run subdomains ranging from “elvis.iscool” to “einstein.iscool” when we first came across it, is apparently no more.

_ing mad

The ING name tickled the funny bone of one CW staffer, having recently read Terry Pratchett's Truth (one of the Discworld series, about journalism on a remote disk-shaped planet with a feudal society). It's a nice satire on everything from freedom of the press and getting up the noses of the powerful, to misprints and the tabloid obsession with having everyone's age quoted in brackets and other cliches.

Its cast includes a pair of callous but inept criminals called Mr Pin and Mr Tulip. Tulip's habitual swear-word is "-ing", and you read it a few times assuming something with four letters goes where the author has put the dash, until you find other characters expressing puzzlement about this word "ing". What is it supposed to mean? Mr Tulip actually says "_ing", with presumably a short pause or "glottal stop" for the dash.

Adult readers only

Melbourne paper The Age reports that the National Library of Australia may soon start collecting pornographic websites. Electronic librarian Edgar Crook says adult websites will be added to the National Collection of Electronic Publications to give "a representative picture of Australian erotica on the internet" rather than for "the salacious enjoyment of the contemporary reader". Crook says the library already has such "weighty volumes" as Big `n' Bouncy and Bra Busters, and gay erotica. The erotica collection was a valuable part of the library, he told The Age. "The examination of society and culture of a period by necessity involves the study of its sexual life. The erotic matter created in, for example, the Victorian era is of great interest to the modern historian."

Aerial-less wireless

Woolsthorpe Manor in Lincolnshire in the UK (the birthplace and family home of Sir Isaac Newton) apparently has an interesting problem that may also be facing many historic buildings around the world. It comprises four buildings less than 100m apart, which need to be networked together. All are built from stone or brick and the place is a grade one listed building, which means no external antennas or high gain aerials are allowed to be visible. That's a tricky one for wireless providers.

Blanket coverage

Europeans are up in arms about a plan to record and store for at least a year all personal communications, including emails and telephone calls, which will be decided by EU governments this month. Under the plan, all telecommunications firms will have to keep the numbers and addresses of calls and emails sent and received by EU citizens, which would then be held in central computer systems and made available to all EU governments. Although the move was initially needed to fight terrorism, EU officials now argue it is necessary to fight all serious crime, including paedophilia and racism. The plan says the confidentiality and integrity of retained traffic data must be ensured but does not say how. Individuals have no right to check whether the information held about their personal communications is accurate or legally challenge decisions about its use.

Take that

Singer Robbie Williams has succeeded in shutting down a website bearing his name, which redirected people to a site for the band Oasis, reports The Guardian. Williams, who has had a longstanding spat with the band, complained to the UN World Intellectual Property Organisation about www.robbiewilliams.info. It was run by Howard Taylor of Southampton, an IT consultant who said he intended to set up an unofficial fan club from the site. Wipo said the site had been set up in bad faith and ordered that it be handed over to Williams. Taylor claimed he thought the feud was a publicity stunt and that "anyone who knows about it would see the humour". Neither Wipo nor Williams appear to have got the joke.

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