E-tales: Communicating disaster

It's one way to get your press release read. At the cost of looking a complete nob, though.

It’s one way to get your press release read. At the cost of looking a complete nob, though.

EDS, the country’s biggest IT services company (let’s not call it that since it doesn’t in any sense belong to us, particularly now that Telecom has just sold the 10% of EDS NZ which it owned), issued a release about an extension to the mega-multimillion dollar services contact between it and the telco. Seconds later, an “updated” release arrived from the same hapless EDS press release sender-outer. Moments after that, a third message came in which she optimistically stated she “would like to recall” the original message. Okay, so we’re to send it back to her, are we, so she can delete it?

Compounding her sins, the “we” in question — all 17 of us — are written for all to see in the address field of the message. Would YOU trust your services business to a company with such inept communications practices?

Breathing easy

We were startled to see that one of the sponsors of the recent Health Informatics New Zealand conference in Auckland was B&H. We know sponsorship by tobacco companies has been outlawed since the mid-1990s, and even in the heady days of tobacco advertising and sponsorship it would be hard to imagine a coffin-nail company being allowed to sponsor a health-related conference. It was the videconferencing, home theatre and boardroom design provider, of course. Phew, better go out and have a cigarette.

A lot on his mind

We just hope it happens the other way. Not for the first time, one of Computerworld’s scribblers has been sent something in an envelope to: _____________, Computerland. Mistakes do happen, and they really are quite understandable, seriously, particularly given that the vendor that sent this invitation also happens to have Computerland as a reseller.

Late development

And speaking of IBM, this week will see the launch of its software developer programme — the event’s snazzily called Launchpad — in New Zealand. Is this the same developerworks that’s been going in the US (well, online, which is the same thing) since September 1999? The launch coincides with IBM’s aviation industry headline grab through its Linux deal with Air New Zealand. Our resident rocket scientist followed the instructions on the creatively packaged Launchpad press release and assembled this unpromising looking craft. We can report that it lived up to its lack of promise, flopping to the floor upon launch. Our advice to IBM: leave the flying side of things to Air New Zealand. Launchpad blast-off is at 12pm on Wednesday.

Who am I again?

Associated Press reports that British marketing firm Acclaim UK will pay $US800 to applicants who will legally change their names for one year to promote the latest instalment of its video game series about Turok, a time-travelling American Indian who kills bionically enhanced dinosaurs. Acclaim spokesman Andrew Bloch says successful applicants will be “walking, talking, living, breathing advertisements”. Winners of the contest will also receive a computer game console and as many video games as they can play. Wow, what a deal. Acclaim expects the first five Turoks — others may come later — will be “socially active”. It says it will help successful applicants obtain a second deed poll to revert to their original names after a year.

Sham spam

Spam is futile, says the Technion Technology Institute in Haifa, Israel. It has found the more times an email is copied the less likely it will be read. Testing colleagues, researchers found that a message sent to one person generated a response half the time. But sending to many generated a 16% response rate. Researcher Greg Barron also discovered that responses from multiple recipients were less useful. “If you are trying to get hits on a website ... using an automatic email sent to many people might not be the way to go,” he told New Scientist.

Spammers also need to get their targeting right. Computerworld’s male journalists regularly receive invitations to increase their breast size. And staying with spam, British weblog www.b3ta.com reports that a Brian Miller has created a ticker-tape style page of spam that he has collected. The spam ticker is posted here.

Kitty litter

Cat lovers and haters are catered for well on the net. Ratemykitten.com invites people to send in pictures of their prized pusses and viewers can vote on the best and worst moggies. Also worth trying is www.catoftheday.com, which is mainly supported by US cat owners though there are Kiwi felines there. If you think yours is cuter, get snapping. If this is too much, be catty and check out www.mycathatesyou.com for shots of evil-looking felines.

Memo: Destroy this memo

The guy who brought us www.f**kedcompany.com has a new site for embarrassing corporate types: www.internalmemos.com/memos. You guessed it, internal memos that show not a few big companies out to be venal purveyors of expedient untruths or euphemistic messages of employee slaughter. Much needs to be paid for but some can be viewed for free, including a Worldcom one cheerily announcing the appointment of a new chief restructuring officer and chief financial officer.

Fish mobiles

Guess it had to happen. After the Damien Hirst animals in formaldehyde tanks, modern art now brings cellphones suspended in a fishtank. The cool London Design Museum is displaying “Digital Aquarium” involving 150 mobile handsets to simulate the effect of swimming fish. Each phone has been programmed to illuminate and vibrate in tandem with the others and visitors can also ring the phones to change their movement. The exhibit, developed by UK multimedia design firm Digit, started at the weekend.

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