Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Google caught rewriting its corporate history

Yesterday Google launched its newest offspring, a less-than-impressive Google Finance site.

But wait, what was that remark in Google's 'Ten Things' Philosophy?
"2. It's best to do one thing really, really well.
Google does search. With one of the world's largest research groups focused exclusively on solving search problems, we know what we do well, and how we could do it better."
No, that's not how I remember it. Fortunately there's the Wayback Machine. The previous (April 1st, 2005) version of this page says it all:
"2. It's best to do one thing really, really well.
Google does search. Google does not do horoscopes, financial advice or chat. With the largest research group in the world focused exclusively on solving search problems, Google knows what it does well and how it could be done better."
Ah, that's more like it. Let's see - chat, financial advice... Wonder when Google Horoscopes will hit the market?

Monday, March 20, 2006

As we're expecting turbulence, may we request passengers to leave the bar, restaurant, sauna and fitness club and return to their seats?

The previous post in this blog reminded me of the Airbus A380, whose humongous space offers hitherto unknown possibilities for spectacular aircraft interior designs.

Interestingly Singapore Airlines, despite making a lot of hay about being the first to fly A380, offer an extensive picture gallery plus video with everything but the interior in it.

Fortunately Airbus themselves are less secretive. Only question remains, how much of this showroom will end up in SQ's A380s, at the end of this year?

Goodbye to Red-eyes, say hello to Dreamers and Beemers

To Boeing the honour of coming up with the idea of advanced cabin lighting first (for its soon-to-be-launched 787 'Dreamliner')

but to Airbus the honour of taking the concept a big step further. With the help of BMW, no less. A350 Beemliner, perhaps?

Personally I can't wait for one of these concepts to hit the market. Red-eyes will become so much more bearable. Maybe even sooner, in Singapore Airlines' new A380 please?

"I'll have 'A west bean pays the fish a soup' and retchup to go, please"

From time to time this blog reports on the little morsels of Engrish that are an inevitable part of traveling in Asia (see Fondle me admiringly, Asiana Airlines and the art of omission, and Et tu, Brute).

But morsels they are, and I acknowledge my master for here is a veritable feast. Lucky blogger Jon Rahoi ran into the "Edinburgh Western Chinese Restaurant" in Foshan, and put the menu on his blog.

Have a look and feast on things like Cowboy Leg with Retchup, Benumbed hot vegetables fries fuck silk, and many many more. Enough Engrish here to last a lifetime!

Sunday, March 19, 2006

"You forgot your password and tried WHAT??"

Urban nomads travel, and they carry data around. And just like companies who don't want to rely on lobbyists for protection against security breaches they suffer from security breach anxiety.

Fear no more, Kingston to the fore: here is the DataTravel Elite Privacy-Edition. Kingston's unfortunate naming habits aside, this memory key not only offers 128-bit data encryption, but also wipes itself clean after 25 failed attempts to access. Cool.

"Even one renegade (or lazy) employee presents a compliance risk," Kingston's press release reads. Guess they read this blog. Available in various sizes, from 256MB to 4GB.

Personal data at risk? Quick, call in the lobbyists!

Seems the Laziness Lobby in the US is stronger than the need for personal data protection. At least that's the only logical explanation for what happened in the US House Financial Services Committee last Thursday.

Case in question is a proposal of law that shamelessly waters down disclosure laws requiring companies to disclose security breaches that put personal data at risk (see "Next time you break into our database, could you please leave the Californians alone?". The House Committee voted 48-17 for a law that leaves it up to companies themselves to determine whether a security breach is harmful enough to warrant disclosure. The law would also neutralize existing disclosure laws (currently 11 States have them) that mandate disclosure after any privacy-sensitive data breach.

The irony is that the legislative effort in question was triggered by a serious incident at data broker ChoicePoint in february, 2005, where criminals accessed 160,000 records and robbed 800 of them.

And it's not as if Corporate America has been particularly careful since: security breaches seem to get sillier by the month (see There are morons, there are criminal morons, and there's Deloitte).

Friday, March 17, 2006

Google China's true translation

The gazillionth take on Google's Chinese search site. But too funny to miss, so here it is. (Thanks BlogNoot)

Why sue Google when a bit of cash will do the trick?

Dutch newspaper Algemeen Dagblad opens today with a spectacular-sounding story on how Google helps child porn surfers find the right keywords (in Dutch).

Searchers for child porn, it seems, have their own jargon, which is not always easy to follow for outsiders (which is what jargon is all about, of course). But don't panic, Google's here to help. Just use Google's Adwords Suggestion Tools, and for a few dollars you'll be handed the right synonyms on a golden platter.

Funny, that. The US Federal Government at this very moment is suing Google for precisely that kind of information. Did anyone tell them that all they need to do is log in on their Adwords accounts and pull their creditcards?

UPDATE: I went a bit off course here. The US DoJ are suing Google for information on 'innocent' searches, as they want to find out how many of these yield porn and other stuff you don't want your children (or the DoJ) to see. The AD report describes a method that would lead the DoJ to demanding searches from Google. It's quite a scoop, thanks to Dutch search expert and AD editor Henk van Ess.

Van Ess suggests that prosecutors in general and the DoJ in particular should make more use of this type of method, as it can lead them to many kinds of questionable activities, such as drugs and money laundering. An additional bonus is that Google's service also supplies translations in many languages, enabling the user to conduct his research across borders.

Although the service is of at least as much use to criminals as it is to those who hunt them, an idea would be to just remove the objectionable synonyms. This would make life decidedly more difficult for child porn surfers, drug users and the like. In a first reaction, however, Google Netherlands denied it's an issue for them, citing Google's neutrality. (Thanks Peter)

In Hong Kong, Big Brother turns into Big Crook

Due to increasingly popular disclosure legislation in the US data security breaches are almost starting to look like an American problem (see Every minute a sucker is born, with a one in two chance of being robbed of his identity).

But of course life is more cruel than that. Earlier this week a serious incident was reported in Hong Kong, where 20,000 confidential police complaints appeared on the Net, apparently because somone wanted to work on them from home. But it does look like Hong Kongers have more of a sense of humour about it. After the breach came to light the website containing the complaints was swiftly taken offline, and with Google's help even removed from the Google cache.

But on Tuesday a poster in a local newsgroup, using the alias "Big Crook", pointed out that the complaints file was still doing the rounds on BitTorrent having been downloaded more than 200,000 times.

"Big Crook" is a familair alias in Hong Kong: it used to belong to Chan Nai-ming, who was convicted of copyright infringement last November for sharing movies on the BitTorrent network.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

RFID arms race officially started

RFID tags haven't really hit the consumer space yet (and hopefully never will, because better alternatives are available), but the arms race between sneaky taggers and privacy-conscious consumers has already started.

And DIFRwear intends to become a major arms supplier on the consumer side, with blocking apparel based on the venerable principle of the Faraday cage. The company's first products are a wallet and a passport case.

This is a signal that should be picked up by everybody who considers building tracking techniques into their service model. People are becoming increasingly conscious of their privacy, and it doesn't help if tracking their behaviour becomes more intrusive than strictly necessary.

You don't need to tag everything and everybody in order to optimize your business: you can often use other techniques, such as QR codes or Colorzip icons.

There's a simple rule of thumb here: objects don't act, so these need to be tagged; they also don't need privacy. People can act on their own, so you want their cooperation. Make them react to your offers or instructions of their own free will; that way you create committed customers and you don't unnecessarily invade people's privacy.

And people won't start using large-scale countermeasures. Be warned.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Lust Pigs beware: Big Brother's on his way

The cat's not completely out of the bag yet, but the judge has announced to open it just a little.

That, at least, can be concluded from US District Judge's James Ware's announcement that he intends to give the US Justice Department access to a sample of Google's search records.

The Judge's upcoming decision is driven by the fact that the Feds have finally asked someone with a freshman's course in statistics, finding out that 10,000 URLs and 1,000 search queries would do just as fine as the initially requested 1 million of each.

But an important bridge is being crossed. The Justice Department wants the data to illustrate what everybody already knows: huge numbers of people use search engines to find naughty pictures. I can't help wondering what's going to happen when all these people find out their searches are being recorded.

Fact is, a big majority has no idea they're being watched while happily trolling for porn. Chances are, the publicity around Google's handing over data to the Federal Government will let that cat out as well, causing a major privacy backlash.

Google better start preparing their damage control plan for when that happens.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

And don't forget...'s Pi Day. In remembrance of Archimede, whose constant it is, and Euclid, who did all the hard work.

And for those who have nothing better to do: you can also watch the giant Pi drop, at 1:59PM EST and again at 1:59PM PST.


After sex videos: nude wedding photographs

Why didn't I see this coming?

After this year's fad in Valentine pictures of couples in the nude the same thing turns out to be happening in wedding photography. At least that's what the China Daily reports, in a derisory article that calls "such exhibitionism [...] a surprisingly common feature of modern Chinese life." The newspaper quotes an angry mother who discovered one of these 'personal statements of modernity' in her daughter's album, besides the official wedding photographs in full drag.

Since most studios use digital cameras these days, you can just wait for some particularly juicy specimens to find their way to the internet, as happened with the now infamous Tammy Nyp video.

Apparently this already happened, as a little surfing shows here and here...

Monday, March 13, 2006

"Hi, this is my daughter. She's just wondering about your position requirements"

Everybody who's visited China knows the phenomenon: the Little Emperor.

China has had its famous one-child policy for decades, and enforcement has been particularly effective in the well-structured cities. And it's those cities that have seen a spectacular rise in wealth and buying power as well.

The result? One-child families that have more money than they ever dreamt of, and only one child to spend it on. If you've ever been in one of the glitzy shopping centres in Shanghai or Beijing you've seen these little groups: a single well-dressed and well-fed child, surrounded by two proud parents, at least two grandparents, and possibly an aunt or two. All of these adults are continuously monitoring the child's every possible need.

This generation is now leaving school and starting to look for jobs, as this hilarious article in Shanghai Daily describes. Turns out, the parents' habit of sorting out anything their Little Emperor needs is not easily shedded. Recruiters complain of finding one job applicant after another in their offices, accompanied by a parent who acts as their spokesman, personal manager and chaperon in one.

Very funny, but for the alert marketer also a great opportunity. Here's a generation with unprecendented spending power not only because of their education and resulting job levels, but aso through their doting parents.

With the right tone of voice, communication channel and marketing message 'Little Emperor Marketing' can be a unique way to tap into the vast potential of China's evolving consumer market. Any takers?

When will they ever learn?

Yesterday this blog mentioned the increasingly popular Demolish-Your-Own-Privacy soap series.

That was meant as a joke, people! But like so often in these gadget-rich times, reality overtakes imagination. You'd think the Tammy affair would've been a warning signal to teens with videophones. And to many it probably was. Indeed, an increasing number of Singaporeans is showing signs of worry about pictures circulating in cyber space, even ones taken surreptitiously by passers-by.

So it's interesting to see that a warning signal to many is a follow-me signal for others: the Tammy video has drawn out quite a number of wannabes who think it's cool to make sex videos of yourself, and share them with others. The Straits Times reports at least seven of them, circulating on the web, on file sharing services like, or on peer-to-peer networks like

There's even a naming convention: the kinky thing to do seems to be naming the video after the location where it was filmed (surreptitiously, no doubt - after all this is still Singapore). Fo avid searchers: the most popular ones out there are Bukit Batok and Airport. (No, not the 1975 movie.)

To each his own, as they say. But it puts yesterday's M1 WebCam value Plus ad in an even shriller light...

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Teens distributing home made sex videos? Let's hand out webcams to their parents!

Hardly has Singapore recovered from the shock of the 'Tammy' sex video, or mobile phone company M1 offers the next instalment in the increasingly fashionable Demolish-Your-Own-Privacy soap series.

The Tammy Nyp affair tells us two things, loud and clear:
  1. Tech-savvy teens badly need to learn how to match technology skills with data protection;
  2. Their poor tech-unsavvy parents don't have the faintest clue what's going on behind the wallpapers on their kids' screens, or what to do about it.

So what's M1's answer? More webcams! Let's give them away with mobile phone subscriptions, so they can broadcast their videos right away! And guess what? Let's hand them out to people who are least capable to use them and are likely to wreak most havoc on both their own and their kids' privacy!

Actually, M1 says it so much better in the ad found in today's Straits Times: 'Want to see what your angel's been up to when you're not there? Now you'll never miss a moment's action with M1 WebCam Value Plus. No kidding...

I have no idea what M1 has in mind with this large-scale distribution of accidents-waiting-to-happen but boy would I like a quick word with the Einstein who thought this one up.

Great design from Singapore

No more jokes about Singabore. With bar top dancing now allowed and two giant casino resorts on the way, Singapore finally enters the world class design fray as well.

Lo and behold, Jaren Goh's take on one of Sony Ericsson's camera phones. It's arguably one of the sleekest handphone designs the world has ever seen, featuring state of the art technology with a borderless OLED screen and making Nokia's ludicrously overpriced Vertu phones look like the clunky pathetic things they really are.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Engrish in Germany

Engrish is not beholden to Asia, as this absolutely hilarious video shows. Great commercial from Berlitz, a company that promises to solve all your Engrish problems, be they German, Japanese or otherwise...

(Thanks Danie).

Thursday, March 09, 2006

If we copy Nokia's cleverness and Apple's marketing style, how can we go wrong?

So Microsoft tried to play the Apple game, and succesfully, too.

Today it unveiled the Origami, and both blogosphere and traditional press went for it, lock, stock, and barrel. Teaser sites, teaser videos, the rumour mill, no means was shunned and boy did we go for it. Heck, even I am writing about it, ain't I?

Having said that, what on Earth makes the WinTel partnership think this hybrid in-between-pocket-and-portable will succeed where Newton, PDA and Tablet PC failed?

Unless it's the unexpected success of the Nokia 770, of course.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Ignorance and greed leave F1 fans in need

Formula 1 fans have a host of very capable websites available, giving them access to any type of news, backgrounds, results or whatever else they want to know about the sports, the races, the cars and the drivers. is arguably the most greedy of these. The site's news articles provide a watered-down version of reality that go nicely together with the ubiquitous F1 politics, but by virtue of being the official F1 site it has one single advantage: it's the only site that offers a live feed during races.

The most annoying aspect of the site is its utter greediness: right-click your mouse anywhere over its pages and you see this message. No copying of any kind is allowed, not even a quick copy&paste of a bit of text into an email message to a friend.

But wait, there's news! has now taken greediness to the next level: it offers text and picture messages on your mobile phone!

Rejoice, until you see the rates: $6.50 for one race delivers you 15 text messages; pay $4 extra and one fuzzy low-res picture will appear on your tiny mobile phone screen! And as a sign of's boundless generosity, you're offered big savings, too: $120 for a whole season!

My cup runneth over. This will be a predictably short-lived initiative. Clearly, have a lot of learning curve to cover in the realm of mobile marketing...

Web2.0? I'll give you Web2.0!

It looks like Microsofts latest and most unusual CTO choice Ray Ozzie is coming into his own at the Redmond software giant.

Ozzie, creator of Lotus Notes and founder of Groove Networks, is the pioneer and undisputed champion of collaboration software, and apparently finding ways for people to meaningfully connect each others' efforts is still at the top of his mind.

Yesterday Ozzie announced"Live Clipboard", a Java based application that will allow copying structured information from PC to website or website to website much in the way Microsoft's Clipboard now works beteen its own applications. Ozzie demonstrated how he dropped contact information from his Outlook into an online shopping checkout page, and location data from his blog onto a social networking site.

To make the point that this is not just another proprietary Microsoft interface, he used Firefox for the demo. Apparently the intention is for Microsoft to freely licence Live Clipboard under the Creative Commons licence.

Web-based? Browser-independent? Creative Commons? You'd almost think Google, not Microsoft. But then again, I'm one of those people who regularly wonder how history would be changed if Ozzie would've chosen Google and Vint Cerf worked at Microsoft, instead of the other way round...

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

User friendliness still an elusive concept for gadget makers

Average Philips consumer

What was blindingly obvious to all of us has now been scientifically proven: half of all malfunctioning products returned by consumers are in full working order, except the buyers never figured out how to operate them.

This Nobel Prize worthy result has been uncovered by Technical University of Eindhoven researcher Elke den Ouden. Elke presented her thesis to a group of managers at consumer electronics giant Philips, but only after giving them some of their own products to try out over the weekend. The Philips managers scored even worse than the average consumer: none of them got the gadgets to work.

One big question remains: will we ever see any tangible results of this revelation, and if yes, when?

Monday, March 06, 2006

Boxcar for Best Sound: And The Winner Is Honda

Listening to Oscar Night, you realize how good Hollywood is at promoting its own work.

Makes you wish the TV Commercial industry had a similar event. Every year enormous amounts of talent, resources and money are poured into tiny films, anywhere between a couple of seconds and a couple of minutes in length, and exclusively destined for the flickering box.

So here they are: the Boxcars.

And please allow me to kick off with this year's winner for Best Achievement in Sound:
The Honda Civic Choir commercial

Too many car ads stick to the all too familiar pattern of wide shots of cars driving on winding roads, accompanied by pompous muzak and a baritone voice over. This commercial makes a difference in more ways than can be summed up in the traditional 45" Boxcar acceptance speech. Let me just point you to the Making Of video on Honda's special site for this commercial.

Thanks Honda, for showing us that there are so much better ways to tell the message!

Sunday, March 05, 2006

More Muhammad? No thanks, I personally prefer Osama cartoons

Every once in a while, but not often, do you see an ad campaign that combines such power with such simplicity.

But here's one: AlmapBBDO's print campaign for Brazil's Veja Magazine. Illustrator Roberto Fernandez shows us how powerful the combination is of image and word, in one simple cartoon. Or actually, a series of three: George Bush and Saddam Hussein are also 'honoured'.

Can't help thinking what Mr Fernandez would've made of a Muhammad cartoon...

Thailand: the next advertising powerhouse?

China has become the world's manufacturer, India the world's high-tech outsourcing centre. But in both cases, the creative work that provides the foundation for all these activities is still firmly rooted in the West.

How long will it take for conceptual and design work to be outsourced to the Far East as well?

This is what occurred to me when I saw Media Magazine's annual creative ranking. Of the Creatives' Top Ten nothing less than the Top 8 are occupied by creatives from Thailand. Media compiles its annual list on the basis of award wins at 15 selected award shows in the past year. The award festivals include world class shows like Cannes and Clio, regional ones like Media's own Spikes, and national shows from India to New-Zealand and practically everything in between.

This is not an overnight phenomenon: Bangkok has been an Asian advertising hotspot for quite a while. Many campaigns are designed and produced in Bangkok, to be rolled out over many other Asian countries subsequently.

The question is, how long will it take Western advertisers to realize that all they have to do for top quality campaigns for lower costs is go to Thailand? Media's list of prize winners (paid access; registration required) Their only problem is having to learn to pronounce Thai names.

For interested would-be outsourcers, here's the complete list:
  1. Prangthip Praditpong, Creative Juice/G1 (picture shows her work for Tamiya, 2005's most-awarded print campaign)
  2. Nutchnanun Chiaphanumas, Creative Juice/G1
  3. Kittitat Larppitakpong, Saatchi&Saatchi (previously Creative Juice/G1)
  4. Passapol Limpisirisan, Euro RSCG Flagship
  5. Wiboon Leepakpreeda, Euro RSCG Flagship
  6. Jon Chalermwong, Creative Juice/G1
  7. Nucharat Nuntananonchai and Taya Sutthinun (ex aequo), Euro RSCG Flagship
Personally, I think it's about time that Asia shows it can make a significant contribution to global creativity, instead of merely executing other cultures' concepts.

Friday, March 03, 2006

How to royally piss off your customers

This is wrong on sooo many levels. Behold an email from Citibank, advertising paperless statements.

It's a FREE service, we learn. It'd better be, Citibank, considering the amount of money you save by not having to mail the stuff every week. Plus, of course we're not aware that EVERYONE offers this service for free.

It helps you protect yourself from identity theft, too. Really? And paper statements don't? Also notice they way it's formulated: Citibank doesn't protect you, it 'helps you protect yourself.' No kidding. Does Citi think we were born yesterday?

But most insulting of all is the graphic:a 60s housewife with her head in rollers. This was sent to a friend of mine, a senior marketing consultant. Female yes, rollers no.

And no Citi, she didn't appreciate the gently humorous touch that was undoubtedly intended. At least I hope that was the intention.

Plug In + Disconnect

'Unplug + Connect.' That's the slogan with which naviPlay markets its Bluetooth Stereo Headset for iPod.

This thing works with both your iPod and your mobile phone, switching from one to th'other when calls come in or end. Stick it on your head and you achieve a number of things at once:
  1. You'll look like a dork;
  2. You'll be completely oblivious to any sound, human or otherwise, around you;
  3. Don't even THINK about going into traffic.
But the sellers are undeterred. 'Take it with you cycling,' they crow. Probably forgot to consult their lawyers.