• Follow Curiously Persistent on WordPress.com
  • About the blog

    This is the personal blog of Simon Kendrick and covers my interests in media, technology and popular culture. All opinions expressed are my own and may not be representative of past or present employers
  • Subscribe

  • Meta

Eco-clubbing at Bar Surya

discoballClub4Climate recently announced the launch of (according to their press release) Britain’s first eco-nightclub. It is located at Bar Surya in Kings Cross, with the press launch occurring next week on the 10th July.

Among their initiatives include the use of poly-carbon cups, charitable donations, low-voltage lighting and a recyclable water system. However, the most eye-catching element of the scheme is the energy generating dancefloor. The Daily Mail have a diagram of how it will work here.

Due to the costs involved in getting this system up and running, this is more than a mere marketing stunt (though as the Mail story alludes to, you wonder how eco-friendly printing 200,000 Boris Johnson leaflets is). In spite of this, the club will need more than its eco-outlook to survive. I’m tentatively in favour of the idea, but there are several elements of this particular scheme that make me sceptical

  • The initiative will get people in the door once. But the primary choice of clubbing venue revolves around where you will have the most fun. The website doesn’t contain any details on the styles of music or the DJs involved.
  • People don’t want to be preached at on a night out. Making people sign a pledge (no. 8) before they are allowed to enter will turn people off
  • Free entrance to those that travel via public transport, walk or cycle can go one of two ways. Firstly, unless they are targeting the upper reaches of society, the vast majority of clubbers will travel via tube or bus to get there (taxis are for the journey home only) and so few people may pay. However, how do you prove you have walked in? And getting a receipt for Oyster card journeys can be a hassle
  • Sadly, the credit crunch means that people will start thinking about the now rather than the future. Will this disrupt eco-projects?

So as far as the PR goes, the venture is a hit. But i think the details may need to be adjusted for it to take off.

If the owners are looking for another PR move, perhaps they could stock some Booty Sweat – the fictional drink in the new Ben Stiller film that Paramount are licencing as a real product during the marketing campaign.


EDIT: I’ve just noticed that Club4Climate have used the Cheeky Girls in a previous PR stunt. Looks like they won’t be going for that more affluent level of clubber


Is too much information a good thing?

sensory overload

Well, no. By definition. But despite occasional thoughts that I am suffering from sensory overload, I’m grateful for the sheer amount of information available to us – TMI or not. I believe it makes me a better researcher.

However I can fully understand the concern some have over the sheer volume of knowledge available to us. Articles on the subject are appearing all of the time. We are infomaniacs. We now squeeze 31 hours into a single day. Google is making us stupid.

The root of this trend is of course the Internet. The democratisation of information means that our sources have multiplied. This is undoubtedly a good thing, but it becomes a challenge to distinguish the signal from the noise.

Extending the sources of our knowledge can widen our understanding, but the returns are diminishing. At what point do we reach an optimal point? When is the incremental benefit of an additional piece of information outweighed by the costs?

I’ve recently experienced this dilemma on a report I have been writing. After the first few pieces of research, the key themes begin to emerge. But rather than write up my findings, I continued to delve deeper into the data. My report was ultimately more thorough, but the key themes remained the same. Was this additional time spent worthwhile? Or would I have made better use of my time by moving onto the next project?

Ultimately, I believe it was worthwhile. There may be specific reasons when this isn’t the case, but generally I would argue that all information available should be considered because of NEEDS:

  • Nuance: Comparing and contrasting different sources allows you to put findings into a better context
  • Expertise: The more you take in, the more knowledgeable you are. It builds a solid platform for further work to emerge from. More work at the first stage can reduce the workload at later stages -in a similar way to new teachers writing lesson plans from scratch in their first year, and then honing existing plans in subsequent years
  • Experience: Following on from expertise, greater knowledge allows a greater understanding of both normative and emerging trends. In aural reports, this informed opinion is often as important as the data itself.
  • Depth: My themes may have remained, and so the breadth of my report remained the same. But I was able to expound on each with much greater depth of detail and understanding
  • Simplicity: This final point is counter-intuitive but also crucial. Accumulating information is easy; synthesizing and condensing isn’t. More information may make this task longer, but it will ensure greater quality and accuracy. For instance, the Net Promoter Score may be only one question, but a lot of work (and a 210 page book) went into the formulation of that question. As Mark Twain famously said, “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead”

If ignorance is bliss, does that make knowledge miserable? In my opinion, no. The best insights come from a complete assessment of the available information. This requires focus, dedication, excellent time management and an eye for detail, but the effort will be rewarded with the results.


Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/biancaprime/

I can now learn all about marketing

marketing by paul baines, chris fill and kelly pageOUP kindly donated a couple of signed copies of their new title “Marketing” to a competition held by Research Talk.

I was fortunate enough to win a copy, which I have just received. It is a large, colourful introduction to marketing, split into bitesize sections and aimed at students and interested parties alike. I definitely fall into the latter category and look forward to reading through the many case studies included.

Ultimately, I will review the book fully on this blog, but as the book is over 700 pages and as I’m going on holiday for a fortnight next week, it may take me a while…


Links – 27th June 2008

Selected links from my del.icio.us feed:


danah boyd’s research on social networking sites

Questions about target audiences for newspaper websites (Guardian) – a more coherent and focused article than I managed here, where I raised several questions about the measurements and content for newspaper websites

Collection of podcasts and videos on the future of journalism (Guardian) – an excellent collection here. Kudos to the Guardian for the excellent quality of guests and debate.

Marketing wheel of misfortune (Armano) – a fantastic post of aspects to avoid/be wary of in social marketing

Photos are being taken from Flickr and sold on eBay (Guardian)

Colour psychology in marketing (Branding Strategy Insider)

Why USPs are still important (Branding Strategy Insider)

Traditional media not dead yet (New York Times)

How is the Internet changing literary style? (Steamthing)

Modelling the real value of social networks (Techcrunch)

The Petabyte age (Wired)

40% of viewing of the Mighty Boosh is done via the iPlayer (Guardian)

The power of consumer generated reviews (Amazon reviews of an overpriced product)

Is this the future of TV? (Mobayboy)

Dan Rather says American journalism is in crisis (Adbusters)

Will the Beatles be the next Guitar Her/Rock band expansion pack? (FT)


Profile on Nelson Mandela (More Intelligent Life)

Graph Jam – excellent site where pop culture is displayed in graph format 

Will killswitches become standard features on technology? (Wired)

Rich people spend more time working (Washington Post)

10 breeds of inner boss (Any Wired)

The 20 most powerful celebrity makers (Observer)

Best desktop media players (Lifehacker)

Outcomes from all Mythbusters episodes

Photoessay of poverty in India (DeviantART)

Literature condensed to 3 lines or less (McSweeney’s)

Internet Movie Car DataBase

The life journey of a tick (Slate)

Custom receipt maker – for all those expenses needs

19 cinematic scene stealing cameos (AV Club)

I would particularly recommend

Blog-related: danah boyd’s research on social networking sites, Questions about target audiences for newspaper websites, Collection of podcasts and videos on the future of journalism and Marketing wheel of misfortune

Random: Graph Jam, Outcomes from all Mythbusters episodes and Literature condensed to 3 lines or less


Radiohead setlists

Radiohead at Victoria Park: Tuesday 24th June (when I went)

15 Step, Bodysnatchers, All I Need, National Anthem, Pyramid Song, Nude, Weird Fishes/Arpeggi, The Gloaming, Dollars & Cents, Faust Arp, There There, Just, Climbing Up The Walls, Reckoner, Everything In Its Right Place, How To Disappear Completely, Jigsaw Falling Into Place
– – – – –
Videotape, Airbag, Bangers and Mash, Planet Telex, The Tourist
– – – – –
Cymbal Rush, You And Whose Army?, Idioteque

Radiohead at Victoria Park: Wednesday 25th June (when I didn’t go)

Reckoner, 15 Step, There There, All I Need, Lucky, Nude, Weird Fishes/Arpeggi, Myxomatosis, National Anthem, Faust Arp, No Surprises, Jigsaw Falling Into Place, Optimistic, Videotape, Everything In Its Right Place, Idioteque, Bodysnatchers
– – – – – –
House of Cards, The Bends, Bangers and Mash, My Iron Lung, Karma Police
– – – – –
Go Slowly, 2+2=5, Paranoid Android

Tuesday was incredible, but is it right to feel annoyed at not going on the Wednesday?

I’d rather go into a gig with that element of surprise – not knowing what is going to be played in what order – but that does leave one open to disappointment at what has been missed out. Justified or not.


The smallest touch can make a big difference

glastonbury rain

Walking home last night, I noticed that Snow Rock had a Glastonbury “five day weather forecast” posted on a board outside.

It won’t matter to most customers; but it will mean something to some.

It shows that Snow Rock listen to their customers, and that they care.

This should be the default thinking for everyone, in all walks. Pitching ideas, report writing, gift choosing.

What are the little things that show you listen?


Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/auntiep/

Links – 20th June 2008

Blog related

How we read online (Slate)

100 personal branding tactics (Chris Brogan)

5 principles to design by (Bokardo)

Hierarchy of social marketing (Duct Tape Marketing)

Visualisation of the “blogopticon” (Vanity Fair)

Where are the original dot com entrepreneurs now? (The Standard)

How to fix the mess the Associated Press have created (Jeff Jarvis)

Lessig on the right to privacy

The rules of Internet celebrity (NY Mag)

How Google apps can each be improved (Web Worker Daily)

On NY Times attempts to get social (Mashable)

Brand and communications in the age of media democracy (Slideshare presentation)


A wooden mirror (Design Boom)

Top 10 Firefox 3 features (Lifehacker)

5 obsolete storage formats (Wired)

Creative ways to use ordinary objects (Lifehackery)

Brutal review of the Happening (includes Spoilers) (TNR)

Book Rabit – tag your bookshelves, review your books and get recommendations

100 great movie posters (TCCandler)

Office speak phrases (BBC)

The Apprentice rendered in Lego (Youtube video)

Crazy concept cars (Jalopnik)

I would particularly recommend 100 personal branding tactics, 5 principles to design by and Brand and communications in the age of media democracy from the blog-related section and Top 10 Firefox 3 features, Book Rabit and Office speak phrases from the random section


ABCe and the difficulties of auditing online metrics


As the recent influx of links have shown, I have struggled to keep my blog updated in recent weeks. This post has been saved in my drafts for close to a month now. While it may no longer be current news, the principles underlining the issues are still, and will continue to be, pertinent.

So, please cast your minds back to May 22nd, when it was announced that the Telegraph had overtaken the Guardian in terms of monthly unique users, and with it took the crown of the UK’s most popular newspaper website.

The figures were according to the ABCe – as close as the UK gets to officially audited web statistics. However, close is a relative term. The ABCes are still far from universally accepted and as can be inferred from the FAQs on their website, there are still many challenges to overcome. It will be some time before we can even approach the accuracy in audience figures for other above the line media (outdoor excepted).

To my eyes, the main issues surrounding effective online measurement can be boiled down to 3 broad categories.

Promoting the best metric(s)

metric hairclipThe biggest and most intractable obstacle. Which measure should be given most credence?

TV – the area I am most familiar with – also has a variety of measures. But average audience – across a programme, series or a particular timeslot – and coverage – the total number of people exposed to a programme/series/timeslot for a given time (usually 3 minutes) tend to be used most often.

Unfortunately, neither of these are fully appropriate for the web. So what are the alternatives? The main three are

  • How many (unique users) – but how unique is a unique user? Each visitor is tracked by a cookie, but each time a user empties his or her cache, the cookie is deleted. On the next visit, a new cookie is assigned. If I clean my cache once a week, I am effectively counted as 4 unique users a month. Plus there is my office computer, my blackberry, my mobile and my games console. I could easily be counted ten times across a month if I use a variety of touchpoints.
  • How busy (page impressions) – but how important is my impression? I may have accidentally clicked through a link, or I may continually refresh a page to update it. As for automated pages, such as the constantly refreshing Gmail or Myspace ? Is each page refresh counted as a new impression? Furthermore, if a page impression is used to calculate advertising rates, what happens to the impressions made with an adblocker in place?
  • How often (frequency – page impressions divided by unique users) – as this relies on the above metrics, it is heavily compromised

What about other measures?

  • Average time spent can be massively skewed by people leaving their browsers open while they aren’t at their pc
  • Average number of visits would give a decent measure of engagement, but the cookie issue would mean it would be understated.
  • Measuring subscriptions would be interesting, but these may be inactive, sites offer multiple feeds, and take-up are far from universal. As people become more adept with web browsing, RSS may gain more traction but websites such as Alltop are showing viable alternatives to the feed-reading system.

And beyond these concerns, there is still one crucial question that remains unanswered. Who are these people?

TV, radio and press use a representative panel of people to estimate the total population. For TV, the BARB panel consists of around 11,000 people who represent the 60m or so individuals in the UK. But we are seeing that as the number of channels increase, this size of panel isn’t able to accurately capture data for the smaller channels.

So what hope is there for the web, with the multitude of sites and sub-sites with tiny audiences? Not to mention the fact that these audiences are global.

Of course, online panels do already exist. But these only sample the top x number of websites, and, as it stands, the – differing -figures each of them produce are treated with caution and – on occasion – suspicion. Witness the argument between Radiohead and Comscore, to give one example

So I’m no closer on figuring out how we measure. How about what we measure?

Determining the content to be measured

greenshield stampsIf we are looking to determine advertising rates, then the easy answer is to measure any page that carries inventory. But should the quality or relevancy of the content be considered?

Sticking with UK newspaper sites, questions over what material should be audited include:

  • If we are looking at UK sites, should we only look at content orientated towards a UK audience? Should this content or audience be considered “higher quality”?
  • If we are considering the site as a newspaper, should we only look at current content only? For instance, the Times has opened up its archive for perusal. Should all of this content be counted equally?
  • How relevant to the contents of the news do the stats have to be? Newspapers have employed tricks from crosswords to bingo to free DVDs in order to boost their readership, but should newspaper websites be allowed to host games, social networking spaces or rotating trivia (to give one example) as a hook for the floating link-clickers or casual browsers?
  • How does one treat viral content, that can be picked up and promoted independently of the proprietor? See the story of the Sudanese man marrying the goat, which remained a popular story on BBC News for years, or the story about Hotmail introducing charges, which is brought up to trick a new batch of gullible people every year or so
  • What about if the internal search is particularly useless, and it takes several attempts to get to the intended destination?
  • And a tricky question to end on – can we and should we consider the intentions of the browser? For instance, my most popular post on this blog is my review of a Thinkbox event. Is it because it is particularly well written or interesting? No, it is because my blog appears when people search for a picture of the brain. Few of the visitors will even clock what the post is about; they will simply grab the picture and move on.

All of this makes me wonder how much of a false typology “UK Newspaper site” is in this environment. What proportion of visitors could actually be identified as being there for the news, and not because of clicking a link about the original Indiana Jones, or a funny review of the new Incredible Hulk movie

Could those articles have been approved purely for link-bait? As they also appear in the print editions, I think not. But I’m sure it does happen.

Accounting for “performance enhancers”

the incredible spongebob hulkIn the same way as certain supplements are permitted in athletics but others are banned, should some actions that can be used to artificially boost stats be regulated?

  • Should automated pages be omitted?
  • If the New Yorker splits out a lengthy article across 12 pages, can it really be said that it is 12 times more valuable than having it appear on one page?
  • Many sites now have “see also” or “related” sidebars. Should sites that refer externally be penalised for offering choice, against those that only refer within the site itself?
  • Search engine optimisation is a dark art, but there can ultimately only be one winner. While there are premium positions in-store and on the electronic programming guide, search engines have much more of a “winner take all” system in place where the first link will get the majority of the click-throughs. Should referrals be weighted to account for this?

There are a lot of questions above, and no real answers. No measurements are perfect, but we look to be a long way off approaching acceptability in the online sphere.

This is by no means my area of expertise, and I would love to hear from anyone with their own thoughts, suggestions or experiences on the topic. I will happily be corrected on any erroneous details in this post.


Photo credits:
Measurement: http://www.flickr.com/photos/spacesuitcatalyst/
Metric hairclip: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ecraftic/
Greenshield Stamps: http://www.flickr.com/photos/practicalowl/
The Incredible Spongebob-Hulk: http://www.flickr.com/photos/chris_gin/

Spread Firefox

firefox dogToday is D-Day for Firefox 3. It comes out of beta testing, and is officially released.

Mozilla have come up with a brilliant launch campaign for it. They have harnessed the affinity and advocacy of the product through an excellent word of mouth campaign.

Today is their attempt to get into the Guinness Book of Records for the most downloads in a 24 hour period. There are currently 1.6m pledges (which you can see split by geography at the webpage), which matches the number that downloaded Firefox 2 in 2006. But now that the BBC, among others, are running the story, this is bound to rise.

I think Firefox is a fantastic product and this is a great way to launch it. I shall be downloading my version later.

If you are not yet convinced, there are write-ups here (Wired), here (Webmonkey) and here (Webware).

It will be available to download here from 1100PDT/1800GMT


EDIT: All downloaded smoothly. The only issue so far is that some of my add-ons aren’t yet compatible with the new version.

Links – 17th June 2008

To round off my epic link update, here are the miscellaneous links that I find interesting. Perhaps you will too?

The UK has the lowest privacy ranking in the EU (Guardian)

Bikini clad women make men impatient (Physorg)

How the world has changed since 1993 (Wired)

Brutal New York – heart-wrenching photographic essay

42 fantastic business card designs (Re Encoded)

150 funny CV errors (Job Mob)

The Rotherhithe tunnel is 100 years old (Diamond Geezer) – despite living about half a mile from it, I’ve only ever been through it (in a taxi) once

When objects become magazines (Creative Review)

Extending album artwork (B3ta) – the best, and most PG, B3ta contest I’ve seen in some time

How portion sizes have changed (Divine Caroline) – I had no idea that a “serving” of Coca Cola was 200ml, though do resent that the smallest size of either popcorn or drink you can get in the cinema these days is basically XL

Iron Man: The Science Behind The Fiction (New Scientist)

Debunking grammar lists, 5 lessons in grammar, and 5 lessons in punctuation (Mental Floss)

Grandmaster Flashed (Wired) – up there with my favourite headlines of all time. Refers to Kasparov’s address interrupted by an identified flying object

The environmental cost of shipping groceries around the world (New York Times)

Hair Hats (LiveJournal) – hair moulded to resemble animals or hats or suchlike

Frog breaks bones to form claws (New Scientist) – I smell a TMNT/X-Men crossover

Five vestigial (ie useless) organs that humans have (New Scientist)

The essential man’s library (Art of Manliness)

Internet sports games (Guardian)

Money mixed up with pictures to create new faces (Freaking News)

Illinois Department of Transportation revokes attempts to enliven stop signs (Chicago Tribune) – with sub-signs such as “And smell the roses” or (I hope) “In the name of love”

Pairing books with beers (Omnivoracious)

Impressive collection of people landing ping pong balls in a bucket from increasingly improbable angles (Unique Peek) – I’m not sure if impressive is really the right word

Is this the first Christian Church? (Daily Mail)

Bittersweet tale of working as Captain Jack Sparrow at Disneyland (LA Mag)

The treasure hunt built into the design of a house (New York Times)

6 “human” traits found in animals (New Scientist)

An Oyster card dissolved in nail varnish (Skeptobot)

A rather nihilistic perspective on work (BBC)

Babbage’s computer from Victorian times is reborn (BBC) – I became aware of this recently through listening to the Ava Lovelace podcast of Melyvn Bragg’s excellent In Our Time programme on Radio 4

SIDENOTE: The BBC web magazine has become exponentially better in recent months. Plainly, they have devoted a fair amount of their budget “surplus” on (freelance?) journalists

My particular recommendations include Brutal New York, Extending album artwork, How portion sizes have changed, Bittersweet tale of working as Captain Jack Sparrow at Disneyland and The treasure hunt built into the design of a house

The previous updates can be found at:

Friday: Marketing links

Saturday: Trivia, and Interesting/thoughtful articles

Sunday: Interesting websites, and useful tips

Monday: Technology and web2.0 links

Regular service should be restored later this week