Month: January 2010

Apple’s iPad

Easily THE tech news event of last week, the release of Apple’s iPad led to already vocal people being even more vociferous with their opinions, the Apple fanboys salivating with pleasure, and everyone else forced to have some sort of opinion about it one way or the other. And that includes me. Where I work, Apple rules the roost – indeed, I use a BlackBerry and as the only non-iPhone user, am the victim of constant ‘oh you poor thing’ digs. I use a Mac in the office though, and it is an infinitely superior experience to the PC. And I also own an iPod Touch.

So when PSFK asked the Purple List to air their views about the iPad, I chipped in, buoyed by a very interesting talk about it pre-release with James Higgs and Simon I’Anson. Here’s what I said:

The iPad will not fundamentally change the way data creators work, i.e bloggers, tweeters – the active web population like us. It will, however, change the way the large proportion of data consumers work; people like our parents who have minimal use for the web (surfing, emailing, perhaps booking tickets and so on). For people like us, the iPod Touch and the Macbook are necessary – I see the touch screen as not being very conducive to use for epic blog posts, for example! The iPad will be an addition to a suite of internet-enabled accessories that a person may have. It will be very useful on the go.

Go read the rest here.

The Brain Tap Series: Interview 17 – Neil Perkin

It’s high time I dusted the cobwebs off the interview series. Who better to do that with than Neil Perkin? Famously of the dodgy goatee (I didn’t say that, he did!), Neil was the Director of Marketing & Strategy at IPC Media till a couple of weeks ago. Here’s what he has to say about media, Pingu and then some:

1. What is the most interesting job you’ve ever held and what lessons did you learn from it?

I should probably say my role at IPC Media where I was for a number of years and from which I continually learnt, but I’ve just left to set up my own business so I have a feeling that my learning curve in the short to medium-term future will be even steeper. Oh, and I once had a job in the cassette department of Tower Records (that shows my age) where I learned that Prince is even smaller in real life than you expect him to be.

2. Name one creative project or idea that made you wish you’d thought of it.

Not one creative project, but more a revolutionary funding platform for many. Kickstarter crowdsources micro-funding for “artists, designers, filmmakers, musicians, journalists, inventors, and explorers”. Like Kiva, it’s the human stories that make it so compelling. Platforms to connect people like this are what the web was made for.

3. Name one site or service that you’d invest in if you were a venture capitalist.

I’ve been mildly obsessing about Local Motors (I wrote about them here, the ‘next generation’ US car company that use designs crowdsourced from a community of thousands of passionate advocates to build genuinely different cars which can be sold and serviced through a network local units. It turns the high cost, lengthy design process and the highly centralized manufacturing model of traditional car production completely on its head. And that’s why I like it.

4. Name your favourite fictional character and an existing gadget or service they’d find useful.

Slightly off brief but my youngest daughter was once really into Pingu – now there’s a penguin that could seriously benefit from Google Translate.

(Anjali’s note: LOL!)

5. Do you think that for brands to reach out to a young consumer base, it has to have a digital component?

Absolutely not. There are so many options that I don’t think any medium is an absolute must for reaching any audience. Having said that, digital is clearly embedded in young people’s lives and an excellent medium for reaching them and for amplifying and spreading strong ideas. The Coke Happiness Machine is a good recent example of that.

6. What are your main hobbies and how do they influence your work?

Last year I ran my first marathon and I’m doing the Virgin London Marathon this year. Distance running is quite a zen thing to do. When you’re out on a good long run, it’s good thinking time. So you often come up with good ideas. As long as you’re then not too knackered to do anything about them.

7. Who’d be the best person to play you in a movie about your life?

Anyone with a dodgy goatee. If not, there’s always Pingu.


Thanks, Neil!

The 1 Second Film

Can a film really be 1 second long? Well, the 1 Second Film (which consists of 12 giant paintings in animated form) is – and what’s more, I’m part of the 11,996 people so far who will be listed in the credits as an Associate Producer. No, I’m not mega-rich – all you have to do is contribute a minimum of $1 and you’ll get your name rolling in the 90 minute credit strip (though the film is 1/90th that time!). People who are part of this project include celebrities like Kiefer Sutherland, Pierce Brosnan, Spike Jonze and Kevin Bacon (woohoo!! – full list of celebrity producers here), and it’s all for a good cause – all profits will go to the Global Fund for Women. The film is being directed by Nirvan Mullick, an animator who began this project over a year ago while still in film school. Details here.

This is my second contribution to a crowd-funded film, after Oscar and Jim last year. I think it’s pretty cool!

Lost art, lost no more

In two somewhat-related news articles last week, the cassette is being brought back by people who are interpreting it as an art project, and classic vinyl album covers are being issued as stamps. I was intrigued to read that there are small shops like the Tapeworm that are bringing out limited edition (typically 250 copies) cassette-only releases, which often sell out.

As the BBC says,

“We do not view this as a dead format,” says The Tapeworm’s Philip Marshall. “We do not view this as something which does not have a place right now.

“We were looking for a way to edition music in small runs that was cost effective and would also make the artists we were commissioning think about the ‘a’ and the ‘b'”.

He is referring to the ‘a’ and ‘b’ sides of the cassette.

“There’s a lost art to the ‘a’ and the ‘b’,” he says of downloaded music in particular, “a lost art to a sequence of music, a lost art to the album.”

So my love of nostalgia stands vindicated. In fact, there’s money to be made from it, if you look for your audience hard enough!

Facebook privacy and all that

In a remarkable coincidence today, I read this post, an interview with an anonymous Facebook employee (the post’s authenticity is being highly debated on the web), which contains this excerpt:

How do you think we know who your best friends are? But that’s public knowledge; we’ve explicitly stated that we record that. If you look in your type-ahead search, and you press “A,” or just one letter, a list of your best friends shows up. It’s no longer organized alphabetically, but by the person you interact with most, your “best friends,” or at least those whom we have concluded you are best friends with.

And then on Facebook, I was messing around with my settings and I noticed this when I clicked the ‘edit options’ link:

So it’s true. I just think that’s quite an amazing thing – I almost didn’t believe it. And for the record, no, I’m not paranoid about privacy issues for the simple reason that I don’t have hundreds of photos on Facebook, though I am very much for privacy as a right.

Learning from The Simpsons

I read this interesting article comparing and contrasting The Simpsons with typical happy Disney characters recently. One of the points discussed is that a generation of children are being introduced to events in history entirely based on what they learn from The Simpsons:

In contrast to Disney, with its lush visuals and stark storylines, the sophistication of “The Simpsons” was all in the scripts, which are highly literate, gaily referring to everything from Susan Sontag to “Citizen Kane”. Children who have been brought up on the show often have a weird general knowledge. When Al Gore was vice president, only 63% of American kids surveyed could identify him, whereas 93% could identify the cast of “The Simpsons”. Children may know the yellow versions of Richard Nixon or the Beatles long before they encounter the real thing. My ten-year-old son recently read “Lord of the Flies”. He didn’t find it that upsetting: he already knew most of the plot from “Das Bus”, “Simpsons” episode 192.

I thought that was fascinating. I also didn’t know that the writers of the show have included occasional New Yorker writer George Meyer and Conan O’Brien, of the Tonight Show fame. (On a not-so-related note, as I was rooting through the internet just now, I found the Wikia Entertainment wikis for some of the best shows on TV, which I didn’t know about before. Wow.)

In an excellent insight, the article ends with this paragraph that compares The Simpsons movie with Disney movies, where it says Disney clearly have the upper hand:

“The Simpsons Movie” seemed a shot at achieving a Disney-like immortality. But despite some inspired one-liners–and the genius of Spider-Pig, Homer’s pet pig which he plays with like a Spiderman doll–the movie lacked the density of the best short episodes. And it ended with another self-referential gag, Maggie uttering the single word “Sequel?” It confirmed that though “The Simpsons” may win best animated television show hands-down–Disney’s made-for-TV efforts are mediocre–it still cannot beat Disney at the movies. I suspect Matt Groening knows this. Behind all his mockery of the big Mouse is an admission that Disney’s big-screen sentiment ultimately sees off his small-screen yellow cleverness. Deep down, most of us are stupid and sentimental like Homer. Long after we forget why Spider-Pig was so funny, we will still be crying at Bambi’s mother dying.

How true. At the end of the day, all it’s really about, is emotions.

And since this post is about The Simpsons, here’s an entertaining interview with the voices behind the characters, that I saw a long time ago. If you haven’t seen it yet and you’re a Simpsons fan, you may enjoy it:

Prepare for the war with the giant robotic bees

One of the paragraphs from comedian Frankie Boyle’s autobiography, titled ‘My Shit Life So Far‘, that made me laugh out loud:

Nowadays, the curriculum in primary schools is to be revamped so that children are familiar with blogging, podcasts, Wikipedia and Twitter. Aren’t kids already familiar with all of these? The average primary-school child is already more relaxed with computers than a NASA scientist. Talk about putting a strain on the teachers. The only people qualified to teach children aged 7 about how the internet works are children aged 8. Another problem with this revamping is that information technology is moving so quickly that by the time children leave school, websites like Twitter will be as dead as the dodo. Although pupils won’t have been taught what a dodo is; they’ll be saying ‘as dead as MySpace’. Teaching children about information technology is going to replace fad activities, such as reading books and learning about history. That might seem like a dreadful shame to us, but remember that future generations are going to have to fight the cyber wars and, unfortunately, knowing how to download plans for  an electromagnetic pulse disruptor is going to be more useful to them than knowing how Queen Victoria reigned when they come face to face with an army of giant robotic bees.