Do you know these people?

In New Zealand we like to talk up the interconnectedness of the little village that we all live in.

Because of our small population, it’s often claimed that everybody is connected to everybody else by fewer than six degrees of separation.

There is even a new mobile phone network claiming just two degrees.

So, let’s try an experiment and see if we can return some lost property in the process.

Yesterday we were driving home from Taupo and saw a camera fall off the roof of one of the cars we were following.  Unfortunately we didn’t see which one, and anyway, by the time we stopped and picked it up they were long gone.

Here is one of the pics from the camera:

(click for larger size)

If you or somebody you know are in the photo please get in touch so I can arrange to return the camera to you.

If not, please re-blog, re-tweet, or otherwise forward this onto anybody who may have been driving South along the Desert Road yesterday.

If you include a link to this post then I’ll be able to work out how long the chain is, if the owner is found.

Thanks in advance for your help!

UPDATE (14th Dec, 1pm):

I’ve got an email from one of the people in the photo, so I’m pleased to say that the camera and (more importantly) photos will be back with them soon.

I’m astounded at how many people have linked to this post this morning, from Twitter and various other sites.  Thanks to you it took less than 3 hours to find them.

It looks like there were a number of different ways that I am connected to the owner – but the first to produce a result was via Tarik, who subscribes to my blog and is a friend of the owner, so just two degrees of separation.

Thanks again to everybody who made the effort to help!

UPDATE (14th Dec, 2pm):

A couple of people have pointed out an NZPA story about this, currently on the Stuff home page:

Blog helps reunite owner with camera

Too funny!

And, so nice of them to provide a link back to this post … oh wait, they didn’t.

UPDATE (15th Dec, 3pm):

The camera has been returned in exchange for a bottle of 42 Below.  A good result!

All the things you’re not

These are two dumb billboards:

ASB is not a kiwi bank.  They were sold to Commonwealth Bank of Australia (as the name would suggest, a publicly listed Australian company) in 1989.

Eh? Nobody picks JetStar because of the quality of the onboard service.  They are a discount airline – cheap and cheerful.

Why do they choose to highlight the exact things they are not?

Both obviously feel they need to respond to their competitors’ advertising.

Kiwi Bank nicely mocks the “Australian banks” in their ads.  And, Air New Zealand has done well to position themselves as the slightly-more-expensive-but-worth-it alternative, by highlighting all of the hidden extras that are not included in the discount airlines’ prices.

So, what should ASB and JetStar do?

Why not focus on the things that are important to customers that they actually are.

JetStar just needs to highlight their prices and ask the question: “how much are you paying for that tiny lolly mix?” or “how much are you paying for those airpoints?”

ASB is a more difficult example, because, it seems to me at least, that Kiwi Bank has them on most of the areas that customers care about.  Perhaps the long slow queues at Post Shops, including people trying to send their Trade Me parcels, is one area of weakness to focus on?

Either way ASB need to stop talking about the things they used to be – kiwi owned, leaders online (where is the ASB iPhone app?), etc – and find a current point of difference.

Whatever happened to BankDirect, I wonder?  They had a great brand, but it seems to have been left to rot on the vine recently. I remember one ad with attitude they had years ago which said something like: “Our credit cards are black, because we think they look cool” – it convinced me to switch!

This is just another good example of something that smaller companies seem to find much easier – talk straight and be yourself.

Some Recent Posts

Bonus (not so recent, but related):

  • TVCs, 21 December 2008

more…

 

Knocking the bugger off

Like many of you, I’m sure, I’m enjoying following the adventures of Vaughan Rowsell, who is now more than two weeks into his attempt to ride the full length of New Zealand “uphill” (i.e. starting at the bottom and finishing at the top).

Here are the videos he has posted on his blog summarising the distance covered so far:

Week 1 – Stewart Island to Mosgiel

Week 2 – Mosgiel to Waikouaiti

He also has some route maps on his site.

What make this so exciting?  Just that he’s doing it.

In other words: what sounds impossible is actually quite achievable, which is not to say easy.

The only thing that makes him different from you (and me!) is that he has managed to bridge that massive gap between thinking about doing something great and actually making it happen.

From Twitter:

“I do feel like I am doing something impossible! Something I never thought I was able to do. It’s such an awesome feeling. Try it.”

@rowsell

It certainly beats sitting on the couch feeling fat and lazy and generally sorry for yourself.

I got to know Vaughan a little when we worked together on the first part of the Travel Bug project (then going by it’s code name “Jandals”)

He’s a pretty unassuming guy who deserves all of the credit and support that I hope he gets (en route he is raising money for The Agency for Spinal Concern).

I don’t know if he is thinking this far ahead yet … possibly only when it gets really hard grinding up a big hill or into a headwind in the rain … but the feeling he’ll have when he gets to the end is going to be crazy awesome.

I’m really looking forward to spending a day riding with him when he gets to Wellington.

Maybe two, if he’ll have me?

UPDATE (21-May)

I rode with Vaughan from Wellington to Otaki.  It was a cold wet day, and the route we took over the Akatarawas was pretty brutal, but it was fun anyway.  His blog has some details.

Since then he has continued on up the country and is now into the final week or so of his ride.

If you are in the Auckland area get out this weekend and support him as he rides across the bridge.

And, where ever you are, you can support his charity by donating through his page on Give A Little.

Now what?

“I reckon an education notice can’t just say “don’t do that”. It needs to include what to do instead otherwise it’s not education. ”

Br3nda via Twitter

“The biggest threat to an author is obscurity, not piracy.”

— Tim O’Reilly

I was overseas and missed the bulk of the debate about Section 92a of the new Copyright Amendment Act.

But the outcome was pretty interesting, even from a distance.

The #blackout campaign, initiated by Creative Freedom NZ and supported by a huge number of people, managed to get a lot of coverage of the issue and convinced the government to delay the implementation of this part of the Act.

And then, earlier this week, they announced that they were scrapping this altogether and going back to the drawing board.

So, here is a question for everybody that supported the campaign (i.e. everybody who changed their avatar in Facebook and/or Twitter):

Now what?

The current wording of s92a is dumb.  All agreed.  But, how should it read?

I’m not sure that I’ve heard anybody propose a solution that everybody would support, which I assume means that this is a much more difficult problem than we think.

The Creative Freedom site lists three goals:

  1. No “guilt upon accusation” law
  2. DRM Free NewZealand
  3. No companies snooping on your internet 

These are fine goals.  

I think everybody would nod in furious agreement as they read those.

(If you haven’t already I encourage you to follow the links above read the details).

And I think that most people would also agree that the groups representing the various rights owners have to be part of the solution, even though they have not seemed very willing to engage in the debate (for example, when RIANZ CEO Campbell Smith describes a requirement to provide evidence of copyright infringement as “impractical” and “ridiculous” he just looks silly).

There just doesn’t seem to be a middle ground at the moment.  

So, it’s a stalemate.

On one side we have people who consume content who, it seems, would probably prefer to keep the status-quo where they can reasonably freely download and share whatever without risk of being caught (it’s hard to beat free, eh!)

That might be unfair, but I haven’t really heard anybody on this side of the debate come out strongly against copyright infringements and say “we think it’s terrible that it’s so easy to steal, and we think it should be enforced like this …”.  

Perhaps it’s a case of people in glass houses being a bit cautious about throwing stones?  

On the other side are the content producers and rights owners who seem incapable of grasping the size of the opportunity they are missing out on by sticking to their old business models and a mindset of having to hold on so tightly to the content they own.  

As Elan from Plex said so well in his recent open letter to media companies

“You have to stop being scared that I’m going to steal your content, because I’m already stealing your content. Your goal should be to get me to give you the money I’m already giving to others.”

And

“There is a holy trinity of things I want desperately from you, because I can’t get them anywhere else: availability, quality, and metadata. By availability I mean give me access to full catalogs of content. More is more. If I can’t get it from you, I’m going to have to go elsewhere, and you don’t want that. Secondly, give me quality: why would I go to you for SD content when I can get HD content elsewhere? Why would I go to you for ad-laden content when I can get ad-free content elsewhere? Lastly, give me rich metadata: reviews, related content, recommendations, transcripts, and credits. And give me an API interface to that data. In return I will give you my money every month, and I’ll rub your feet at least once a week.”

And stuck in the middle of all of this are the ISPs of various flavours, who would, I suspect, much rather just invoice monthly than have to get involved in the messy business of being adjudicator and enforcer.

That seems like quite a big gap to try and bridge.

How do we break this deadlock?

What’s the next step forwards?

Are there examples from overseas that we think would work here – i.e. the American model (which gives a bit more power to the rights owners) or the European model (which gives a bit more power to the consumer)?  

Or perhaps we try our own hybrid, with some form of industry self-regulation?

Would that work?

Or do we just think it’s all too hard, and so stick with the status-quo by default?

Interested in your thoughts.

There is no depression in NZ (yet)

I wonder: how far into what we now call the Great Depression did they start to call it a Great Depression as opposed to a regular old recession?

The US stock markets just recorded their worst month since 1933.  The amount of money that has been wiped off the value of listed companies around the world is staggering.

As this chart from Financial Graph & Art shows, this is now the second worst bear market when measured by the percentage decline in values, but we still have some way to go to match both the length and severity of the market drop between 1929 and 1932.

20090306_3

This is clearly somewhat uncharted waters.  And, it’s interesting to see what different countries around the world are doing to try and address this situation.

Having spent a few weeks in the US recently, it feels like we’re much less optimistic here in NZ.  Obviously the recession/depression is dominating the news over there too, but the mood is still “yes we can!” rather than “gulp, we’re stuffed!”.

For example this (from the New York Times)

“Wrapped inside the economic stimulus package is about $80 billion in spending, loan guarantees and tax incentives aimed at promoting energy efficiency, renewable energy sources, higher-mileage cars and coal that is truly clean. As a stand-alone measure, these investments would amount to the biggest energy bill in history.”

Not sure about the “truly clean coal” part, but that does seem positive.

And, it makes the 9-day-fortnight proposal seem pretty modest.

On the other hand, I’m not necessarily sure much of the optimism is warranted.

What are they going to do about their auto industry?  More bail outs?  Or let them fail?  Neither seem like especially attractive options.

While I was there Hyundai were running a series of positive TV ads highlighting their assembly plants based in Alabama, employing lots of Americans, etc, etc (and without saying as much noting that this was all without government bail outs).  As Fred Wilson pointed out: “the auto sector has the potential to be the ‘Vietnam’ of his energy plan” and “when a portfolio company acts like [GM] in our business, they are dead on arrival”.

Whether you’re optimistic or pessimistic, it’s difficult to disagree that this is a horrible mess.

So, what are we going to do about it?  What are you going to do about it?

Do you feel like there is anything you can do, or is this something that they have to solve?  And, if so, who is “they“?

Think about the things you have already personally done: do you think they have made things better or worse?  For example, if you have stopped spending so much on stuff you can do without, what’s the impact on the companies that used to make and sell that stuff, and the people who work for those businesses?

Amongst this carnage, where are the opportunities?  Remember: Trade Me was launched in 1999, just as the first tech bubble burst spectacularly.

And, is anybody else worried that we’ve all started to feel that things are inevitably going to get worse?

If you want to understand how this whole mess has come about, here is an excellent animated overview:
credit-crisis-explained-on-vimeo

http://www.vimeo.com/3261363

Interested in your thoughts.

NZ Flag

Silver Fern, Wellington

 

I am a New Zealander. 

I was born here.  My parents were both born here.  My grandparents were all born here.  Seven of my eight great-grandparents were born here too (the other was born in Scotland).

I don’t belong anywhere else.

I hate being called a European. 

I lived in London for three years, and loved it, but I don’t have any connections there.  They have a queue at Heathrow for Europeans, but I wasn’t allowed through that way.

I find it odd that our country still holds onto some traditions from our time as a part of The Empire.  The UK and Europe have changed a lot since then, and they have clearly moved on.  It seems to me that we could too.

One easy thing we should do, which would be a symbolic start to this process, is change our flag.

I say “easy” but of course the devil is in the details.  

There are people who have strong associations to the current flag – such as some former soldiers (although, those who fought against the Germans and Italians in WW2 should note that people from those countries all now enter the UK via the European queue I mentioned above).  

And, even amongst those who support this idea there is disagreement about the design that should be adopted.  

For me this is easy.  The Silver Fern is a symbol which is widely associated with New Zealand and New Zealanders.  It’s the symbol most of us would pick if we were asked to represent our country in a single image – which, after all, is the broad purpose of a flag isn’t it?  

A flag needs to be simple, and instantly recognisable.  A plain Silver Fern on a black background would achieve this brilliantly.

So, I’m pleased to see that the group behind NZ Flag have re-organised.  They have my full support and hopefully yours too.

I think they would have a better chance of success if they proposed a specific new design, rather than just advocating a change.  Their current design, which was created by Cameron Sanders from Cato Partners, is cool but is too stylised.  Unlike other Silver Ferns used by sporting teams and other organisations, the design used on a national flag would not need to be registered as a trade mark, so doesn’t necessarily need any unique design features.

I suggest something like this:

silver-fern-flag

(a design based loosely on the Tourism NZ logo)

What do you think?

If you want to add your voice in support of NZ Flag, sign-up on the website or join the Facebook group.

Thanks.

Photo Credits: Silver Fern, by Heaven’s Gate

LCD TVs

I was in Auckland last week and spotted this ad in the business section of the Herald:

tvnz-ad

The small print at the bottom reads:

“People seem to be investing more than ever in TVs.  So it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out where to invest your advertising dollar.”

Now, I realise that I’m far from the target audience for this ad – given that I’m not the sort of person who’s likely to buy TV advertising.

But, it still made me angry.

Our big LCD TV is hooked up to a MySky box, which means most of the things we watch are available in HD.

But, not the TVNZ channels, which look like rubbish in comparison.

So, instead of expensive ads in the newspaper, I wish that TVNZ would put their energy into sorting out their petty differences with Sky and making their content available in the best possible format however people choose to access it.

Then, ironically, more people might watch their channels.

Which will make it easier for them to sell more ads.

Which will mean they don’t have to spend so much money on newspaper ads.

Everybody wins. Except the newspapers, I suppose.

We’re in the money

Question:

Why does the Powerball Jackpot max out at $30 million?

On a normal week they sell 1.5 million tickets.  Last week, when the jackpot was $24 million, they sold 2.5 million tickets.  This week they sold 3.5 million tickets, worth $33 million.  

So, it seems that a big jackpot is good for sales. 

Why not let the fun continue if nobody wins? Let the amount get REALLY BIG!

Also, for what it’s worth, and appreciating that maths is the LAST thing people think about when they buy a Lotto ticket, a quick calculation…

No doubt there were lots of people who don’t normally buy a Lotto ticket, but did this week.

However, the prize this week was 25% more than last week, but there were 40% more tickets sold, so the already low odds were actually much lower this week than last!

:-)

Related posts:

The Order of New Zealand

As a country, what do we reward?

Take a look at the list of the current members of the Order of New Zealand, which is our country’s highest public honour:

There are plenty of politicians: two former Prime Ministers, three other former Members of Parliament, and two former Governors General.  

There are artists, including an author, a poet, a potter, and an opera singer.

There are those who have been involved in community work.

There is a trade unionist, a doctor, an architect, a lawyer and a judge, a church minister and a theologian.

There is even an All Black and an Olympic gold medalist.

But nobody who is recognised as a business leader.  Nada.

Is there nobody who has made a worthy contribution?  Or are we just not including those who have?

Either way, it’s pretty telling isn’t it?

Third largest?

Yesterday it was announced that Wellington would host two of the quarter-finals in the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

Here is the announcement from the Minister of Sport, Clayton Cosgrove (emphasis mine):

“In terms of hosting major global sporting events, Rugby World Cup (RWC) 2011 is like New Zealand’s ‘Olympics’.  It is the third largest sporting event in the world. An event of this scale and significance offers every city and town a rare opportunity to realise a wide range of benefits across the sport and business sectors, as well as the community.”

The third largest?  Really?

In the spirit of Wikipedia: citation needed.

Clearly the Olympics and the Football World Cup are #1 and #2.  But, it seems to me there are a lot of other more global sports that could claim third position ahead of rugby:

  • Football: European Champs or Champions League
  • Golf: The Ryder Cup (or any of the four majors)
  • Tennis: Wimbledon (or any of the four majors)
  • Cycling: The Tour de France
  • Basketball: World Champs or NBA Playoffs
  • Athletics: World Champs

What about the Commonwealth Games?  Surely that’s bigger?

What about the Superbowl?  Isn’t that the most watched sporting event?

What about the Winter Olympics?

Can you think of any others?

I guess it all depends how you measure it.

This post from the WSJs “number guy” is worth a read:

When It Comes to TV Stats, Viewer Discretion Is Advised

Either way, I’m sure it will be a big weekend in Wellington when the worlds largest sporting event involving teams of 15 people playing with an oval ball comes to town!

:-)

Callaghan Files

Last year I went along to hear a lecture by Professor Paul Callaghan, who is head of the MacDiarmid Institute at Victoria University, called “Beyond The Farm And Themepark”.

It was an excellent thought provoking presentation which I recommend to anybody who is interested in NZs place in the world.

Set aside 90 minutes and watch it online here:

Hot Science – Beyond The Farm And Themepark

Here is the description from that site:

Leading science communicator, Professor Paul Callaghan, outlines his vision for New Zealand’s future prosperity in this lecture at Auckland War Memorial Museum as part of The Royal Society of New Zealand 2007 Distinguished Speaker series. Converting most of our forest into greenhouse gas has given us an abundance of grass and a thriving dairy industry. Yet through good fortune and some wise heads, we have, notwithstanding attempts to subdue it, sufficient residual natural environment to claim the label “clean and green”. Our landscape is magnificent and helps define who we are. But this lecture will argue that we have the potential to be a great deal more besides, and that we must be if we are to build the society we want our children to thrive in. It will argue that we can enhance our prosperity through sensible investment in science and technology, coupled with culture change. The first part is the easy bit. The second requires self-belief and a sense of purpose. David Lange once said New Zealand’s destiny was to be a theme park (and Australia’s, a quarry). We can surely think and act beyond that. Indeed New Zealand is such an interesting place to live precisely because we are so capable of determining our future.

There has also been a series of interviews with prominent NZ business people running on Stratos over the last few months.  Unfortunately I think this channel is only available to Sky Digital subscribers, and probably even them most of those will be blissfully unaware of it.  But, the interviews themselves are available on the MacDiarmid website:

The Paul Callaghan Interviews

What do you make of all of this?  Do you agree with his suggestions?

Or are we happy being well regarded as farmers and tour guides?

How’s the weather?

The tenth most visited NZ site in July with over 500,000 unique browsers…

metservice.co.nz

Yup, that about sums it up doesn’t it!

Trade Me still dominates, with 2.8 million unique browsers and over 1 billion page impressions.  That’s 64% of all recorded domestic page views!  And they’re still hiring.

Meanwhile, according to latest figures there are now 1.5 million internet “subscribers” in New Zealand.  Of these 59% are broadband users (I’m not sure what definition of broadband is used here, but we’ll take it as meaning not-dial-up).  

So, while that has improved a lot in the last year (see my previous post: Broadband usage still under 50% from March 2007), that’s still a lot of dial-up users out there.

I wonder if iPhone users are counted as subscribers yet?

Usage stats from Neilsen Online, subscriber numbers from Statistics New Zealand via NZ Herald

Online Retail

The NZ Herald ran an article this week about the The Warehouse’s new online site (I would include a link to the site, but it’s not actually live yet).

I was interested in the list of online retailers that was included at the bottom:

All four are traditional retailers.  While all four sites are okay, none of them really feel like online natives – for reasons I can’t explain all include banner like advertising (promoting their own sales and the like), and all prominently include a “Locate a store” feature.

I doubt that online sales are contribute significantly to the bottom line of any of them (if I’m wrong about that I’m happy to be corrected).

If you didn’t click the link, here are some quotes from retail analyst Tim Morris, of Coriolis Research from the article:

“Internet retailing in New Zealand is behind where it is in other countries, and that’s got nothing to do, I think, with the innate willingness of New Zealanders to buy things online. I think where it falls over is in the execution.”

“There’s really not a lot of good models in New Zealand for New Zealand-based companies doing everything right, especially as you get closer and closer to moving real things, not just nominal things like airline tickets.”

He’s right about Air New Zealand.  They kick ass, with a top-ten site.  While none of the four sites listed above are listed in Neilsen’s ratings.

But what about the pure online retailers?  We have them in NZ too, right?

I’m much more likely to buy from Ascent (Computer hardware and software), Fishpond (Books, DVDs and Music) or Mr. Vintage (T-shirts etc) than any of those stores listed above,

My guess is that there are some really successful small/medium business selling new stuff online, not the least because they don’t have to pay high street rents, but the reporter from the Herald probably hasn’t heard of any of them.

So, let’s make a list.  Where do you love shopping for new goods online?  I’m looking for New Zealand based retailers only.  Add your suggestions in the comments below or flick me an email and if I get enough responses I’ll publish a list of the best ones in a future post (if you post about your own business I’d appreciate it if you could identify yourself as the owner etc).

Disclaimer: I am indirectly a shareholder in Fishpond.