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The TripAdvisor Map of My Travels

I mentioned before that I criss-crossed England and Wales, which in a way compensated for the lack of knowledge of my first native country. Now it’s been two years since I came back to Moscow, and I’m happy to report that I have been trying to travel at every opportunity. Given that Russia is larger, it can take a fair amount of time to travel from one town to another even when they are closely located. And still… I impressed myself with the result of my exploring Britain, and you are invited to take a look. I don’t use TripAdvisor all that much, but I have been Qyping since 2010.

Yekaterinburg: Places to Go Online

There are many reasons why you’d need to pop into an Internet cafe. You may have no laptop, or your mobile Internet has run out, and you suddenly have to check emails or send a file. Below are the places in Yekaterinburg, the capital of the Urals Region in Russia, where you can use the Internet on any device, for free or not. Information is true as of September 2011.

When you have no laptop

If you don’t have a laptop, your first choice is the main Post Office in 39, Prospect of Lenin. In addition to a full range of postal services, they also provide you with the Internet. In a room planted with around 15 PCs you can go online without the need to log in.
How much it costs: 2.5RUB per 1Mb. (We paid 75RUB).
How to get there: get into Prospect of Lenin first, and then follow the houses along the odd side of the street to no. 39. Next to it the Wallen Dutch Pub.
Working hours: 24/7.

Your other choice is an Internet Cafe. The beauty thereof is that this option not only provides you with a PC, but also with food and drinks, should you need either. A Kiber-Sport computer club in 40, Pervomaiskaya St is conveniently located within the easy reach from the main “cultural” arteries of Yekaterinburg: Prospect of Lenin, Karl Liebknecht St, and Tolmachyov St. The place serves business lunches at 99RUB, and is open 24/7. They also provide a range of services, including photocopying, scanning, printing, and laminating.

Another place of a similar kind is Block Post computer club in 141, Malyshev St. There is a bar attached, plus you can order pizza at 300RUB per 1 kilo. The club is equipped with 50 PCs with 19-20″ screens, 9600gt video system and Intel E8200/Q8400 processors.
How much it costs: Block Post offers different packages, suitable for all needs. You can also pay on an hourly basis. The price depends on the day of the week and the time of day. Monday to Friday: 8am-10pm – 25RUB/hour, 10pm-8am – 80RUB/hour. Saturday to Sunday: 8am-10pm – 30RUB/hour, 10pm-8am – 120RUB/hour.
How to get there: For Kiber-Sport, walk to the Ural State University in Prospect of Lenin, turn into Turgenev St and walk down to Pervomaiskaya St that runs just parallel to Prospect of Lenin. Turn right and follow the even side of the street to no. 40. For Block Post, follow Malyshev St to where it is crossed by Studencheskaya St. The following buses can take you there: 13k, 25, 27, 36, 40, 60, 60a, 61.

Working hours: 24/7.

When you have a laptop

Wi-Fi hot-spots are scattered all over Yekaterinburg; you can browse the web near the city pond or in a quaint town district. McDonald’s and such like obviously offer the Internet, but you can surf in style, say, at a bookstore. In Chitai-Gorod chain of bookstores they offer free Wi-Fi, provided you have a laptop.
How much it costs: free.
How to get there: since most likely you will be wandering in the city centre, your best option is a Chitai-Gorod bookstore in 49, Prospect of Lenin. It is only a few houses up the road from the main Post Office mentioned above.

The Allure of Periodic Tables: Chemistry, SEO, and Foul Language

Newton can rest on his laurels all he likes, but it looks like the most popular – as in pop-culture terms – discovery belongs to Dmitry Mendeleev. The story has it that the great Russian chemist eventually dreamt his entire periodic table of chemical elements, which is not surprising, considering how long he’d been working on its arrangement.

Read more about Mendeleev’s Periodic Table, or even download an Apple app for your device (compatible with iPad, $0.99).

Little would he know that this scheme would inspire:

1. SEO community (SearchEngineLand)
You can download the Periodic Table of SEO Ranking Factors in PDF.

Image: Search Engine Land.

2. Students of foul language (via Modern Toss)
Back in 2007 I told you a tearful story of my trying to compile a list of negative keywords for an AdWords campaign. I have been reading Henry Miller since 2000, and throughout my 7 years in the UK and now 1.5 years in Russia I’ve been open to all sorts of words and expressions. Since I use public transport and attend social functions, I don’t really have a choice. Now I put my hands down, my friends: the majority of phrases in the Periodic Table of Swearing has to this day been unknown to me. It looks like my foul vocabulary didn’t grow beyond individual words and maybe two or three best known expressions. I no longer know what to think, although I suspect it’s best to have something to discover in life…

Image: Forever Geek

3. Internet Fans (via Wellington Grey)
Not unlike SearchEngineLand, but much earlier, Wellington Grey painstakingly assembled the Internet resources, as they were in 2007. I’d imagine the table needs a revision and a new edition, but as a piece of history it’s lovely and brings back good memories (and it doesn’t know Yandex as a search engine!)

Periodic Table of the Internet by Wellington Grey

4. Meme-orisers
Here’s another thing I need to discover, but if you know your memes, you’ll surely appreciate what you see.

Image: Geekosystem

5. Designers
Do you know your Lucinda from Arial Sans Serif? Somehow using the Periodic Table of Typefaces suddenly made me see the difference between most typefaces. Behance.net has also got Spanish and Portuguese versions of the PTT.

Image: Squidspot

Can you think of other Periodic Tables that need doing?

The Origins of Trolls – Miguel de Cervantes – Don Quixote

One of the Russian bloggers I know did an interview with an Internet troll. Yes, that very troll who creates havoc in forums and makes people clash, while he quietly sits in front of his PC or laptop having a laugh at this typically human penchant for taking everything seriously. In particular, trolls enjoy challenging someone to do what they, trolls, insist someone cannot do. This includes giving a proof to something. And if you thought this kind of trolling behaviour only originated in the 20th c. (or maybe 19th) then think again after reading the passage from The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. The part one, published in 1605, gives a brilliant example of trolling that led to the trolls’ victory. After the English translation there is also a Dutch text and the original Spanish passage.

Engraving by Gustave Dore

He now came to a road branching in four directions, and immediately he was reminded of those cross-roads where knights-errant used to stop to consider which road they should take. In imitation of them he halted for a while, and after having deeply considered it, he gave Rocinante his head, submitting his own will to that of his hack, who followed out his first intention, which was to make straight for his own stable. After he had gone about two miles Don Quixote perceived a large party of people, who, as afterwards appeared, were some Toledo traders, on their way to buy silk at Murcia. There were six of them coming along under their sunshades, with four servants mounted, and three muleteers on foot. Scarcely had Don Quixote descried them when the fancy possessed him that this must be some new adventure; and to help him to imitate as far as he could those passages he had read of in his books, here seemed to come one made on purpose, which he resolved to attempt. So with a lofty bearing and determination he fixed himself firmly in his stirrups, got his lance ready, brought his buckler before his breast, and planting himself in the middle of the road, stood waiting the approach of these knights-errant, for such he now considered and held them to be; and when they had come near enough to see and hear, he exclaimed with a haughty gesture, “All the world stand, unless all the world confess that in all the world there is no maiden fairer than the Empress of La Mancha, the peerless Dulcinea del Toboso.”

The traders halted at the sound of this language and the sight of the strange figure that uttered it, and from both figure and language at once guessed the craze of their owner; they wished, however, to learn quietly what was the object of this confession that was demanded of them, and one of them, who was rather fond of a joke and was very sharp-witted, said to him, “Sir Knight, we do not know who this good lady is that you speak of; show her to us, for, if she be of such beauty as you suggest, with all our hearts and without any pressure we will confess the truth that is on your part required of us.”

“If I were to show her to you,” replied Don Quixote, “what merit would you have in confessing a truth so manifest? The essential point is that without seeing her you must believe, confess, affirm, swear, and defend it; else ye have to do with me in battle, ill-conditioned, arrogant rabble that ye are; and come ye on, one by one as the order of knighthood requires, or all together as is the custom and vile usage of your breed, here do I bide and await you relying on the justice of the cause I maintain.”

“Sir Knight,” replied the trader, “I entreat your worship in the name of this present company of princes, that, to save us from charging our consciences with the confession of a thing we have never seen or heard of, and one moreover so much to the prejudice of the Empresses and Queens of the Alcarria and Estremadura, your worship will be pleased to show us some portrait of this lady, though it be no bigger than a grain of wheat; for by the thread one gets at the ball, and in this way we shall be satisfied and easy, and you will be content and pleased; nay, I believe we are already so far agreed with you that even though her portrait should show her blind of one eye, and distilling vermilion and sulphur from the other, we would nevertheless, to gratify your worship, say all in her favour that you desire.”

“She distils nothing of the kind, vile rabble,” said Don Quixote, burning with rage, “nothing of the kind, I say, only ambergris and civet in cotton; nor is she one-eyed or humpbacked, but straighter than a Guadarrama spindle: but ye must pay for the blasphemy ye have uttered against beauty like that of my lady.”

And so saying, he charged with levelled lance against the one who had spoken, with such fury and fierceness that, if luck had not contrived that Rocinante should stumble midway and come down, it would have gone hard with the rash trader. Down went Rocinante, and over went his master, rolling along the ground for some distance; and when he tried to rise he was unable, so encumbered was he with lance, buckler, spurs, helmet, and the weight of his old armour; and all the while he was struggling to get up he kept saying, “Fly not, cowards and caitiffs! stay, for not by my fault, but my horse’s, am I stretched here.”

Full English text

De kooplieden konden uit Don Quichots gansche toetakeling en uit de dolle taal, die hij uitsloeg, wel dadelijk opmaken, dat het met hem daar boven niet recht pluis moest wezen, en een van hen, een jolige snaak, antwoordde dus dadelijk met even groote deftigheid: “Koen, dapper en roemwaardig ridder! wij hebben den naam van de eerbare jonkvrouwe, dien gij daar uit- galmt, nog nooit gehoord en hebben dus ook geen sikkepitje tegen haar in te brengen. Laat ons dan zien, hoe zij is, en is zij werkelijk het toonbeeld van schoonheid, waarvoor gij haar uitgeeft, dan zullen wij haar eer en lof volgaarne overal uitbazuinen.”

“Dat is maar dwaze praat!” voegde Don Quichot hun toe. “Als ik haar toonde, zou ’t geen verdienste wezen, dat ge voor haar op de knieën neervielt. Neen, ook zonder haar liefelijk aangezicht te aanschouwen zult gij gelooven, bekennen en bezweren, dat zij de schoonste op aarde is, of allen door de kracht mijner lans in het stof worden neergeworpen. Komt nader dan, komt nader, een voor een of allen te gelijk, en ik wil u toonen, wat straf hen wacht, die wagen, aan de edele en hooge dame Dulcinea van Toboso de verschuldigde achting te ontzeggen.”

“Ei, heer ridder, hoe kunt gij u ook zoo schrikbarend driftig maken?” antwoordde de spotzieke koopman, met moeite zijn lachlust bedwingende. “Toont ons maar eene beeltenis van uwe aangebedene, en al is die ook maar zoo groot als een gerstekorrel, we zullen tevreden zijn en uwe heerlijkheid alle eer bewijzen, zelfs als uit dat konterfeitsel blijkt, dat de edele Dulcinea erg scheel ziet en voor en achter een bochel heeft.”

“Ellendige, laaghartige schavuit!” riep Don Quichot, ten uiterste verontwaardigd. “Doña Dulcinea van Toboso kijkt niet scheel, en nog veel minder wordt haar edele gestalte door een bult ontsierd. Maar gij zult voor uwe snoode lastering het met den dood boeten.”

En nog terwijl hij dit uitschreeuwde, gaf hij Rocinante de sporen en stormde met zulk een geweld op den spotachtigen koopman in, dat hij hem met zijne lans doorboord zou hebben, zoo niet een gelukkig toeval dat dreigend gevaar had afgewend, De arme Rocinante namelijk, op dat harde rennen nog niet afgericht, stiet tegen een steen aan, struikelde, stortte neer en slingerde zijn ridderlijken berijder met zooveel kracht uit den zadel, dat hij wel tien passen ver door de lucht vloog. Hij deed wel al zijn best, om zich van zijn val weer op te richten; doch de zware last zijner rusting belette hem dat. Desniettegenstaande ging hij voort met schimpen en razen en overstelpte de kooplieden met een vloed van scheldwoorden, terwijl dezen daarbij zaten te schudden van lachen.

Full Dutch text

En esto, llegó a un camino que en cuatro se dividía, y luego se le vino a la imaginación las encrucejadas donde los caballeros andantes se ponían a pensar cuál camino de aquéllos tomarían, y, por imitarlos, estuvo un rato quedo; y, al cabo de haberlo muy bien pensado, soltó la rienda a Rocinante, dejando a la voluntad del rocín la suya, el cual siguió su primer intento, que fue el irse camino de su caballeriza.

Y, habiendo andado como dos millas, descubrió don Quijote un grande tropel de gente, que, como después se supo, eran unos mercaderes toledanos que iban a comprar seda a Murcia. Eran seis, y venían con sus quitasoles, con otros cuatro criados a caballo y tres mozos de mulas a pie. Apenas los divisó don Quijote, cuando se imaginó ser cosa de nueva aventura; y, por imitar en todo cuanto a él le parecía posible los pasos que había leído en sus libros, le pareció venir allí de molde uno que pensaba hacer. Y así, con gentil continente y denuedo, se afirmó bien en los estribos, apretó la lanza, llegó la adarga al pecho, y, puesto en la mitad del camino, estuvo esperando que aquellos caballeros andantes llegasen, que ya él por tales los tenía y juzgaba; y, cuando llegaron a trecho que se pudieron ver y oír, levantó don Quijote la voz, y con ademán arrogante dijo:

— Todo el mundo se tenga, si todo el mundo no confiesa que no hay en el mundo todo doncella más hermosa que la emperatriz de la Mancha, la sin par Dulcinea del Toboso.

Paráronse los mercaderes al son destas razones, y a ver la estraña figura del que las decía; y, por la figura y por las razones, luego echaron de ver la locura de su dueño; mas quisieron ver despacio en qué paraba aquella confesión que se les pedía, y uno dellos, que era un poco burlón y muy mucho discreto, le dijo:

— Señor caballero, nosotros no conocemos quién sea esa buena señora que decís; mostrádnosla: que si ella fuere de tanta hermosura como significáis, de buena gana y sin apremio alguno confesaremos la verdad que por parte vuestra nos es pedida.

— Si os la mostrara —replicó don Quijote—, ¿qué hiciérades vosotros en confesar una verdad tan notoria? La importancia está en que sin verla lo habéis de creer, confesar, afirmar, jurar y defender; donde no, conmigo sois en batalla, gente descomunal y soberbia. Que, ahora vengáis uno a uno, como pide la orden de caballería, ora todos juntos, como es costumbre y mala usanza de los de vuestra ralea, aquí os aguardo y espero, confiado en la razón que de mi parte tengo.

— Señor caballero —replicó el mercader—, suplico a vuestra merced, en nombre de todos estos príncipes que aquí estamos, que, porque no encarguemos nuestras conciencias confesando una cosa por nosotros jamás vista ni oída, y más siendo tan en perjuicio de las emperatrices y reinas del Alcarria y Estremadura, que vuestra merced sea servido de mostrarnos algún retrato de esa señora, aunque sea tamaño como un grano de trigo; que por el hilo se sacará el ovillo, y quedaremos con esto satisfechos y seguros, y vuestra merced quedará contento y pagado; y aun creo que estamos ya tan de su parte que, aunque su retrato nos muestre que es tuerta de un ojo y que del otro le mana bermellón y piedra azufre, con todo eso, por complacer a vuestra merced, diremos en su favor todo lo que quisiere.

— No le mana, canalla infame —respondió don Quijote, encendido en cólera—; no le mana, digo, eso que decís, sino ámbar y algalia entre algodones; y no es tuerta ni corcovada, sino más derecha que un huso de Guadarrama. Pero vosotros pagaréis la grande blasfemia que habéis dicho contra tamaña beldad como es la de mi señora.

Y, en diciendo esto, arremetió con la lanza baja contra el que lo había dicho, con tanta furia y enojo que, si la buena suerte no hiciera que en la mitad del camino tropezara y cayera Rocinante, lo pasara mal el atrevido mercader. Cayó Rocinante, y fue rodando su amo una buena pieza por el campo; y, queriéndose levantar, jamás pudo: tal embarazo le causaban la lanza, adarga, espuelas y celada, con el peso de las antiguas armas. Y, entretanto que pugnaba por levantarse y no podía, estaba diciendo:

— ¡Non fuyáis, gente cobarde; gente cautiva, atended!; que no por culpa mía, sino de mi caballo, estoy aquí tendido.

Original Spanish text

The Lido Opens WiFi Gates for the Venice Film Festival



The Biennale and the City of Venice announce an important agreement to allow the public, the journalists and the operators of the Venice International Film Festival on the Lido free access to the Wi-Fi connection, through the broadband municipal network of the City of Venice, the development of which will be completed by Venis Spa on the island of the Lido in time for the inauguration of the Venice Film Festival.

It is not until a paragraph like this do you begin to realise just how fast some European countries have been developing, compared to others. Whereas in Manchester (U.K.) the virtual network covers the entire city centre, and a free access to the Internet is accepted as a norm and taken for granted, in Italy the development of the web access seems to be lagging behind so much that such a ‘natural’ development deserves a special mention.

No, I’m not having a laugh, but merely making a point. At the same time, this is a curious point to observe. I wonder if this could be the best illustration of the chasm between the new arts and the old arts, between the future-oriented, classic-defying FutureEverything and Manchester International Festival and the classy (too classy, perhaps) Venice Film Festival. The former have acquired access to the Internet and diverse other things, the latter is only just providing the artistic public with one of pre-requisites of modern-day communication and success.

It’s not a question of the old keeping abreast with the new; it’s the question of the old retaining its ability and authority to inspire the new. And for that, the old has to have access to, and the knowledge of, the language and lifestyle of the new.

Image courtesy of BrandChannel.

Web Moves in Mysterious Ways

Credit: Pills Place blog

And the biggest mystery is always this: who is there on the other end? Is it one person or a group of people? If there is a case of impersonation, then does the person impersonated knows about it? If yes, do they try to stop it, or let it go as long as the impersonator does not conjure a potentially illegal tale?

The question of identity on the Web has been raised and discussed many times, but it is only now probably that it will start being taken more and more seriously. Here is the reason.

Imagine me. Imagine knowing quite a few things about me: where I live, the plan of my house, my interests. Since I upload photos to the web, you know what I look like, and you can even use my photo. Then, if you spend enough time talking to me, you will know the words and expressions I use most often (like, “absolutely”). And then your imagination runs wilder and wilder. Before long “I” may even have a virtual relationship with someone, without me actually knowing about it. And when I find out I will be gobsmacked: things you are putting into my mouth do sound familiar, they do sound like something I could have written.The only reason I know they are not true is because I know what is really happening in my life. But people who perceive my virtual “self” may never know the difference.

Amazing. WTF.

Obviously, after we had had a Twitter application back in 2009 spitting out the witticisms of the long dead celebrities, it is absolutely no wonder that a living celebrity and just about anybody can be impersonated by someone who craves  their share of limelight. Ask me, why? I dunno. Maybe they like me too much and try to step into my shoes, if only virtually. Or maybe they have a reason to hate me, or a reason to cause harm to me or people close to me. Imagine if you found a web profile of your other half that is managed by his ex, in which “he” tells about things that are not true? I guess if it was possible to get into the heads of people who impersonate others, we’d learn to prevent these fancies. Instead we have to deal with the fact that this is something that can happen, so one has to be vigilant if they want to have their freedom in either real or virtual space.

Why Is David Ogilvy an Advertising Genius

Commonly regarded as “the father of Advertising”, David Ogilvy was an avis rara at the time when being different was very new, not a mandatory practice. To be a Scotsman who went on to become a Madison Avenue giant is no little accomplishment, considering that in 1848 (the year of the Communist Manifesto and a series of revolutions in Continental Europe) Punch declared:

let us be a nation of shopkeepers as much as we please, but there is no necessity that we should become a nation of advertisers.

Fastforward to 2011, and Britain is doing pretty well, having probably as many advertisers as there are shopkeepers. The country has also produced two advertising genuises in the short space of 100 years who sadly have both passed away: David Ogilvy and Paul Arden.

I have now moved back to Moscow, but will be visiting England, and Manchester, regularly. I am unlikely to leave advertising (we’re all in it, anyway), I just think I will serve it better a woman-of-letters. I have just come back from one such flying visit, during which I bought Ogilvy’s Confessions of an Advertising Man. The book is fascinating and insightful, and given that it was first published in 1960s, it must be amazing to see it still being useful.

Don’t get me wrong: books must be useful for as long as possible, so I’m not at all displeased that Ogilvy’s maxims still matter. What I do find shocking is that even his criticism is still valid, and not only valid, but the instances at which the critique is directed are still present. In fact, they are persistent. As we know, genuine things (and people) are forerunners, but in Ogilvy’s case he was a forerunner of telling us what faults to expect to find in an agency. Here are a few examples.

Pay people peanuts, and you get monkeys. 

I wrote a post many months ago, comparing good professionals with a Chinese vase. What constitutes the real value of a Chinese vase? Is it the age, the form and decoration, the previous owners, or something else? How can you tell the difference between the real vase and a fake one? And why on Earth would you want to pay a lot of money to buy the real thing, only to put it in the corner and to marvel at it? Good professionals are the Chinese vases. They are expensive, awkward, and nearly obsolete – but they also make a huge difference for your status and your campaign. You’ve got to pay them their worth. If in doubt, consult this other statement by Ogilvy: 

If each of us hires people who are smaller than we are, we shall become a company of dwarfs. But if each of us hires people who are bigger than we are, we shall become a company of giants. 

Alas, it looks like the world is shrinking in size all too rapidly. 

Still on the subject of copywriting: 

Good copy can’t be written with tongue in cheek, written just for a living. You’ve got to believe in the product. 

You cannot put it better, and yet how many people out there write and rewrite texts only to make a living? They rewrite ridiculously huge numbers of text for a ridiculously small payment. Not only do they not believe in the product, they often don’t even know it well. To my credit, when I was once being urged to “simply rewrite” articles about cars, I refused. I hadn’t had the expertise, nor personal interest in cars. There were other clients in whose products I was much better versed, so why shouldn’t I have been writing for them? I feel that this sometimes is interpreted as the lack of subordination, but I can only abide by what my professionalism dictates me. It is extremely sad that Ogilvy died in the same year as blogs had started (1999). I wish he was still alive today – the Internet surely needs a slap on the face from him.  

I avoid clients for whom advertising is only a marginal factor in their marketing mix.

I wish more advertisers had the balls to resign a (prospective) client like this, or not to approach them in the first place. Even though they are not the same, copywriting and PR have grown very close in the last few years, so the client has to be passionate about advertising – although he shouldn’t also forget another Ogilvy’s maxim: why keep a dog and bark yourself? 

Advertising is a business of words, but advertising agencies are infested with men and women who cannot write. They cannot write advertisements, and they cannot write plans. They are helpless as deaf mutes on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera. 

To add to this, they also make mistakes. I am always willing to accept it, if someone is writing in their second language. But I genuinely cannot find enough understanding for those who didn’t perfect their native language. 

I notice increasing reluctance on the part of marketing executives to use judgment; they are coming to rely too much on research, and they use it as a drunkard uses a lamp post for support, rather than for illumination.  

Sadly, this still stands true, many decades after it’s been first written. Now, don’t be confused: research IS important. The better you know the product, as Ogilvy proved many times, the better you sell it. The best advertising doesn’t draw attention to itself, and when you know the product your passion naturally shines forth and infects everyone. It is important to regard your product as your cause, to be a Don Quixote, although not as idealistic – we’re in business, after all.

However, the way research is often being used by agencies, it is limiting creative opportunities and denies the possibilities for growth. It is used to tell you what to do and what not to do, but more often that not, it suggests whose examples to follow, i.e. to imitate. It is therefore necessary to quote another adage: 

If you ever have the good fortune to create a great advertising campaign, you will soon see another agency steal it. This is irritating, but don’t let it worry you; nobody has ever built a brand by imitating somebody else’s advertising. Imitation may be the “sincerest form of plagiarism”, but it is also the mark of an inferior person. 

There is one more fault that Ogilvy notes that I observed at the last agency I worked for in 2009; after that I went back to working for myself, which is harder but more fulfilling. At the agency the following was true: 

Most agencies send large delegations to present their case to prospective clients. The head of the agency limits his own participation to introducing a series of subordinates, who take turns haranguing the prospect. I have always preferred to make the presentation myself. The final choice of agency is almost always made by the head of the client company, and chairmen should be harangues by chairmen. I have also found that frequent changes of speaker lead to confusion with other agencies which are competing for the account. One orchestra looks like every other orchestra, but there is no confusing one conductor with another. The agencies with the best record in new-business solicitation rely on their leader to put on solo performances.

Needless to say, the leader should know his industry inside out, but rather often than not, which was true about the agency in question, this is not the case. But let’s forget the agencies; while it’s good to be surrounded by faithful supporters, if you are running a business, then it is you who should represent it. After all, leaders grasp nettles.

I could quote you entire Ogilvy’s book because a lot of what he says relates not only to advertising, but to our conduct in life in general. It pays to remember Arden’s words – “we are all in advertising” – so whether you are selling directly, online, or figuratively, The Confessions of an Advertising Man is a must. I will get back to the start of the post: is it not shocking that many years on this book is still so valid in ideas, as in criticism? It is not amazing that after years of reading how not to shoot ourselves in the foot, a lot of people still do it with remarkable persistence?

Just to round it off on a pleasant note, here are some generic aphorisms: 

Develop your eccentricities while you are young. That way, when you get old, people won’t think you’re going gaga. 

The pursuit of excellence is less profitable than the pursuit of bigness, but it can be more satisfying.

Next to the theatre, advertising is probably least secure of all careers.  

The secret of long life is double careers. One to about age sixty, then another for the next thirty years.  

Money Costs a Fortune, People Cost Nothing

It’s been a couple of years already that Mr Freeman has been the mystery no. 1 on the Russian Internet. Although there have been many a guess who may be hiding behind this matchstick man, the real person is yet to be pinned down. If you ask me, I’d rather have him remain mysterious like one of those famous literary memes, say, Kozma Prutkov (a brainchild of Alexey Tolstoy and the Zhemchuzhnikov brothers) or Emile Ajar (another pseudonym of Romain Gary, writing under which Gary had received his second Prix Goncour). One day, perhaps, we’ll find out whose genius produced Mr Freeman, but for now it is more important what the character is saying.

Until recently, the character was mostly speaking Russian, although one of his recent uploads was in English. What you are about to read, however, is a biting satire of our fear of, and love for, money. Now, where money is concerned, it is evident that people fall into one of the two extremities: they either don’t care for it, or they care for nothing but money. Whether or not they actually have money doesn’t matter. As we would agree, neither extremity is good, but if the inability to attract and preserve money is pathetic, the blinding desire for money is ugly. And this is what Mr Freeman has contemplated in his video, What Is You God?

And at the very bottom of the post you’ll find a brilliant number from Cabaret the film.

Not bad. I never said that money was bad. I respect every religion however servile it is. Ah, well, you don’t know. Just relax, don’t spew your spinal marrow around…. Money is God. You have always thought that religion was Christianity, the Buddha, the shaman. No, of course not. You cannot be that thick. The single modern global religion is money. And different currencies are like Catholic religion, Orthodox, Protestant, Buddhism, Judaism… Generally, money is your God. It is the thing in itself, it is the beginning of everything, and it can, from time to time, make wonders. Wow… This God has got the millionaire apostles, whose sacred lives you study so jealously. Each of you regularly takes part in the Communion service when you receive a piece of divine flesh in the envelope. Yet how about asking anyone, how much he earns? He’ll shit himself as if you asked him to confess to his sins… And what about those bank notes? They are the icons, you look at those notes, and for you they are not merely paper and paint, no! For you it is your God’s flesh. It is born in the sacred place where the entrance is forbidden for ordinary mortals. Then those divine notes get into the hands of people, and then, weary, creased and dirty, are burnt in the furnace, in order to be reborn, like a Phoenix, to once again follow their earthly path. Everyone touches money. Now, take out your wallet: can you imagine what ways has every single note moved in order to get to you? Who crackled it before anybody else? Where will it go next? A tramp, a syphilitic, a prostitute, a president, and you, all of you receive Communion with the same piece of paper. People! Wake up! The circulation of money is necessary so that you give away your power. You see, the value of money is maintained by labour, and without you money means nothing. In fact, it is merely a result of the printing press at work. Everyone can print his own money. Except that instead of collective unconscious there will be a person behind the money. You were divided so that you can be ruled. Of course, money is common… but everyone has his own money. Money costs a fortune, people cost nothing, for you are worthless because you have proved that you can turn any myth into a God. And you are ready…


OpenEverything: The Reward of Failure

Chris Taggart’s short talk on open data and the rewards of failure struck a particularly strong cord with me. The governments and businesses have lackadaisically been adopting new technologies and approaches to sharing “sensitive” information with the consumers. Nearly a year ago I was still hearing “no news is good news” from a company’s CEO. Thankfully, a lawyer and entrepreneur has spoken up on the issue at the first of FutureEverything festival.

The problem that surrounds the open data movement has to do with the exposure of a failure. But, in my opinion, failure is crying for a correct definition. Or maybe we need to listen to those who know better – like Thomas Edison, for instance. Someone asked him what it was like to fail hundreds of times at inventing electricity that would redefine the way we live our lives. His answer was: “I didn’t fail once. I am eliminating the ways that don’t work. Once I have eliminated them all, I will have found the one that works“.

Edison would fail if he’d stopped trying. The real failure occurs when you stop learning from your mistakes. And, by definition, various structures here and there across the globe fail not because they don’t do things correctly but because they don’t want to accept the fact that they are making mistakes. There is a global movement of presenting oneself as a Caesar’s wife who, as we know, is beyond suspicion.

The way of concealing a failure is very simple. You initiate a big project. It brings you publicity and power but it also helps to conceal the personal faults. Obviously, when you are involved in a small project the spotlight is on you and all your faux pas, however small. Last but not least, you can outsource everything which means minimising costs. It is no secret that outsourced work often costs less than an official involvement.

Is it really the way forward? As we have seen with the last year’s MPs expenses scandal, explosive truth conceals more danger than an open management of political affairs. Openness seems to be the most powerful preventative measure, but there is something better that open data brings to the table.

Making a failure public means, in simple terms, accepting responsibility. Whatever we may think doing so is the ultimate indication of leadership, and this may be one of the reasons why individuals and organisations alike may want to be open about problems they encounter on their way to success. However, this should not be a mere announcement of a problem – there should be a determined effort to fix it. Internet is all about accepting and fixing all sorts of problems, from connectivity to data sharing. The best part of taking responsibility for fixing the problem is that this will be the real achievement associated with you. “Can do” attitude is all about accepting the limitations and pushing the envelope.

As a result of this, Taggart argues, the terms of debate about open data need to be changed. For a start, we should be thinking and talking evolution, not revolution. Open data is already there, so the idea is that we keep exploring this area, rather than try to radically reinvent the wheel. Secondly, we need to be transparent about problems. Open data invites ideas and knowledge sharing, and this in turn encourages what Taggart calls “distributed innovation”. In this case data becomes open by default, so as to allow participating individuals and organisations to use the opportunities presented by data sharing. The important factor, however, is the encouragement of innovation and small projects. This is really the chance to help bring one’s creativity to the new level; to allow different viewpoints and expertise to mix in producing the solution to a problem.

Unfortunately, the fear culture is pervasive, and for a good reason. The question of privacy and potential misuse of open data rests on many people’s minds, and there is no denying that it can be a dangerous problem. However, as with failure, the solution lies in accepting the obvious. Yes, there is a danger of misusing the data that is currently kept private. But there is clearly the way to prevent this from happening. So, rather than dwelling on the hundreds of cases when open data was misused, why not find the way that will illuminate the way to share the data and to protect it at the same time?

Christmas on the Web: Doodles, Logos, and Gifts

Big” events usually offer a great opportunity to various sites to add that “festive” touch to their logos. Google has been prolific for a number of years with Google Doodles, but what about other sites?

Starting with Google, this has been their Doodle throughout the build-up to Christmas. Cards did change, though. On the other hand, Bing dedicated its entire mainpage to a festive display.

Surprisingly, Twitter did not add any festive notes to its logo or main page, and neither did YouTube or Flickr. Quite unlike FriendFeed that revamped their logo Xmas-style. And it only seems to be LiveJournal that showed some festive love in their logo.

And out of many Social Networks, my eye caught the German StudiVZ and the Russian Odnoklassniki.ru and VKontakte.ru making an effort to mark the day on the “surface” of their websites.

Finally, a few days ago I’ve received the link to Google’s Gift. “Because charities are experiencing their toughest year in decades, we have committed $20 mln (£12.4mln) to helping those who help us all. Our gift to you is a gift to them”, reads this page.

Thank you, and Merry Christmas to everyone!

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