Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Microsoft in transition

It undoubtedly happens at the top of all of the best companies but it is unexpected to see the spats at the top of Microsoft becoming so public.

First we have Steve Ballmer calling MS a “two and a half trick pony” and saying that they “got a bit behind” in the mobile space, and using that to justify the Nokia purchase.

Then the new CEO Nardella comes out fighting talking about the “tug of war over strategy and the clash of personalities” that dominated the last years of Ballmer's time at Microsoft.

It won't surprise anyone that you don't get to the top of a Tech giant without a strong personality, but I do find it surprising that Nardella is so keen on undermining the Nokia purchase so quickly by saying that Ballmer said that he “he couldn't be CEO if he didn't get his way” over Nokia.

It doesn't reflect well on anyone, and can't be building any confidence in the future of Nokia – and maybe that's the idea.

Either way, I for one am looking forward to this one running and running.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

The Law of 2.1 or Downsie's Law

We've all heard or Moore's Law and Murphy's Law, well I'd like to introduce my own piece of wisdom, Downsie's Law, otherwise known as the law of 2.1.

This comes out of many, many years of experience in the computer industry and being subject to the whims and commercial drivers of that business.

The law refers to the observation that versions 2.1 of anything is almost universally good, and are the ones that you should stick with.

The premise goes something like this. A developer comes up with a great idea and gets to a 1.0 release.

1.0 is a great idea and a good product. However, it hasn't been fully road tested and feedback gathered etc. So it is limited and it's limitations are soon identified. With any luck there will be a number of 1.n iterations where the product gets better and better each time, but because it is based on 1.0 code there are limits to what can be done.

2.0 is the next major release, and it's fantastic. All the problems with 1.n have been resolved, the underlying codebase has been overhauled to make better able to do the things you want it to. The rough edges have been smoothed off, developers have listened and it is a great, fully functional product. You love it. But, and there's always a but with point zero releases, it has bugs.

Of course it has bugs, the developers wanted to get all the goodies in there and they were pushed for a release date - they don't want to disappoint their customers and they have crammed they can into the release.

Sometime after comes the 2.1 release which has all the goodness of 2.0 with added stability and robustness. And it's fantastic, as the saying goes, this one's a keeper.

After that, things generally go downhill, the code gets bloated, features get added that only appeal to a small percentage of the users, release cycles get set in stone and management start making the decisions on direction and everything gets more complex, complicated and slow. After time you start thinking wistfully about how good 2.1 was and how your life was better before version 3.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Scary juxtaposition on the BBC web site

Two recent news articles that showed up on the BBC Business web pages

Are these two stories connected do you think?

Monday, September 30, 2013

Halliwell's Film Guide

Just picked up (thank you Internet and Alibris books) a copy of Halliwell's Film Guide 7th Edition, fabulous.

For those of you who don't know, Leslie Halliwell took it upon himself to create a guide to movie watching, his Filmgoers Companion (of which I am still looking for a good copy of ), which was a quirky and personal review of hundreds of films that he thought were significant, as well as a compendium of actors, director, technicians and other "crafts".

The films in the Companion were just a Halliwell's personal favourites or in some ways significant. The Film Guide however, attempted to be a more complete work.

Not only did the Film Guide contain many more films, but it included more production details - Director, cast etc. This was an astonishing achievement, given that this was pre-internet and there was no easy way to do this - it took a massive effort to collect all of this data together.

What is really marvellous about these books is the opinion that Halliwell had. He pulls no punches and can be very pithy in his comments. A word of warning though, Halliwell died in 1989 and the series was continued by others - with dire consequences. So the Film Guide is only good up to the 7th Edition and the Filmgoers Companion up to the

This means that these are the kind of books that you can dip in and out of, knowing that you will be amused, intrigued and challenged every time you read them. Not only that, you will end up re-appraising some of your favourite films.

Think of them like IMDB with prejudice (in the best way), opinion and an acerbic wit.

A word of warning though, the editions after Halliwell's death are pale imitations and IMHO not worth the paper they are printed on. Go for the 7th Edition of the Film Guide or earlier and Companion up to '77.

I used to have a 6th Edition, I hope Wendy is looking after it and enjoying it.


Saturday, July 13, 2013

Mail-Online taking Liberties with "alt" text

For those of you that don't know "alt" text is an attribute of HTML that is used to provide alternative text for non-graphical browsers and is also used by visually impaired people to understand what an image is showing. They are invaluable if you can't actually see what's on screen and are listening via a screen reader.

"alt" tags are also used by some in the SEO industry to reiterate to the search engines what a page is about. The extra keywords can inform Google.

However, sometimes they are used for more unscrupulous ways. Because Google does look at "alt" text you can use them to add content to Google that you wouldn't normally put on your site.

In this instance the Daily Mail, via it's online rag has added the following alt text to an image

In a story headlined "The dirty tricks dossier: ANDREW PIERCE reveals Labour's union vote-rigging scandal is far more extensive -..."

This picture of Len McCluskey

has the "alt" text of:

"Unite has given Labour more than £8 million since 2010. In Len McCluskey, it has a general-secretary whose political heroes are Lenin and Arthur Scargill"

rather than the more accurate IMHO "Unite general-secretary speaking through a megaphone."

Nowhere in the picture is there any indication that his heroes include Lenin.

And what the Daily Mail has done here is make a connection between Len McCluskey and both Lenin and Arthur Scargill that may, or may not be true, and they have hidden it from their readers. For me there are questions about both their motives, and why they felt it necessary to hide it from their readers in that way.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Let's have another housing bubble

We are still suffering the fallout from the biggest asset bubble in modern history, yet the politicians seem hell bent on re-inflating the property bubble in the UK.

We are still living with an over priced property sector, initially fuelled by cheap credit and the idea that property would continue to grow in value at a faster rate than the rest of the economy and now propped up by virtually non-existent interest rates.

 Now, these truths are to me self evident, the idea that there is a "property ladder" without a "property snake" in very easy to sell to people. Property never goes down runs the common perception, and the whole industry is complicit in this lie. This is really appealing as it seems to promise endless growth with no risk. The reality is though that your house doesn't get any bigger (and hence more valuable) so any rise in what is considered value is purely a collective delusion.

What continually astonishes me is that politicians of all persuations in the UK see the only answer to our economic woes. The latest example being George Osborne's ludicrous new plan to get the UK taxpayer to underwrite mortgages for new builds. The idea being that the private sector won't take the risk, therefore the taxpayer has to. Bonkers.

This will just lead to price inflation as part of the risk calculation is removed and people can borrow more than is commercially realistic.

It is a policy that is a legacy from the Thatcher years and the rush to home ownership that she ushered in. Those voters who have gained from the massive house price inflation over the past 25 years need to be placated and pandered too by the political classes. If not they stop voting for them.


Thursday, February 14, 2013

A life in Advertising

Very painful, but very true

A retrospective on a life in advertising. Mind you, there's a load of bitterness in there that is all about what old men think of their lives and what younger people do.

And hey, don't forget that the world is a different place now and everything really is harder.