Archives for "July 2007"

China: The Sleeping Giant Awakes (And So Should You!)

I'm halfway through a book called Wake Up! Survive and Prosper in the Coming Economic Turmoil. Despite surprisingly few (and poor!) reviews on Amazon UK, this book is by two British-based authors, Jim Mellon and Al Chalabi. (The reviews on Amazon US are better, but still few.)

Call me a sucker for doom-mongering, but so far I've found the book both educating and enthralling. The author's central themes, from what I've read, are:

  • China will become a world superpower within the coming decade
  • Many Western countries, but particularly the US, are severely over-borrowed
  • The world economy is heading into a dramatic deflationary period
  • An energy crisis looms
  • Geopolitics are increasingly unstable

As the authors point out, all of the information in the book can be gleaned from reading newspapters etc. But they put it together in a way that presents a compelling -- and sometimes chilling -- big picture.

The coming crisis will, they hint, bring opportunities (I guess I'll be reading about those in the coming chapters -- so far it's been pretty grim reading). Nevertheless, the authors' accounts of China's rapid economic growth has been fascinating.

Mellon and Chalabi stress that you can get anything you want manufactured cheaply in China, where the average wage is about 40 cents (US) a day. Indeed, a company I've worked with, based in the west of Ireland, has launched its own brand of VOIP phones. The ideas and marketing are generated in Ireland; the phones are built in and shipped from China.

When the authors talk about western countries living beyond their means and individuals not realising that the spending spree will have to end, I look at Ireland 2007. I glance at the newspaper reports of massive consumer debt in Ireland -- fuelled mainly by a property bubble that has recently started to make an ugly popping sound -- and see that the picture the authors paint looks very real.

Indeed, since the book was published, one of its predictions is already coming true: Mellon and argued that the US dollar was inevitably going to fall in value in relation to other currencies. We are seeing this happen, with the euro now worth $1.40 -- but the authors predict the slide will continue for a long time. (This hurts EU countries too, who need the dollar value to remain competitive, so that they can continue to export to the US.)

That this book seems to have gone largely unnoticed makes me curious. Perhaps we only want to hear good news, whether it's true or not?

Read "Wake Up!" along with Karoke Capitalism and your world-view will change. You may even see opportunities where others see crises. I know I do.

Google Plans "Double Lucky" Mobile Search

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Google is planning a "double lucky" version of its search tools for mobile devices, says Stephen Arnold of ArnoldIT (source: Red Herring).

In the Double Lucky system, your search results will be enhanced by two factors: a) your location and b) the time of day.

To give a crude example, if you searched for "things to do" on your mobile device, and you were on Grafton Street in Dublin at 10am, you may be given sites about tourist attractions such as the Book of Kells in Trinity College. Type the same phrase at the same location at 10pm, and you may be given a list of theatres, cinemas and clubs in the area.

Google wants to create a predictive mobile search system for two reasons, Mr. Arnold said. Aside from providing a more accurate search for the user, such a system can reduce latency -- that delay common in wireless communication -- by queuing up answers in advance.

Personally, I have yet to be convinced about the benefits of mobile search. It's been "surely the next big thing" for so long ... a bit like nuclear fusion.

People don't necessarily use technology the way Big Business expects (and wants) them to. The mobile industry expected us to embrace 3G with open arms ... and wallets. That didn't happen. Conversely, nobody expected texting to become the phenomenon it has.

I can understand why people think mobile search will be big, but I'm a compulsive internet user, and I have yet to use any internet-enabled mobile device in any meaningful way. Perhaps the technology will improve, but I suspect mobile device screens will always have to be small enough to fit in our pockets... and that's just not big enough.

Plus, when I use the internet, I'm in "sit down" mode. I can't imagine walking down the street trying to read web pages. But I'm open to being converted...

Business.com Sells for Record Price ... Again

Remember the internet boom and bust of the late 90s? Remember how first there was a gold rush, then everyone became sheepish and embarrassed to talk about the web?

Well, 10 years later, business is buzzing about the internet again. Here's some proof:

  • We don't say "dot-bomb" anymore, we say "web 1.0"
  • Boo.com has been relaunched (by an Irish company, no less)
  • Business.com has become the highest ever selling domain name ... again

Back in 1999, I remember writing an article for the Vision.com website about how Business.com had been sold for $7.5 million US dollars. (Here's all that's left of the old Vision.com homepage where I posted the stories.)

A few years later, when people became embarrassed about that era of extravagant spending and wild parties, the idea of spending millions on a domain name became ludicrous.

In fact, since business.com had been bought as part of a stock deal, a later revaluation (when shares had plunged) meant that it had cost "only" $2 million dollars, according to an MSNBC interview with purchaser Jake Winebaum.

Now the domain has been sold again, for $345, says the Wall Street Journal.

Who's laughing now? But are we caught up in another cycle of hype, a.k.a. web 2.0?

Google Advertising Evil?

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In Ireland, we have a saying that if you get a reputation as an early riser, you can sleep in as long as you like.

Google clearly wanted to establish a reputation as being morally and ethically incorruptible when it launched its "Don't be Evil" manifesto (which allegedly was created by Paul Buchheit, who has since left the company).

But Google's revenue model is entirely predicated on advertising. Of course, advertising isn't inherently evil (a point I've been making on my Advertising the Future web-book).

But Google doesn't state clearly that some links on its SERPs are adverts; instead it calls them "Sponsored Links". If you know that Sponsored Links are ads, fine. If you don't, are you being deceived? In my experience of giving talks and seminars about Search Engine Marketing, many people do not know that Sponsored Links are advertisements.

This point is made by Falsus.com, in a blog post about a lawsuit against Google for "misleading and deceptive" practices:

As of earlier this year, 62% of searchers were still unaware of the distinction between sponsored and organic results. It's not a stretch to say that Google is trying to take advantage of that. Why else would Google be doing things like giving the top three sponsored links real estate at the top of the page when it used to be the top two? More ads appear above the fold. Present day Google is built on the advertising dollars generated by Adwords, and those ads were carefully integrated into SERPs after Google spent years branding itself as the source for relevant results. One might say Google's entire existence is built on deceiving its users into clicking on those ads (interestingly, the sort of behavior they frown upon with their Adsense publishers).

Meanwhile, John S. Rhodes asks in Apogee.com whether Google Advertising is Evil. His point is that Google encourages Adsense publishers to try to blend ads into websites, making them less distinguishable from content:

Google actively encourages content providers to place advertising in the middle of the page where users normally expect to see content. At the same time, they actively discourage publishers from putting advertising in the right column where users expect advertising.

Personally, I like and admire Google's philosophy. I trust Google. Then again, as any good used car salesman will tell you, the oldest sales trick in the book is to get the customer to like and trust you...

Web 2.0 Style Photoshop Resources

While Web 2.0 usually refers to functional aspects of websites, graphic designers also use the term as shorthand for the look-and-feel that is currently popular on trendy websites.

You know it when you see it: funky orange or lime green gradients, giant buttons, curvy edges, starry-circle-shaped stickers, etc.

To jump on this bandwagon, you can get started by downloading the Web 2.0 Photoshop styles, gradients and badges, produced (and distributed free) by Deziner Folio.

I used them to knock up a masthead for my latest plaything website, Advertising the Future.

How I found this site? Through Smashing Magazine's Best of May/June 2007. Smashing Magazine is the web 2.0 equivalent of Webmonkey.

Mediajunk Recommends...

I don't do "blogrolling" and don't normally recommend other people's blogs.

But I recently discovered the blog of Paul Bucheit, formerly of Google -- and author (almost single-handedly, I'm told) of Gmail.

If you like dipping into my blog every once in a while, I suspect you may also may enjoy dipping into Paul's.

p.s. You may also enjoy lounging in the sun on the roof of Hotel Del Mare in Marina Grande, Sorrento for nine days in June/July, listening to Pink Martini. (I know I did.)

Next week: Mediajunk recommends a good dentist in North Dublin.

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Mediajunk was Michael Heraghty's blog from 2002 to 2010, with articles on usability, UX, SEO, web design, online marketing, etc. More »

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