Who knew my weekly column was such a mouthful?

Shavers Weekly penis jibe

Shavers Weekly penis jibe

Just as well I’m thick-skinned, eh?

Those over-exuberant young scallywags at Shavers Weekly have speared me with satire in their latest, laugh-a-minute edition.

It would seem they find the weekly column I write for the Daily Record’s Edinburgh Now supplement as something of an unwelcome mouthful.

Everyone likes to be recognised for their work, so clearly this mud slinging comes as a bit of a job blow.

Despite the naughty allegations, I suppose it could have been worse.

After all, the schoolboy humour fuelled magazine labelled my fellow Edinburgh Now columnists as “boring” or “drunk”.

However, it does leave me wondering: just how could they have known about my, ah, special skill?

And with that spoiler out there, how am I possibly going to find an alternative party trick in time for the Christmas season?

Tchoh.

If Something Seems to Good to Be True, It’s Probably Not True. So What About Groupon?

Groupon: Runaway Success

Just a few short months ago the online discount service Groupon famously turned down an offer from Google.

The news raised more than a few eyebrows because of the amount of money the search giant offered to acquire the online group coupon service – a mind-boggling  $6 billion. Yes, that’s billion. With a B.

If you don’t already know what Groupon is, it works like this:

1 – A business offers a deal for its products or services with at least 50% off (thought discounts can be up to 90%).

2 – Groupon sends the offer round its database of users and they are asked to share it widely on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.

3 – The business sets the number of customers needed to make the deal worthwhile for it – and the offer is only valid when that number is reached.

4 – Bargain hunters flock to your store/restaurant/business in an intensive, short period to redeem their vouchers.

The service so far is an astonishingly successful, runaway success story.

Baby faced boss man Andrew Stone decided not to check out with a hefty chunk of Google change in his hipper. Which suggests  he is super confident the service has a long-term future.

Perhaps unsurprising, since Groupon had revenues of $760 million in 2010; it’s headed for $4 billion in revenues this year; and has 70 million global subscribers.

The latest news on Groupon is that it is going to float on the US stockmarket – what is referred to in the states as an Initial Public Offering (IPO).

Bloomberg has reported Groupon is speaking to bankers about an IPO valuation of $25 billion (yes, the B-word again). That’s higher than the $23 billion Google achieved when it  went through an IPO and became a publicly traded company, subject to market regulation.

On a recent episode of This Week In Tech podcast, online luminary Jeff Jarvis asked a live crowd of tech lovers at The South by South West event: “How many of you use Groupon?”

His question was met with silence and Jarvis added: “Then why is it so big? I don’t get it.”

I share his bafflement. I struggle to understand how businesses can sell product at a fraction of the usual price and from what little money they take, then have to pay Groupon.

I also have doubts about how many of those bargain-hunters will convert to long-term customers.

When news of the Groupon IPO broke I put a question out on LinkedIn asking if other people shared my suspicion that it was grossly over-valued and likely to pop. Turns out quite a few long term web watchers and smart people whose opinion I value are equally bemused by Groupon’s success.

Maybe we have a shared cyncisim? Certainly I’ve always adhered to the view that if something appears too good to be true, then it almost certainly isn’t true.

I can’t shake that feeling about Groupon – but then, I’ve never used it, either as a business or a customer.

So I’d love to hear from companies or businesses which have used the service repeatedly and found it a great way to  build a new, engaged and loyal customer base.

Likewise I’d be keen to hear from any business owner or operator who has used Groupon – and definitely won’t be hurrying back to use it again.

If you have any thoughts or experiences to share, the comment section below awaits you!

Space Junk, Defensive Laser Strikes and Conspiracy Theories

Picture: ESA (European Space Agency)

It’s been a bit of a space-fest at Douglas Towers recently.

Mostly because my daughter  is learning about planets and the solar system at school this term. Other parent will knows how such projects (Romans, Vikings etc) play a major role in family life.

So with my telescope firmly trained on the virtual heavens, a couple of stories have leapt out at me during my scan across the constellations of content out there.

These three I thought worth sharing:

ONE – Wired has reported  (http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2011-03/16/space-junk-lasers) how NASA is poised to become the garbage crew of low earth orbit – deploying suitably hi-tech methods to rid near space of manmade rubbish.

Not content with polluting the planet itself, we are now creating a hazardous ring of waste in the near space just beyond our atmosphere.

Bits of broken satellite, tools discarded or dropped by spacewalking astronauts and thebooster rockets and other stuff which is ejected while spacecraft are being propelled into orbit. The image you see here is from the European Space Agency which is working with NASA to map every piece of space debris.

All of this garbage is forming an increasingly dense and dangerous junk belt around the planet. It poses an ever growing risk to future space flight and a threat to the communications satellites we rely on for everything from mobile phones and TV shows to sat-nav and web access.

Now NASA is considering employing lasers. Not to blast the garbage out of existence, but to  gently nudge it farther away from our dear ‘Blue Marble’.

Once any piece of space junk is pushed out of the way, it is less likely to ever collide with other space junk – the main reason the amount of dangerous debris is multiplying at an alarming rate.

TWO – Talking of garbage, pollutants and unsavoury junk swilling about where it is unwanted but where nobody is really sure what to do with it – let’s move over to the reader comments section of The Scotsman.

Sadly what could and should be a forum for informed and reasoned debate has been turned into juvenile place for the exchange of playground insults. These mostly seem to be traded by Labour and SNP policy wonks.

However, alongside the cringeworthy peacocking of the politicos, you can occasionally find musings of the harmlessly obsessed or deluded. I reckon this next sites falls pretty much into that category.

I found this link (http://sites.google.com/site/raisdebris/) while following a reader comment thread on a Scotsman story about the escalating nuclear disaster in Japan.

What is clear is that commenter (and the man behind this website),  John Hall has spent an awful lot of time worrying about space debris. His comment on The Scotsman site suggested the Japanese quake may have been triggered by falling space debris. No. Really. I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt that he doesn’t really believe that and he was exaggerating for linkbaiting effect

He also seems to suggest a possible link between falling space junk and the Lockerbie disaster and, as he puts it, he is: “convinced that space debris has impacted our planet far more times than both the scientists and authorities care to disclose.”

Indeed, his site includes plentiful links to stories suggesting space junk is the cause of many worldy woes – from inexplicable fires to irradiated sheep. While Mr Hall may be a tad obsessive about the subject, he is fastidious in pointing out that his particular conspiracy theory has nothing to do with aliens or little green men.

THREE – He should try telling that to Radivoje Lajic who has his own X Files-style explanation for why  his home in Bosnia has been hit six times by falling meteors – all confirmed as space rock by Belgrade University.

This brilliant story (http://www.europics.at/gallery2/main.php?g2_view=core.ShowItem&g2_itemId=47880) is from my NAPA colleague Michael Leidig and his team at the Central European News agency.

Radivoje believes the hits on his home (which only happen when it is raining) are the work of aliens who have got it in for him.

Aw bless. With that kind of nutty thinking and outspoken attitude, he should get himself straight over to The Scotsman reader comments section. I’m sure he’ll be made very welcome.

When is a Reward Not a Reward? When You Pay for it Yourself.

Rewarding

The nature of ‘reward’ has been very much on my mind as we start 2011. Specifically, what type of rewards help people to get the best from themselves.

Rewards that will unleash their creativity, boost motivation and make work more enjoyable for everyone involved.

When trying to find solutions for the workplace, I strive wherever possible to seek answers and examples from other aspects of life.

So let me share two recent examples of ‘reward’ systems I’ve encountered. One unexpectedly good, the other … hmmmm.

Starting with the good:

My eight-year-old daughter usually doesn’t want to come along when I walk our pet dog.

I sympathise. A five mile country yomp? When there’s so much fun stuff to be had elsewhere?

Yet on New Year’s Day the same kid attacked a more difficult, 6.75 mile trek with gusto. So what made the difference?

Well, the people behind the Wildcat Experience, which includes a walk around scenic Newtonmore in the Scottish Highlands, ensure the whole experience is particularly rewarding for youngsters who take part.

Continue reading

A social media epiphany – thanks to John Mayer, the big Tquitter

John Mayer's Suspended Twitter account

Account suspended

What do you call someone who throws their toys out of the pram and stomps away from the world’s biggest microblogging  platform?

Can I suggest they should be known as Tquitters – pronounced Teh-quitters?

This would just about fulfil the annoying Twitterati convention of trying to ‘improve’ perfectly good words by adding  T and a W sounds (see the hilarious Twitter-based spoof of the Facebook movie trailer, where a man orders a Twhisky, then insists he didn’t want any Twater).

The question arose today while I was reading the Daily Record’s main showbiz column, The Razz with Bev Lyons. There was story all about short-messaging service, Twitter.

It seems musician and songwriter John Mayer has axed his account (see picture at the start of this post), from which he regularly tweeted out thoughts and observations to an audience of 3.7 million followers. All in 140 characters or less.

Turns out I already knew about this story, because it was discussed at length on the Media Bullseye weekly podcast on September 17, courtesy of presenter Jen Zingsheim and co-host Sarah Wurrey.

The first question I asked myself was why the Daily Record – a paper I am proud to have worked for – was reporting a story as new, more than 19 days after it broke? Continue reading

I’d Love To See Microsoft Deliver A Fitting Smart Phone

A smart phone yesterday

Currently Microsoft mobile is mince.

However, I’ve got a soft spot for the platform, because my first smart(ish) phone was Microsoft – at the time it was a gamechanger for me because it enabled easy access email on the hoof.

The phone had a nice colour screen, a slide out keyboard and it was easy to work. Even though I’m now using the iPhone, I miss a real keyboard – something I never thought I’d say.

To be honest the only drawback was having to use a stylus – but that was a minor point.

Latterly though, the lack of decent internet connection was its downfall. All I really wanted to do on my phone was to be able to browse website and use social media.

While I like Apple’s products, I’m not overly fond of the company or the blind faith of fanboys (in much the same way that I’m not a fan of organised religion). Continue reading