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UK freelance journalist and author Sean McManus

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Is Chrome Google's Bing?

08 July 2009

The news is out that Google is going after Microsoft by launching a rival to Windows. Google's Chrome OS has been engineered to work seamlessly with the web, and will likely integrate with Google's online email and document applications. Google is rather bravely claiming that there will be no viruses or malware. That's a dangerous strategy, because the moment there's a proof of concept virus, their credibility is shot.

The OS might turn out to be a great product. But it's hard to imagine it quickly unseating Microsoft. The switching costs are likely to be too high because people will only be able to switch to Chrome by buying new hardware. The Google brand is powerful, but can it persuade people to buy something that isn't Windows if that's all they've ever known?

There's also the problem of shifting towards online applications. If your data is all online, what happens if the service provider goes under or has an outage? I've had occasion to contact tech support for two social networks while I've been researching my book and the support was uncooperative, to say the least. They're free services and you get what you pay for.

There are a lot of commentators talking about how this is a serious challenge to Microsoft, but I'm not sure that the hype is justified. Why should Google have more success in selling operating systems than Microsoft has had in giving away web searches? How many people have dumped Google to use Bing as their main search engine?

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Book review: Brand New Day

18 June 2009

book cover: brand new dayBusiness autobiographies are usually written by household name entrepreneurs, and marketed with the promise that you too can achieve riches beyond your wildest dreams. Most of the investors from Dragon's Den have spent some time on the bestseller lists and Richard Branson has three books to his name.

These books are often inspiring, revealing how far you can go with the right mix of entrepreneurial flair, hard work, creativity and a little luck. But they're also written by people who started their businesses decades ago, and so tend to be light on the early history. The mental gulf between a millionaire and a reader who hasn't yet made the first sale is hard to cross.

With her book Brand New Day, Lara Solomon builds a bridge. The book is her diary from 2004 to 2007, and shows how she set up a new business from scratch. By the end of the book, the company has six staff and has turned over AU$250k (£120k) in three months. The book is inspiring, in part because the steps Lara takes are small steps anybody could take, if they were comfortable with the risk and had equal drive.

The product is a mobile phone sock, available in a wide range of designs, with a different one reproduced in the corner of each page (nice touch). To be honest, it's not a product I could believe in and not one I could see myself buying. But one thing that's made Lara's business a success is that she's persevered even when others didn't share her enthusiasm, and she's created a market in the process.

Key themes throughout the book are the challenges Lara has recruiting and retaining good staff, the emphasis placed on building the Mocks brand, and the extent to which Lara has to work outside her comfort zone to get things done. The book reads like an honest account of those first entrepreneurial steps, and provides a rare insight into what goes on in a smaller business. Laroo, the company behind the Mocks, is based in Australia so there are a few cultural references I didn't get, but most of the lessons are applicable internationally.

Lara's self published the book, so if you'd like to read a sample or order a copy, head over to the Brand New Day website.

For more small business advice, check out my book Small Business Websites That Work.

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The Apprentice: where's the customer service?

08 April 2009

So far in The Apprentice, we've had a cleaning task and a catering task, and there have been interesting parallels in both.

Firstly, the programmes have made a strong case for the value that professionals bring to a job. You wouldn't think it would be hard to clean cars or make sandwiches, but they managed to screw them both up. Since I work in a profession (writing) that some people think is easy, that struck a chord. (I remember a woman at a party telling me that she thought she might change jobs to being a writer because it looked pretty easy. She was a teacher at the time, so I told her I'd often thought about moving into schools myself. "It's just talking to a bunch of kids. How hard could it be?")

The programmes have also focused on profit to the exclusion of everything else. Doubtless there will be the usual creative tasks in future episodes (starting tonight, I think), but where's the customer service? Alan Sugar's company Amstrad had great customer service and quality back in the 80s. Without it, it could never have entered the home computer market as late as it did and seized the market share it did. But he's encouraging his apprentices to look only at the immediate sale. There's no respect for the customer, no real drive to create a transaction that customers appreciate: just a push for a quick buck. To close the deal, the apprentices argue with customers, serve up shoddy products, and sell products they can't deliver. They don't seem to care (or even believe) that with every sale, their own reputation is on the line.

One of my writing customers is also in an agency type business and he says that in the current economic downturn, companies all need to love their customers a little bit more. They need to make sure they're focusing on the long term, and building a relationship that will survive the recession.

Wouldn't it be great if The Apprentice had an episode where the success was judged on how happy customers were at the end? If the apprentices had to try to truly delight the customer and build some desire for repeat business?

That's the kind of apprentice any company needs today. Cutting corners is easy. Delighting customers takes that extra spark of creativity and enthusiasm. Sometimes it will be less profitable in the short term. But in the long term, it's the only strategy that pays.

(I wrote a review of Alan Sugar's book after the first series, and co-wrote The Customer Service Pocketbook. The Apprentice is on iTunes now if you can't get it on proper telly).

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Prince's new website: Clicks hard in a funky place?

30 March 2009

Prince has just launched his new website, Lotusflow3r.com. He's had a few websites over the years - one was a club website, where subscribers were posted some exclusive CDs throughout the year; another was a virtual shop, but the music was all DRM-crippled, so there are lots of reports of people who aren't able to play the music they've bought any more.

The new site has a somewhat vague proposition: $77 buys you downloads of the new triple album (which is retailing for $12 in the US, price in the UK to be determined), plus a t-shirt and early news of forthcoming gigs. There are said to be videos too, but it's unlikely you can download them, and there's no indication of how often they'll be updated. I'm not convinced, to be honest. And I'm a massive Prince fan.

The biggest mistake, though, is that Prince has overestimated how important his website is to other people. He expects people to spend a lot of time playing with a tricksy interface just to hand over their money. If you want to register, you have to mouse over and click things until you hit a 60x30 pixel image which opens this:

Prince virtual website ticket

Aha! That looks like my ticket in. But what do I type into the boxes? There are no clues - you have to keep typing in things until you get it right. The answer is to close the ticket again, go and watch the video on the telly on the homepage, and then type in '1986' and 'Los Angeles'.

Why make people do that? Was it a fun experience? Not particularly. Did it make it easier to get to the real site content? Absolutely not.

If you're selling something, whether it's music or shoes, you've got to make it as easy as possible for people to buy. Just get them to bash in their contact details, their credit card details, and then let them get on with their lives. The content is supposed to be the entertainment. Not the interface.

(For more tips on creating successful websites, see my book Small Business Websites That Work).

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iTunes 8 turns your music collection into adverts

27 September 2008

I've downloaded iTunes 8, mainly for the grid viewing feature. This enables you to view your music collection by thumbnails. You wouldn't think it would make much difference, but it is a lot quicker to scroll through than cover flow view is, and it makes it possible to see more than 10 albums at a time. It makes the artwork into a much stronger navigation aid, and makes the artwork easier to appreciate too. It's already prompted me to play a few EPs that I don't very often listen to. Here's what it looks like:

iTunes screengrab

iTunes 8 showing the grid album view feature

However, there's a big drawback with iTunes 8. It turns all your music into an advert for the iTunes store. When you are viewing track listings, it adds an arrow next to each artist, album and track name which searches the iTunes store when clicked. In the typical 'list view' screen, you could have about 100 tiny advert arrows. These have always been "a feature" in iTunes, but now they've removed the tickbox that lets you switch them off.

Okay, so the software upgrade was free. But I've bought two new iPods over the years and the software is required to make them work. I've paid enough money to Apple to expect that the software would come 'free' and not become 'ad supported' in future.

From a usability point of view, it's terrible. With 100+ adverts on screen, it's easy to click one by mistake, which results in iTunes connecting (slowly) to the iTunes store and taking you away from whatever you're doing.

Interesting to note that there's no mention of this forced advertising on Apple's What's new page, and that it isn't even shown in the screenshot they have there.

Blog The Glitch has a technical hack for this problem. For some reason, there were two versions of the preference file on my machine, but it worked okay when I edited them both. It did leave the arrows on the current track playing, but you can get rid of those (and indeed all the arrows) by disabling the iTunes store as a whole in the parental options. So that's what I've done, too.

The end result? I'll probably buy a lot less music from Apple. There might be times when I enable the store again to shop there, but most of the music I've bought there has been from browsing through the store and coming across something unexpected. That'll stop. I'll also be much more suspicious of Apple software in general.

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The trouble with adult education

09 August 2008

The trouble with adult education is that it's typically run by institutions that usually cater for school-leavers. Universities might need to treat full time students like cattle to cope with the vast numbers of them they have, but people who have left full time education and moved into the workforce expect more respect than that. When people are paying money, they expect something that resembles customer service.

I've been to three different places offering courses to adults in the last couple of years. After I'd cleared three consecutive Saturdays for a course at one of them, the tutor said 90 minutes into the first session that she couldn't make the third session. At that institution, it took months longer than promised to get test results back. Needless to say, if I missed deadlines and meetings like that in my job, I'd be out of work.

At two other places, lessons have been cancelled without me being notified in advance, leaving me with a wasted journey.

I do understand that things change. But as a customer, buying a service, I expect to be told when there's a problem in advance so that I don't waste my time.

The signal that universities send to their students (both full time and part time) is that it's okay to be disorganised; it's okay to miss deadlines; our time is more valuable than yours is; you need us more than we need you.

That's not true, of course. I value my time highly and when institutions waste it, they lose my lifetime value as a customer. At a time when most universities and colleges are trying to get more money in from the private sector, they need to be more business-like. If you're selling a service, you behave like a service industry. You follow the benchmarks for communications set by organisations like Amazon. When things go wrong, you say sorry and make sure it doesn't happen again. You don't just shrug your shoulders and say 'that's just how it is today. Live with it.'

I am strongly opposed to tuition fees, but if anything good can come from them, it will be that students will start to demand a better service from their educational institutions. They'll start to expect the kind of customer service they deserve if they're investing thousands of pounds in an institution.

(For more on customer service, see The Customer Service Pocketbook.)


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McAfee has installed Adware on my PC

29 December 2006

McAfee sells internet security solutions, including antispam and anti-pop-up programs. But it seems the company's attitude is that 'spam is other people', because it has installed adware on my PC to promote its own products. There is no way to disable the adverts, and McAfee's own technical support has failed to provide a solution.

According to Wikipedia, adware is:
any software package which automatically plays, displays, or downloads advertising material to a computer after the software is installed on it or while the application is being used.
I have installed McAfee Internet Security to protect me from security and privacy threats, including unwanted advertising. Despite having a valid licence for the software and having renewed my virus definitions subscription recently, McAfee keeps interrupting my work to show me upgrade adverts like this (24 December 2006):

McAfee advert

and this (today, 29 December 2006):

Second McAfee advert

Notice how my options are are to buy the software, or carry on working. There's no option not to be pestered with adverts again. And they keep coming back.

If the advert came up once or there was an option to tell them I didn't want it, it might be less annoying. But as it is, it looks like I'm stuck with these adverts until I buy new software or uninstall the software I've already paid for.

I've contacted McAfee tech support twice. The first contact took me about half an hour and achieved nothing. The second piece of advice was to disable all internet pop-ups. That will interfere with internet banking and many useful websites, and should not be necessary to stop the adverts. I don't think either of the tech support people understood that the adverts were within the application and not on third party websites, although I was clear to emphasise this. I can only conclude that McAfee has not scripted a solution to this problem.

I'm sure some bigwig at McAfee has decided that these adverts are a good idea. "Once every day isn't much," they probably thought. But surely they can see how their entire credibility is undermined by this action? How can I trust McAfee's spam filter and ad blocker now that I know it uses its own software to display intrusive advertising? Will it green-light spam from 'carefully selected partners'? Clearly, the company will say not, but I've always thought that actions speak louder than words. And the action I'm seeing is my train of thought being interrupted so the company can repeatedly plug a product I don't want.

If anyone from McAfee reads this and would care to respond, please contact me. In the meantime, I would advise you to avoid McAfee software.

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AOL betrays user trust

08 August 2006

Changing ISP is like changing your bank. It's a real hassle. You have to tell everyone your email address has changed. You have to update all your banking and online shopping sites, so that you can be sure that those accounts remain secure. There will be many people who will regularly hop between ISPs, in the same way many people are rate-whores, flitting between credit cards. Most of us, though, settle down with an ISP and stick with it for a long time.

So choosing the right ISP is important. You would expect people to study the privacy policy, and terms and conditions to work out what kind of junk messages they will have to endure, what they'll be allowed to do, and how much it will cost. If they don't, then they can't complain later. If they do, then they know what they're buying and it's part of the contract between supplier and customer. But what if the privacy policy turns out to be lies?

The blogosphere is up in arms over AOL. It released the search history [link broken] of over 500,000 of its users. It replaced screennames with unique numbers, but that's not enough to completely conceal everyone's identity. Some people have searched for themselves, their friends or local amenities. Some of the more exciteable blogs are suggesting there is evidence of criminal intent in the searches, which goes to show how dangerous this data is. People leap to conclusions.

AOL apparently released the data as a contribution to the research community. Maybe they didn't study it closely enough or realise the privacy implications. You could argue that releasing the data was a foolish mistake. Yes, they're stupid, but at least they didn't mean harm.

Well, here is where it gets evil. There doesn't seem to be any doubt that they betrayed the contract they agreed with their users. Their own privacy policy says that 'information about the searches you perform through the AOL Network and how you use the results of those searches' is part of a user's 'network information'. That information, the policy adds, will only be disclosed as set out in the privacy policy. There's the usual stuff about law enforcement, managing their own network and any disclosure you've consented to. But there's nothing about releasing the entire data set into the public domain for research purposes.

AOL has pulled the data set now, but it's widely available online. The company could recover from making the mistake of releasing the data, provided it apologised [link no longer available] often and sincerely enough. Recoveries like that happen in business all the time. I don't think it will be able to recover so quickly from the breach of its own privacy policy. How can AOL ever expect customers and prospects to trust it again?

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Inside the mind of a spammer II

26 June 2006

I have edited and updated yesterday's article Inside the mind of a spammer, to include comments from an antivirus reseller. The comments did not arrive in time for first publication and make a significant contribution to the article.

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Inside the mind of a spammer

24 June 2006

I've noticed an alarming trend in spam lately. Most spammers know they're slimeballs. They're selling drugs to vulnerable people, preying on people's debt or trying to con the stock markets. More and more, though, I'm seeing people who think they're running legitimate businesses using spam to promote themselves.

A website called Sirlook spammed me in May to promote its online chat system for websites, even though its own terms and conditions say that its customers may not 'upload, post, email, transmit or otherwise make available any unsolicited or unauthorized advertising, promotional materials' (clause 5g) [link no longer available]. I contacted the company asking for clarification on this apparent conflict but did not hear back.

The so-called Association of Professional Recruitment Consultants spammed a non-existent address (sales@ one of my domains) with its newsletter in April. Its code of conduct (which it claims is "the strictest in the industry") says members must 'strive to serve clients and candidates with honesty and with integrity at all times' (first clause) [link no longer available]. When asked, the organisation failed to explain how sending junk email to invented email addresses is consistent with this policy.

I think the fact that these organisations send spam, cannot justify it and do not respond to complaints tells us more about their business ethics than any code of conduct or testimonial on their websites.

So perhaps we should extend our thanks to John Marshall, who spammed me about Mywebalert and was the first spammer I contacted who had the nads to answer my questions. He said he had identified me as someone selling website design services (which I'm not, currently) and that he found my email address as a legitimate way to contact my business (which I don't have - I'm an individual, not a business). This might have been a defensive move because it's illegal to send unsolicited adverts to personal email addresses in the UK.

When asked, Marshall claimed that he doesn't run antispam software himself, which seems extremely unlikely if he's able to use email with any kind of efficiency. I guess it would have been too easy a victory if he had said he did run antispam software, because then I'd go 'Aha! Gotcha!' and the credits would roll. It's hard to imagine someone at an established company having an unfiltered email feed in 2006 that isn't crammed full of spam. I have to confess I think he might be fibbing, or at least using an extremely narrow definition of what 'running antispam software' means.

He said:

I could telephone you, which would take more of your time. Alternatively I could repeatedly post mail to you, which although likely to produce better results from a marketing point of view is far from environmentally friendly and adds to a recipient's woes insomuch that paper is less easily discarded than email.

In my view (accepting that you have the right to an alternative opinion) email advertising is an extension to ordinary mail advertising which is prevalent in a modern economy. It is widely recognised as often being a legitimate means of business development, which in turn generates jobs, etc. Within reason, I do believe that a legitimate commercial organisation should be at will to market itself by telephone, street/magazine/TV/radio advertising, etc.

I note with interest that you are writing an article. For which publication? Does it carry advertising? Does it carry sponsorship? Are you being paid to write the article? If not, why are you writing the article? My last point arises as the directors of MyWebAlert are regular contributors to Computing, Computer Weekly, IT WEEK without charge but in recognition of the fact that it is good for PR.

The stuff about who pays me to write confused me a bit. I responded:

The difference between advertising in magazines and on email is where the cost/benefit lies. So in the case of buying a magazine, the advertising subsidises the content I receive. In the case of receiving junk email, I have to pay my service provider and time to receive something which in no way subsidises or creates any benefit for me - do let me know if I've overlooked anything there. Note that I'm not against all advertising - just inappropriate advertising, which includes intrusive email advertising I have to pay for. With mail advertising, the company sending the advert carries all the costs, which seems much more reasonable although you're right that it is still a massive waste of time and resources.

Marshall continued:

In general, I am an advocate of personalised email advertising which I differentiate from mass spam on the grounds:
  1. that all those that I target are targeted on the premise that I believe there should be valid interest based on individual research;
  2. that you will not be subject to repeat mail from me;
  3. that I manually maintain records and will not write again to you if you do not wish me to (please advise);
  4. that I am not a robot and you are assured of a human response to any questions that you may have.

These justifications don't really match the reality of what was sent, though. To call it personalised is a bit rich when it was basically advertising copy emailed with no greeting or letter format. It began: 'MyWebAlert is a comprehensive website monitoring service that affords you an opportunity...'.

It gets worse: Network Architects spammed me this week to promote an antispam-solution from Roaring Penguin. The mind boggles.

It began: 'This email is being sent to you as an individual identified as responsible for the maintenance of your network and attached resources.'. When I contacted Roaring Penguin to point out that one of its partners was using spam to sell its antispam solution, it did get Network Architect's MD Martin Smyth to contact me and said it had reminded him of Roaring Penguin's email usage policies. I was curious to find out how I was identified as someone responsible for a network (which I'm not), and particularly how this message was different to the unsolicited commercial emails that the software they're selling blocks.

I asked Martin Smyth how he got hold of my email address. He said:

Impossible to say precisely. Contact details have been built over a period of time as a result of formal/casual meetings at exhibitions, seminars and press events, enquiries through the website, employees joining the Company and adding the contacts to the database, etc.

This is a pretty sloppy way to run a list. Because companies have had a legal obligation since 2003 to get opt-in permission before sending commercial emails outside their customer base in the UK, best practice is to keep a record of where and when people opted in. I'm not a lawyer, but employees taking list details from one organisation where you have opted-in to another where you have not sounds very much like a breach of the Data Protection Act too. This answer does nothing to reassure me the company didn't just lift my email address off my website.

So why was I erroneously identified as managing a network and what makes a message spam? Smyth says:

In general, all contacts made by and with Network Architects are related to the IT and networking industry as appears to be the case in this instance with your interest in this subject. The precise message of a mailer as you know will never be perfectly tailored to each individual to whom it is sent. In this way, e-marketing does not differ from generic marketing, albeit in this case, the target audience is far more closely identified as appropriate
that would be the case, for example of email that we would determine as 'Spam' that is indiscriminately and repeatedly sent to a completely unqualified target base.

Or to cut it short:

email that we would determine as 'Spam' ... is indiscriminately and repeatedly sent to a completely unqualified target base.

This implies that he believes it's not spam if it's a bit targeted and it's only sent once. Remember, Smyth is MD of a company selling an antispam solution. This is a slippery slope. What if a spammer sent out millions of emails - once only - promoting viagra to men? By excluding women and only writing once, has the spammer become an ethical marketer? It's still a massive intrusion for nearly all men who are not interested in viagra. Even if you're a viagra buyer, does that mean any company selling it can ethically clog up your email box with adverts for it? And even if we were to pretend that it's okay to be spammed by each business once, the problem with spam is that the sum of all these 'once only' emails overwhelms mailboxes.

The definition of spam in use here is egocentric without consideration for the recipient or even regard for the content. It's about how the communication is issued and managed, without thought for the effect it has on the recipient. As an email user, I consider any unsolicited commercial email to be spam. Even if the person behind it thinks I buy their kind of product sometimes, or might do, it's still spam to me. Even if it only comes once, that's once too many.

Smyth concludes:

In addition to the above, you will have noted that this process is managed by human intervention. If you wish to no longer hear from us then I will remove your details from the list. You therefore have complete control over this message whereas this is not the case with other sources of email. This email will be sent only once and you will not receive any further communication after this email.

The fact that both Marshall and Smyth only email once undermines their whole argument. It's like a tiny apology hidden in there. 'I know it's wrong', people say, 'but I only did it once'. I see this a lot from individuals who send spam representing themselves. M.Wild of Westminster University apparently spammed the whole student body in December 2005. He started by saying 'first of all, sorry for spamming you all. i dont normally do this but this could be good for everyone and it works!!' before pushing some ridiculous multilevel ipod thing. The problem with spam is that by the time you're saying sorry, you're already intruding on someone's inbox, wasting their time and bandwidth.

Like Marshall, Smyth believes it's okay if there's a human there to pick up the complaints. To their credit, the correspondence I have had with both Marshall and Smyth bears this out. But they're probably rarely called upon to demonstrate this because nobody trusts a spammer. Reply addresses on spam are usually faked and spammers rarely honour remove requests so recipients will have little faith that contacting them would have any effect. Indeed, many spammers take a remove request as confirmation an address works and bombard it.

You probably get as much spam as I do and have heard the arguments against it before. What's worrying here is that all these companies (including those that didn't respond to my interview request) consider themselves to be legitimate businesses, and apart from the spamming, I've got no reason to think they're not. One of them even sells antispam software.

I'm sympathetic to the problems that businesses have promoting themselves when they start off, but spam isn't a shortcut to success. Markets are conversations, and if everything you send is greeted by obscenities, distrust and deletion you're not getting anywhere. Two of my friends met online after he emailed her about an error in a discography on her site. They're married now. There's no reason why great business relationships shouldn't evolve from email too. But they're not going to come from spam because you can't automate sincerity and nobody wants to deal with a fake. Here's an email from someone allegedly called Todd:


For the second time in a week I found myself visiting your website, so I figured hey "why not drop a request while I'm here this time around".

I actually found your site by accident actually while searching on google last week and ended up cliking on the link. I checked out a few of the pages and so far so good. I hope you keep updating the content, cause I'll probably be checking back again.........

Aaah! That's nice! But then we cut to the chase...
By the way, I'm also currently doing a link exchange for http://www.barretire.com/ (a quality well kept PR5 site) and thought to ask if you would be interested in having us as an honest link exchange partner.

Why would I be interested in exchanging links with a trashy affiliate website about cars? Especially since I already know Todd is not an 'honest link exchange partner'. If he really had visited my site twice and spent so much time there he wanted to come back, he'd know my site's nothing to do with tyres. I don't even drive.

There are ways to target promotions without using email. Companies can use contextual advertising, which has a low entry price and enables them to find customers at the time they're looking for their services. Google Adwords is one example of this. Microsoft is working on an advertising system that will enable you to track people by their personal profiles, not just the keywords they're using. You can also place legitimate paid adverts on other relevant websites to attract traffic. This has been made even easier now that Google Adsense enables people to place adverts on a specific site that uses it. There are drawbacks, yes, but they're ethical ways to attract an audience. This is more akin to the magazine example Marshall raised, where the advertising subsidises valuable content.

Spam won't go away. There will always be con-men and enough suckers to make it pay. But legitimate companies that think they're ethical and 'only do the odd bit of spam' are mistaken. If you behave like a spammer, you are a spammer. You're a destructive force and the internet would be a better place without you.

Some notes:

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Domain name scam

22 June 2006

I just got a letter from the 'Domain Registry of America', which is headed 'Domain Name Expiration Notice' and looks much like an invoice. It's just a company trying to get me to transfer the hosting of one of my domains to them. I think they've toned down their letters a bit, but they've been sending out letters for some years now that look a lot like official domain name renewal invoices and probably get paid by default by small businesses. Most of the domain name scams I wrote about in 2003 seem to have dried up, but it's worth keeping an eye out for this one still.

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Photos: Exclusive unpublished Kenickie photographs

16 April 2006

Kenickie photoI've uploaded a selection of my unpublished photographs of Kenickie, one of my favourite bands. It's the first stage in the renovation of my rock and pop photography gallery, which will see it expanded with more pictures and made much easier to use.

Other news in brief: The Customer Service Pocketbook has been published in Arabic.

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WhoseSpace is this?

26 March 2006

Last night I saw The Starts supporting Tom Hingley's pre-Inspirals revival Too Much Texas. A great night, and since both bands are on MySpace, I was inspired to check it out again. Song and dance man Tim Ten Yen also has a page there, as do My Life Story and ExileInside. By setting up an account, I can join their communities and make it easy for me to find all their pages in one place.

This is not the first time I've considered joining MySpace. About a month ago, I went to their website, clicked 'join up' and found that the site's terms and conditions were broken. I notified the site through the contact forms, but I find that today, it's still missing (tested using Opera and IE).

What can we learn from this? Any of the following might be true:Unless you know what you're signing up to, you're better off choosing somewhere else to host your music. I don't know how much additional traffic the MySpace effect generates, but I'm guessing that as before most bands get lost on there and the only effective promotion is the work they do themselves to attract listeners.

If anyone wants to tell me about their experience using MySpace to promote music, I'd be interested in hearing from you.

I have today updated my list of places to promote your music. You can still read my 15 top music promotion tips and my article about how to choose where to host your music.

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