Quotulatiousness

April 16, 2014

North Korean embassy officials upset over London hair salon ad

Filed under: Asia, Britain, Business — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 00:01

BBC News on the apparent diplomatic incident taking place at M&M Hair Academy in South Ealing:

Kim Jong Un bad hair day adNorth Korean officials paid a visit to a London hair salon to question why it had used their leader Kim Jong-un’s picture in a poster offering haircuts.

The poster in M&M Hair Academy in South Ealing featured the words “Bad Hair Day?” below the leader’s picture.

Barber Karim Nabbach said embassy officials were shown the door and the salon’s manager spoke to the police.

The Met Police said: “We have spoken to all parties involved and no offence has been disclosed.”

The salon put up the poster on 9 April and the next day two men claiming to be officials from the North Korean embassy visited the salon and demanded to meet the manager, Mo Nabbach.

Karim Nabbach said: “We put up posters for an offer for men’s hair cuts through the month of April. Obviously in the current news there has been this story that North Korean men are only allowed one haircut.

H/T to Eric for the link.

March 22, 2014

Variations on Bach

Filed under: Japan, Media — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:11

Classic FM has a collection of 10 videos which use Bach’s music in varied ways, including this rather charming forest xylophone performance as an ad for a Japanese mobile phone:

Uploaded on 4 May 2011

Very nice music from a very long xylophone in the forest.
No CG or tape-cut. Four days spent.
This is for a newly launched cell phone of NTT Docomo, the largest mobile service provider in Japan. Shell of the new phone is wood and their idea is to use domestic woods that are produced after preservative maintenance of Japanese forest.
ドコモのサイトでステキな映像発見。

Music: “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring”, by Bach
Cannes Lion Award Winner 2010

H/T to Samizdata for the link.

March 18, 2014

Updating David’s sling, outraging Italian politicians

Filed under: Business, Europe, Media — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 07:41

Virginia Postrel diagnoses the real reason politicians are upset about Armalite’s updated image of David’s armament:

David and the Armalite

Italian authorities were indignant when they discovered that the Illinois weapons maker ArmaLite had an advertising campaign showing Michelangelo’s David holding one of its rifles. “The advertisement image of an armed David offends and violates the law,” tweeted tourism minister Dario Franceschini. Angel Tartuferi, director of the Accademia Gallery, which houses the sculpture, agreed: “The law says that the aesthetic value of the work cannot be altered.”

This moral posturing is clearly about something other than respect for the sculpture’s “aesthetic value” or “cultural dignity.” Otherwise, officials would crack down on the David boxer shorts sold by countless Florentine vendors. And where was the outrage in 1981, when the David was flogging Rush brand poppers, amyl nitrite drugs used to enhance sexual pleasure, in magazines aimed at gay men?

It seems that it’s fine to use the David to sell things as long as you emphasize his nudity rather than his meaning.

[...]

ArmaLite’s ads broke the unwritten rules. Instead of highlighting the hero’s body, they emphatically made him a warrior. Hence Franceschini’s objection to an “armed David,” even though every David is armed. “David famously used a slingshot to defeat the giant Goliath, making the gun imagery, thought up by the Illinois-based ArmaLite, even more inappropriate,” writes Emma Hall in Ad Age.

To the contrary, the gun imagery, while incongruously machine-age, was utterly appropriate. David did not use a “slingshot.” He used a sling. As historians of ancient warfare — and readers of Malcolm Gladwell’s latest book, David and Goliath — know, a sling was no child’s toy. It was a powerful projectile weapon, a biblical equivalent of ArmaLite’s wares.

March 17, 2014

Tokenism watch – PhD models

Filed under: Business, Media — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:06

Martha Gill is underwhelmed by Betabrand’s use of PhDs as runway clothing models:

‘Hey ladies, you might have PhDs, but really you all want to be models’

Is there no job you don’t need a ludicrous set of qualifications for nowadays? Clothing company PhD, in a fairly ill-defined attempt to, I don’t know, raise awareness or something, have hit upon a novel concept for a fashion shoot: recruiting only models with PhDs.

“Our designers cooked up a collection of smart fashions for spring, so why not display them on the bodies of women with really big brains?” founder Chris Lindland said in a statement. Supporters have greeted it as a feminist move, saying it helps to promote “different kinds of female role models”.

Hmmm. Does it? I’m really not so sure that it does.

[...]

I mean, I see what they’re trying to do. They are trying to broaden the public’s idea of models, make them more representative, and show that being intelligent is something to aspire to, too. They just haven’t managed to do this. In any way.

You see, what I think they’ve done here is confuse the term “role model” with “clothing model”. The drive to make models more “representative” (see also Dove’s “real women” campaign) is actually setting up modelling to be far more aspirational than it is. It takes as read that being a model is the pinnacle of feminine achievement, and all we need to do to make girls feel good about themselves is to tell them they, too, can all be models. Even if they’re PhD students.

But models are just models. Really, really, ridiculously good-looking people doing what, when it comes down to it, is a fairly crap job.

The photo chosen to accompany the article in the Telegraph is why I originally wrote “runway model” instead of “clothing model”. The photos in the Daily Mail taken from the Betabrand website are much less … ridiculous than the Telegraph implies. They’re just modelling ordinary clothing for ordinary women, not the weird and totally impractical stuff some clothing designers foist on their runway models at fashion shows.

Betabrand PhD model example

I’d say there’s no story here (despite blogging about it), but there is. It’s just not quite the drive-by that the Telegraph‘s photo editor wants it to be. Betabrand scored a lot of free advertising and (probably) got its clothing line modelled on the cheap as well. It’s rather amusing that the Daily Mail is significantly more realistic in their coverage of this story than the Telegraph.

February 20, 2014

Cracking Facebook‘s news feed algorithm

Filed under: Business, Media — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:56

Sean Davis does the analysis on how Facebook‘s internal process works to determine who gets to see what in their newsfeeds. This was for an organization’s page, so the analysis may not be the same for personal Facebook pages, but the bottom line is that the money you may spend for ads is worth it, but you’re wasting your money with promoted posts:

If you manage your company’s Facebook page and have ever wondered how the Facebook news feed algorithm decides how many of your fans will see your content, then wonder no more. We’ve cracked the code (or we’ve at least cracked the code as it pertains to The Federalist’s Facebook page). And yes, for those of you who don’t feel like reading through the entire post or grappling with the math and statistics below, the Facebook news feed algorithm absolutely rewards the purchase of Facebook ads.

According to our analysis, five simple variables explain the vast majority (nearly 75 percent) of how the Facebook news feed algorithm works: total likes, daily paid reach, site page views from Facebook, weekend vs. weekday, and posts per day. The full magnitude of each factor’s effect is discussed in detail below.

[...]

Facebook can deny the charge all it wants, but according to extensive data for our Facebook page, the Facebook news feed algorithm clearly rewards the purchase of ads. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that — Facebook has every right to charge whatever it wants for the services it provides. The company’s advertisers and publishers, however, need to understand the extent to which Facebook uses ad purchases to increase a page’s news feed exposure. That’s why we conducted the analysis we did — money doesn’t grow on trees, and we need to have a very clear understanding of how money invested in advertising affects our overall bottom line. But it would be nice if Facebook were more transparent and specific about how its news feed algorithm works.

The company’s continued opacity is what led us to do our own digging, and according to Facebook’s own numbers about how our fans interact with our page, it turns out that a dollar spent on Facebook might not be worth as much as a dollar spent somewhere else.

February 2, 2014

Some of the Super Bowl commercials Canadians won’t see on TV

Filed under: Business, Football, Humour, Media — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 11:13

The audience for the Super Bowl is split between fans of the game (who actually care about the outcome) and fans of the ads (because this is the biggest TV audience, advertisers pull out all the stops and generally try to be genuinely funny). In Canada, thanks to our TV regulations, most of us will see the broadcast of the game itself, but we won’t see the same commercials as our US neighbours … we’ll get the same assortment of crummy ads they’ve been showing since the start of the season, with a few of the US ads as a “teaser”.

Fortunately for those who aren’t interested in the game itself, but like the commercials, the lead-up to the Super Bowl usually includes web release of many of the ads that will air during the broadcast. Here’s a selection put together by the Guardian, including a “behind the scenes” of an ad that won’t get shown … because it was never made:

Go behind the scenes of the Mega Huge Football Ad Newcastle Brown Ale almost made with the mega huge celebrity who almost starred in it. See more at http://www.IfWeMadeIt.com

The VW ad is rather amusing, too:

January 19, 2014

Obamacare opponents ruthlessly parody the efforts of supporters

Filed under: Humour, Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:51

Those who are still opposed to President Obama’s healthcare program will go to any lengths to ridicule and belittle both the program itself and the people who support it. Here, for example is one of the nastiest attempts to drag Obamacare into the public eye in as negative and mocking a fashion as possible.

I’m either on drugs, or the administration is this helplessly stupid. The Tell a Friend — Get Covered campaign, better described as “a tourist trap off Route 66,” began a six-hour live-streamed event Thursday afternoon that was advertised to “include stories, tips, helpful information and other details related to national health care options.” Really, it was as if the audio-visual club got wasted on malt liquor and hijacked public access television.

Get Covered, a partnership among state healthcare exchanges and the Obamacare missionary Enroll America, expertly fails to cater to young people. Its circus began Thursday with a dance-off between Richard Simmons and the contortionist Nathan Barnatt, overseen by the star of an Internet show whose premise is “drunk cooking.” How this is supposed to entice a 27 year old to pay $200 a month for health insurance, or even talk about it, is a question for the gods.

“What’s he doing?” Simmons exclaimed as Barnatt began to shake his body wildly.

“He’s extending his livelihood! That’s what he’s doing!” Hannah Hart, your host and creator of My Drunk Kitchen, responded in an endorsement of cardio.

Oh, c’mon. Is this seriously going to be one of those D-grade infomercials in which the participants force every line back to the bottom one?

“His moves are telling us something,” Barnatt whispered as Simmons took his turn.

“They are, and I think they’re saying, ‘Be flexible about your health insurance options,’” Hart responded.

Yes. Yes, it is.

Oh. Sorry. Apparently this isn’t a sleazy disinformation scheme by opponents. It’s a “good faith” advertising effort by supporters. Carry on, then.

January 16, 2014

Facebook‘s business model and why your status isn’t gathering “Likes” anymore

Filed under: Business, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 13:36

Derek Muller has an interesting analysis of the different business models of Facebook, YouTube, and other social media sites:

Published on 14 Jan 2014

Share this on Facebook ;)

Facebook is a complex ecosystem of individuals, creators, brands and advertisers, but I don’t think it serves any of these groups particularly well because its top priority is to make money. Now, I don’t think making money is a bad thing, in fact I hope to make some myself. The problem is the only way Facebook has found to make money is by treating all entities on the site as advertisers and charging them to share their content.

This business plan backfires because 1) not all entities ARE advertisers and 2) it was the content from these people, specifically friends, family, and creators that made the site worth visiting in the first place. Now the incentives are misaligned:
- individuals want to see great content, but they are now seeing more paid content and organically shared content which appeals to the lowest common denominator (babies, weddings, and banal memes)
- creators want to reach fans but their posts are being throttled to force them to pay to be seen
- brands and advertisers have to pay once to advertise their page on Facebook, and then pay again to reach the people who have already liked their page. Plus Facebook is not a place where people generally go to buy things.

Facebook stands in contrast to other social media like Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram where all content is shared with all followers.

I don’t spend much time on Facebook, even though I have my blog posts automatically posted to my timeline. When the video ads start to arrive, it will provide me with even more of an incentive to avoid spending time there.

H/T to Cate Matthews for the link.

Update: Apparently the folks who “Like” their own posts are not egomaniacs (well, not all of them) … they’re rationally responding to how Facebook‘s algorithms rank posts for deciding what will appear to your friends. A post with a “Like” is much more likely to be shared than one that hasn’t been “Liked”.

December 20, 2013

You know you’ve got a viral video when you start getting multiple parodies posted

Filed under: Cancon, Humour — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:22

Most of you will have seen the Jean Claude Van Damme Volvo video, but have you seen the Chuck Norris response?

Or for Canadians, the Rob Ford version?

H/T to Christian Tucker for the links.

November 25, 2013

When your product is “users” your product improvement is “more surveillance”

Filed under: Business, Liberty, Media, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:36

Bruce Schneier on the rising tide of non-governmental surveillance:

Google recently announced that it would start including individual users’ names and photos in some ads. This means that if you rate some product positively, your friends may see ads for that product with your name and photo attached — without your knowledge or consent. Meanwhile, Facebook is eliminating a feature that allowed people to retain some portions of their anonymity on its website.

These changes come on the heels of Google’s move to explore replacing tracking cookies with something that users have even less control over. Microsoft is doing something similar by developing its own tracking technology.

More generally, lots of companies are evading the “Do Not Track” rules, meant to give users a say in whether companies track them. Turns out the whole “Do Not Track” legislation has been a sham.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that big technology companies are tracking us on the Internet even more aggressively than before.

If these features don’t sound particularly beneficial to you, it’s because you’re not the customer of any of these companies. You’re the product, and you’re being improved for their actual customers: their advertisers.

November 6, 2013

Your website needs more Infographics!

Filed under: Humour, Media — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:15

Click image to see full-size infographic at SMBC

Click image to see full-size infographic at SMBC

October 14, 2013

You can’t make me eat kale

Filed under: Health, Humour — Tags: , — Nicholas Russon @ 11:25

At American Digest, a paean of joy at the thought of being forced to eat more kale:

Of late many self-employed food bullshit artists have concluded that we should eat more kale. Why anyone would want to eat even a little kale is beyond me. Kale, considered dispassionately, is something that you’d want to dry and stuff into a tick mattress if you were out of paint soaked rags and seaweed. Kale is not, strictly speaking, a food.

And yet, and yet, there it is. Oozing in piles of of leafy green intestine cleansing fronds in what can now only be described as the weed section of the produce aisle at your average Whole Foods.

How kale actually got into our national food chain is a mystery almost as deep as how the flavor of pumpkin (backed by “Spice!”) has been infused into foods and beverages starting October 1. Both kale and pumpkin exemplify items from the somewhat vegetable kingdom that would be better going straight from farm to compost without passing through humans.

And yet, and yet, here we are … one more mile down the road to hell courtesy of those post LorenaBobbittized vegans within whom there is not a teaspoon of testosterone in a trainload.

[...]

That’s the wave of the future and it is not an amber wave under spacious skies. Nope. It is a wave of pale and sodden progressively “good-for-you” greens slopped onto your aluminum plate in the prison chow line on Planet Vegan. You remember that putrescent puddle of gurgling spinach guts in spinach water that was once glunked on your plate in the high school cafeteria? This is the same thing only with extra thiocyanate. But hey, its KALE!, so count yourself lucky. Think of all the children of the elite and super rich that are going to bed tonight without any.

October 5, 2013

The future of post-IPO Twitter from the user perspective

Filed under: Business, Technology — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:40

In Maclean’s, Jesse Brown looks at the ominous signs of change for Twitter’s users in a post-IPO world:

As a private company, Twitter prioritized the user’s experience. I would go so far to say that providing an excellent user experience was the whole point of Twitter’s existence.

I didn’t get Twitter, at first. It seemed like just a stripped-down, feature-limited version of Facebook’s News Feed. Of course, that was the whole idea. By constraining users to 140 characters of text and a few buttons for sharing, “favoriting” or replying, and by eliminating the concept of mutually accepted friendship as a requirement for network growth, Twitter provided a simple, lightweight, super-charged information machine. The initial absence of pictures and video helped it move lightly across the slower phones of the time, and the arbitrary, spartan limitation on tweet length was a stroke of brilliance, forcing brevity upon its users to prevent blabbermouths and spammers from clogging up everybody’s feeds.

[...]

They will soon be under intense pressure to bring that number up, and in preparation, Twitter is moving away from sponsored tweets and sponsored trends, investing heavily in slick, complicated new ad products like Twitter Amplify, which embeds video clips into tweets with unskippable pre-roll ads. I can’t imagine any Twitter user saying “what this service really needs is some TV commercials!”

And whereas once Twitter played nicely with other apps, welcoming other companies (like Canada’s HootSuite) to build new apps that plug into Twitter and build on its network, they’ve since been frustrating developers with increasingly restrictive changes to its API, the interface it provides to outsiders. Last year, for example, Twitter put a cap on the number of users a third-party app could support. Now, if your Twitter-based service gets too popular, you’ll have to ask Twitter for permission to grow.

September 29, 2013

Portland’s tainted $2 bills

Filed under: Business, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 11:32

Last year there were a large number of red-stained $2 bills circulating in Portland, Oregon. Mary Emily O’Hara investigated the situation:

The manager at the McDonald’s on Northwest Yeon Avenue glanced at the money in the customer’s hand, a $2 bill that looked as if its edges had been dipped in blood. He grew tense, shook his head and turned away.

“Oh, no,” he says. “We’re not allowed to accept those.”

McDonald’s employees had seen the mystery money before — crimson-stained, smeared, always $2 bills — as have food carts, bars, retail stores and other businesses across the Portland area.

The bills have amused some people and alarmed others, who aren’t sure if the stains come from real blood, if the cash is counterfeit, or if the bills were marked by an exploding dye pack during a bank robbery gone wrong.

Thousands of these tainted bills are in circulation around the city, but their source is no longer a mystery: They’re a marketing gimmick for Casa Diablo, a Northwest Portland strip club that is taking U.S. currency and smearing it with blood-red ink.

You’d think defacing the currency would be a problem for the government … and it is:

But the feds have taken a dim view of Zukle’s actions: It’s against federal law to deface U.S. currency with the intent to make it unusable.

WW has learned Zukle and Casa Diablo are now under investigation by the Secret Service. Jon Dalton, resident agent in charge of the Secret Service’s Portland office, tells WW the fact the bills are being rejected show Casa Diablo’s inking of the money violates federal law.

Dalton says his office has told Casa Diablo three times to stop handing out the tainted bills. He also says his office has prepared a cease and desist order and is consulting with federal prosecutors about criminal charges. (WW has also learned the FBI paid the bar a visit in February.)

H/T to Marginal Revolution for the link.

September 28, 2013

Google is “fighting stupid with stupid”

Filed under: Business, Law, Technology — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 11:54

In Maclean’s, Jesse Brown looks at the rather dangerous interpretation of how email works in a recent court decision:

Newsflash: Google scans your email! Whether you have a Gmail account or just send email to people who do, Gmail’s bots automatically read your messages, mostly for the purpose of creating targeted advertising. And if you were reading this in 2005, that might seem shocking.

Today, I think most Internet users understand how free webmail works and are okay with it. But a U.S. federal judge has ruled otherwise. Yesterday, U.S. District Judge Lucy H. Koh ruled that Google’s terms of service and privacy policies do not explicitly spell out that Google will “intercept” users’ email (here’s the ruling).

The word “intercept” is crucial here, because it may put Google in the crosshairs of State and Federal anti-wiretapping laws. After Judge Koh’s ruling, a class-action lawsuit against Google can proceed, whose plaintiffs seek remedies for themselves and for class groups including “all U.S. citizen non-Gmail users who have sent a message to a Gmail user and received a reply…”. Like they say in Vegas, go big or go home.

[...]

An algorithm that scans my messages for keywords like “vacation” in order to offer me cheap flights is not by any stretch of the imagination a wiretap.

But Google has taken a different tack in their defence. If, they’ve argued, what Gmail does qualifies as interception, than so does all email, since automated processing is needed just to send the stuff, whether or not advertising algorithms or anti-spam filters are in use. This logic can be extended, I suppose, to all data that passes through the Internet.

You might call it fighting stupid with stupid, but I think it’s a bold bluff: rule us illegal, Google warns the court, and be prepared to deem the Internet itself a wiretap violation.

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