Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Wishlist Buddy

File under 'things I didn't know existed, even though you probably did': I'm the sort of Amazon shopper who puts things he likes in his basket on a whim, then every so often splurges on stuff (payday, treating myself, etc). Whenever I go back to my shopping basket half of the stuff has gone up in price, and the other half has gone down. So why can't I have an alert to tell me when something I want (but not urgently) has become amazingly cheap?

Well, it seems that you can, but you need to use your Wishlist (a feature I've ignored until now), rather than your shopping basket.

Just log into Wishlist Buddy (other versions are available, I think), create an acount, link it to your Amazon, and then let it read your wishlist.

For example if you want to get Seven Samurai on DVD but you don't want to pay full price (or even 40% off) you put that into your wishlist, and then in the Wishlist Buddy you set the maximum price you're willing to pay. As soon as it drops to that price you get an email alert. You can even set it for 'New only' or 'New or Used'. Brilliant, and very simple.

Monday, January 21, 2008


There's a feature about the Cornish clothing company Finisterre in this month's issue of my favourite magazine, Monocle.

One quick trip to their website, and I'm pretty impressed. Their clothes are practical outdoor stuff, vaguely reminiscent of Rohan but with a much (much, much) funkier image.

What impressed me most is the video clips where the designers talk about the products and demonstrate them, for example the Coho here.

Nice idea, and these days this must be pretty straightforward to do.

There's also a Facebook group, which again really sold the company (& a Coho) to me.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Solving "The Plumber Problem"

I went to a really interesting event last night about local digital media, organised by Mashup.

It featured a panel of experts from different sites, including Qype and WeLoveLocal. It was a really good discussion - check out the Mashup site, and sign up to go to future events. It only costs £35 to attend.

Anyway... One of the best bits for me came in a discussion of why local sites are good for somethings but not others, and one of the panelist brought up 'the plumber problem'. It's easy to find good local restaurants, because thousands of people will eat in them every year, so even with low conversion rates you are likely to get a few reviews. Plumbers (& other tradesmen) will only have a couple of hundred customers a year, and so it is unlikely that they will rate them. If there are any reviews the small sample sizes mean that you can't really see if they are real or fake. So local sites will not find you a reliable local plumber.

This got me thinking. Yes, ok, it's all word of mouth and also the best tradesmen are always busy and don't actually want more business in many cases. But there must still be good plumbers just starting out, or ones who are looking to expand. & it must be possible to use social media (or digital media) to find some sort of answer.

My answer is to use Delicious. Delicious is a site that allows users to bookmark their favourite things online, and then lets other people search these. If something is popular then a lot of people will have bookmarked them. I use this when I'm travelling to get local recommendations for restaurants etc.

So here are the results for 'plumber london' in Delcious. Not perfect, by any means, and there are lots of irrelevant links, but a pretty good starting point for investigation.

For example -

4c's - bookmarked by 90 people

0800Handyman - bookmarked by 19 people

Permanex - bookmarked by 2 people

All worth investigating - and of course you can see who recommended them in each case.

Anyone else got any possible solutions to 'the plumber problem'?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Downfall of HD DVD

Sorry that this is the 3rd YouTube post in a row, and I'm really not tryin gto become the internet's answer to Chris Tarrant, but I could not ignore this brilliant user generated example.

As I'm sure you will have read, Warner Bros have announced that from the summer they will be only releasing High Definition DVDs on the Blu-ray format, abandoning the HD DVD format, which probably now means that Blu-ray will become the dominant format, and that HD DVD will become this generation's Betamax. Probably.

What someone has done is to re-do our old friend the Downfall clip, which I blogged about here, but this time about HD DVD.

Totally tasteless (obviously), but also very funny, and very educational about the HD issues. It's the sort of thing that a brand could never do in it's communication, but that fans will do - and ask yourself the question - would anyone buy an HD DVD player having watched this? So far this has had over 200,000 views on YouTube.

Update: The video's now been removed, but you may be able to find other versions by searching!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Radiohead - Scotch Mist

This is another great 'corporate' use of YouTube - and also proof that YouTube will let you go over ten minutes if you have good reason to.

We all know that Radiohead pushed back thr boundaries of music marketing by making their album In Rainbows effectively free (pay what you want, but with no minimum), but on new year's eve they released a live version of the album to YouTube in a film called Scotch Mist.

See it here, or watch the embedded version below:

Or if you don't want to hear all of it, they've broken it down into tracks which you can access individually from their YouTube channel here

The Wire in 4 Minutes

Like many people I've become a real fan of The Wire. To do this in the UK you really need to either buy the DVDs or have Sky+ - it only gets shown on FX, and only once a week. We're currently about 2 episodes away from the end of series 2 on FX, and I'm loving it more than ever.

Anyway... To promote the 5th series in the US (I can't bring myself to call it a 'Season') HBO has produced this really neat summary of the first 4 series, in a 4 minute YouTube clip. There have been lots of versions of fans doing this, particularly this one, Sopranos in 7 minutes

So watch this, enjoy, stop watching at the point that it starts spoiling, and applaud HBO for a great piece of promotion

Monday, January 07, 2008

The Great Football Giveaway

I saw a really interresting documentary on TV last week about The Great Football Giveaway.

A few years ago a guy on holiday in Africa saw some kids playing with a homemade ball, and wanted to give them a proper ball. Then he realised that it would be much better to take a whole consignment of balls over to Africa, and this is what he did.

Cynics like me might view this as pretty crass - they need food and drinking water, not footballs, and surely it smacks a bit of cultural imperialism - but no, if you see the film it's amazing how the kids react when you give them the balls.

They're now a registered charity. £10 buys a ball, delivered personally.

So far they've delivered two consignments of 3,000 balls to kids in Malawi and Angola (with associated pumps, values etc).

Watch part of the film here

Give a ball or more through paypal or Justgiving here

They're off to Uganda this summer - help out if you can.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

UK Blogging Update - the search for real blogs

A few weeks ago I moaned about the lack of 'real' blogs in the UK - that is blogs that weren't written for commercial reasons, or to drive search traffic.

Today comes a perfect example to test this view. Liverpool Street railway station is closed, meaning that hundreds of thousand commuters have disrupted journeys to work on the first working day after new year.

Using Google blog search I have found 30 relevant posts from 'real' blogs, including:

Another Day Wasted

Meeester Nik

Everything has a limit

First Late Western (admittedly, a rail-specific blog)

It all started with Barging

So - a few great blogs - but not many. Many of the 30 posts were mainsteam news sources, and a few were blatant 'flogs' or fake blogs, for example promoting jobs in the area.

I stand by my original point that Britain is not home to an army of bloggers. Yet.

Subway Vouchers on Ebay

This is pretty amazing... You know those vouchers that people give out in the street ("coffee and doughnut for 99p") - well people are putting them on Ebay.

I've found 16 on there today - see the link - but happily for the sanity of the nation there are very few takers.

As an aside, while going for a walk in SW4 and SW9 over Christmas I realised that postcard ads for flats and local services in newsagents windows are also a casualty of the internet boom. Most newsagents don't have them now at all, and those that do just have one or two cards on display. People are using Gumtree and so on instead. OK, this is South London only, but I'd be interested to know if this is true elsewhere in the UK.
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