Friday, September 29, 2006

Indirection For Indecency

Nokia gave me a phone, and a phone number. I had it for 7 years, handing it out left and right as I travelled throuh the various NC-17 parts of life I have. When I left Nokia, I strongly suggested they retire it -- whomever would get it after me might get some strange calls. I doubt they did.

GrandCentral is a service where you get a phone number from them that you can give to people, and then can make rules on their website where the calls to this number should be routed to. You can choose to have all calls to your GrandCentral number ring your cell and home phone, or you can put callers in groups and make different rules for them, like your Family goes to all phones, but calls to your GrandCentral number from work contacts only rings the phone at work. When you pick up a GrandCentral call, you are actually not directly connected to the calling party, but the GrandCentral computer will tell you who is calling, and you can elect to send them to voice mail that you can listen in to as the caller is recording it. And I do miss listening to messages from my answering machine as they are being recorded. If you take a call from someone who dialled your GrandCentral number, the GrandCentral computer keeps listening in, and by pressing '4' the computer will start recording the call and send the result to email when the call is over. Stuff like that. (Hi Wildfire!)

Anyway, people with work cellphones but 'interesting' personal lives could get a GrandCentral number and write it on bathroom stallsdistribute it within their 'interesting' personal life a) without fear of ever having to switch numbers if they change their personal phone infrastructure, and b) being able to decide how their 'interesting' calls should be routed and handled.

Limited sign-up is free. GrandCentral wants to be a central number for all the different phones in your life, but I see GrandCentral being used differently: GrandCentral will be an extra number people will use for specific aspects of their life. I foresee people having multiple GrandCentral numbers instead of one, and GrandCentral taking off within all kinds of communities in no time.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


So ever since went off the air for four months and then came back more acrimonious than ever, I have been looking for other websites for my link fix to keep me Ahead of The Pack. Currently, I am checking out Digg, which seems to be Slashdot for people who also switch on CNN and FNN besides the Sci-Fi channel.

Digg is in love with Web 2.0 -- a very tortured love -- and links often to pundits and blog entries about this new way of working the web with websites built around audience participation, blogs, collectives, social entries and networking, and very dynamic technologies. Currently I keep running into posts about How To Succeed In Web 2.0 Ventures that all reference this idea by some guy named Seth Godin that your new web site product should be new and interesting and edgy and unsafe and stand out from the crowd and appeal to a definite niche, and then the thing will presumably market itself. Being a safe product requires a marketing budget, being a targetted product will make your audience do your marketing through word-of-mouth, or something.

The image he uses to vsiualize this is about making a Purple Cow.

Oh dear. Yeah, I am sure my European friends are having the same reaction I had. A Purple Cow as the height of quirky and innovative? Um, yeah, well, it would be, if a purple cow -- ok, well lavender, or lilac, but still purple -- hadn't been one of the most constant commercial images on TV and Print in large parts of Europe for at least the last twenty years.

Now, I have to say, the latest versions of the Milka cow are blue-er than I remember her, but she's still a damn purple cow. But edgy? Differentiated? Niche? Stands out from the crowd? Word Of Mouth? Only about how well Milka softly melts therein. It is a fine chocolate, but not a stellar or particularly remarkable one. Well, not in its home country; here in the US, where the standard for a chocolate bar, Hersheys, resembles mostly a flattened dark brown candle of which the wick has been surgically removed, Milka is a triumph of chocolaterie.

So yeah, Purple Cow. I am having issues with the Web 2.0 hype anyway, although I do recognize valuable Web 2.0 moments, community or otherwise, but the pundits latching on to an image to convey something it definately does not the moment you step into Western Europe doesn't do much to make me take dear Seth more seriously. Then again, the German site of Milka lets us join the Kuh-munity. Maybe Milka is really Web 2.0 after all.

Friday, September 15, 2006

A Letter

Dear Nintendo

A few years ago, during a pre-Christmas trip to all my siblings and then my father's home, I had a chance to leave your Gamecube under the tree. I had left Boston thinking that is what I wanted to do, but by first visiting all my nieces and nephews in Paris, Tongeren, and Amsterdam, I was able to see what they played with, and guage that indeed, while the older boys had PS2 and played Xbox with friends, and the girls played the simple games on my dad's pre-PowerPC Macintosh, by their direct long answer to 'So what about the Gamecube?', they knew you. Oh yes, the boys had GBAs and had played your franchises, and though their loyalty to those I saw that, as rowdy and soccer-playing and action-toy-shredding boys the oldest ones were, they knew you, and loved your cheerful outlook and innocence.

I knew they'd all be at my Dad's for Christmas (all ten loinfruit, and their parents, in that one house), so on the 20th or 21st of December I trekked to the local toy shop in that small village in the Netherlands my Dad lives in, and came home with your product and Mario Kart Double Something and extra controllers. I proceeded to unpack your product next to the second TV In The Corner Far Away From The Main Living Room, and showed my Dad exactly how to hook up the unit, after which I hid it in the cupboard above the TV. Then I wrapped the empty packaging and the accessories and left that under the tree. I think the toy shop was out of memory cards, so I had my sister buy one and bring it last minute.

For my siblings it would have been a serious expense, but really, for DINKy me it was, although not cheap, something I could easily do. I told my father to tell the 10 that no, it wasn't from Santa. It wasn't from Sinterklaas. It was from me. I wouldn't be there for their birthdays and Christmasses -- because I live sofar, and because I wouldn't be able to handle it, as I am not good around a gaggle of young children, I have a hard enough time relating to them when I just visit them in small groups of three or four at their families -- but this I could leave.

It's been however many years now, and my father still thanks me when my regular call happens to fall shortly after a visit from a sibling. Sure, every non-Nintendo fanboy out there thinks you are a Kid's Toys Company, that there is nothing edgy and hot about you. 3 years or however long it has been, and my father still thanks me. Whenever one of my siblings visits, the kids all go to the corner far away, and play party games for hours on end. Suddenly my Dad can talk to his children during a visit, and everyone gets to relax. At mealtime or for some outing they peel the children out of the corner and they all get ot interact, and when it gets much they go to the corner again. The kids love going to Grandpa and will sit in the car for hours for it. The older boys -- my siblings who started breeding first got more boys than the one who started later -- started teaching the girls how to play together and are all protective and sharing.

Do I like it when I find out they play PS2 for hours at home? Not really. Do I mind when I hear visits to Grandpa are dearly loved and go smoother because they get to binge on a weekend? Totally not. Grandpas are for Fun. Your simple fun, kid friendly, party box changed a family dynamic to make it even better. Grandpa's is going to be remembered as a place where they went to party and play with each-other and share and fight and rivalrize and grow up together, even if it was only once or twice a year -- a relationship I did not have with my cousins. Even if I only count the oldest 6 or so as players, over three years, it all adds up to one of the most long-term, cost-effective, and fun things I have ever done for someone else.

But just as I was getting afraid they were getting bored with this box, there you go and save Christmas again. Please make sure your supply chain works and you make your European launch date with ample inventory. For you have compelled me to make my pre-Christmas visit again, even if I already spent five weeks in the Netherlands this February, and thus saw 6 of the 10 this year (my brother and his family are in Milan right now, and I simply didn't make it that far south). This experience has to be under Opa Rocus' Christmas tree this year, and I must install it myself to make sure it will work right the moment they unpack the oblong boxes of spare controllers and realize that if this is a Wii controller in their hand that they just unpacked then that must mean.... and run to the TV In The Corner screaming the name of your product.

Thanks again,
Love, FJ!!

PS: December 8th? You're missing Sinterklaas seazon in NL! A little shabby there.

(Geez, I'd better friendslock this in a while. I am sure the oldest ones read English by now, and I keep expecting one of them to find my journal some day.

And tell my siblings not to buy a Wii for them this Christmas.)

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

A Letter

Dear TiVo

I know I used to buy a new box when it came out just as a show of support. You know I love you, even if I haven't switched you on yet since the move. You know I consider everyone else pale imitations, and can barely handle watching TV without you.

But 800 bucks for your latest Series 3 HD version? No. I have no HD equipment nor content, and it is just too much money to just buy to make sure you stay in business. You'll have to find someone else.

Love, FJ!!

PS, not to you but to Susan D.: sell those shares.