Diana: no wonder people are confused

I work close enough to Kensington Palace Gardens to walk around them occasionally at lunchtime. It’s a post-prandial palliative for the pressured world of PR.

Today, however, it was quite surreal, more so than usual (it gets surreal occasionally when you are dive-bombed by Canada geese or see terrapins floating around in the pond). Today, it was full of people bemoaning the loss, ten years ago to the day, of Diana.

There wasn’t actually weeping and wailing or gnashing of teeth and pulling of hair, but it was quite strange. It was almost like walking into a stage set, with media everywhere (the nice man from London news was there but he didn’t say hello), someone playing Candle in the Wind on a stereo, phalanxes of photos, people picknicking. All you needed was Elton John to materialise from thin air and the suspension of disbelief would be complete.

Stepping into this parallel universe it occured to me that really, that was the Diana phenomenon. It was the closest people got to ‘real fairytale.’ Diana was real, she was really a princess, she had real children, you can really see where she really lived, and died. She also appeared on the telly a lot.

This crossover between real and fantasy was, today, for me, a crossover between real and media. Which are essentially the same thing in a lot of people’s minds. Remember how strange it was to see Larry Hagman interviewed on Wogan while at the height of the evil incarnate that was JR, around the early 80s? And apparently John Altman has been abused in the street during his stints as Nasty Nick on Eastenders.

It seems to me that as entertainment swallows reality, so news programmes adopt the entertainment clothing (or lack thereof – what could be more entertaining than Emily Maitlis’s legs). No wonder people are confused. After becoming hooked on the Spencer Soap (think Dallas/ Dynasty/ Eastenders/ Coronation Street rolled into one, mixed to a dropping consistency and baked for 3 years at 700 degrees fahrenheit) they’re still bereft. They still want that elusive yet strong fix of realityfantasy. And today, in Kensington Palace Gardens, they were able, tantalisingly, to step back into that media-created fairytale.

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New media maven seeks PR influencer


I had a sudden revelation in the pub last night (see above). It must have been the Staropramen, a nice yeasty brew, feisty from the draught (see below). It occurred to me that, being perceived as ‘quite tecchie’ within my agency, I’m the last person who should be trying to introduce people to new media, because they’ll think what they’re being shown is something ‘tecchie’. It isn’t. It’s simply a set of tools that they can use, just like a word processor, just like a spreadsheet, that helps them do their jobs. But it’s the perception that counts.

There are so many tools that can help us, and that are free. Take your pick of free aggregators – Google Reader is my choice – that enable you to overview the online chattering of the ever-expanding blogosphere and find out what people are saying about your clients in near-real-time. Surf all the blogs and podcasts – again, for free – that together represent a hugely valuable resource of PR experience and talent.

Not enough? Then take a look at the news searches you can use, again to deliver to your reader, or Wikipedia that is *mostly* accurate, or other cunning little tools such as the Online Report Creator Tool and Similpedia that can all help with research and verification. What about the – imho – PR killer app, Google Trends? What about Facebook? Technorati? Blogpulse? All free, all with readily identifiable PR applications. I mean, do you want this handed on a plate?

Actually, I think people do. But not by someone they think is a bit mad tecchie. Whether or not I really understand the PR business – and quite frankly I think I really don’t – the perception is that I’m showing people technical stuff. And technical=difficult. Forget whether they’re working in tech PR and should know better, the simple fact is, they don’t. I can try to change this, or accept it.

I’m going to try and change it – really, I am – but if I can’t then what to do? Perhaps the way to really get people clued up in new media, if persuasion, cajoling and bullying don’t work, is to train someone who is perceived within the agency as a true PR and, ideally, technophobe (shouldn’t be too difficult). Then, when they tell people this stuff, they’ll listen, because it’s PR and not tech.

I’m currently reading ‘The Tipping Point’, and it discusses mavens, connectors and influencers. Maybe I’m a maven. And maybe I need to get my hands on an influencer. See below.


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It’s all about the data, stupid: Last.fm wins, Pandora loses

Today I read in the Guardian about Last.FM being adopted by Music Week to provide the publication’s first online-based chart. As the piece astutely says: “it’s the data generated by the site’s 20 million enthusiasts that is priceless.”

I’m typing this while listening to Pandora, the alternative to Last.fm which I found out about through Seamus McCauley at Virtual Economics. It is a truly wonderful idea. By identifying a set of musical parameters for each song, Pandora can then match any music to any other music by how ‘similar’ they are. So, for example, if you want to listen to music that is ‘like’ Beck, you set up a station for Beck and Pandora comes up with similar material, in my case specifically Cracker and Modest House. I have no idea who these bands are but they sound great.

Pandora is the result of the Music Genome project, the exercise of which – identifying musical properties –  is neatly referred to as the music’s ‘DNA’. By building up a playlist in Pandora you are essentially matching music DNA to your own DNA. One project I recently set up at my company is a company-wide Pandora music station. Anyone from the company can log on and add their preferences. In this way we end up with the company’s music DNA, we get to listen to some half-decent music (no more Gwen Stefani),  and some people learn a bit about new media to boot. Everyone wins.

In one respect Pandora is beautifully elegant. It approaches ‘social radio’ through the music and is almost uncanny in the way it brings up musical suggestions similar to those friends’ compilations made on chrome tapes in the 80s (yes, I am that old). In another, however, it is ugly. It relies on musically astute contributors to identify musical DNA in what I would describe as an extended exercise in folksonomy. So whereas you just kick-start Last.fm and let it chug away with its Amazon-like referential algorithms, Pandora will always involve considerable manual effort.

But where Pandora has really missed the trick is in its marketing data. Get this: its license only allows ‘broadcast’ in the US. Yes, you read that right. Pandora is only available to north Americans. And if a frog had wings, he wouldn’t bump his ass when he hopped.

So I imagine the Pandora marketing database is, to put it mildly, totally screwed. I daresay they have a fair proportion of subscribers based at the White House zipcode (20500), the Pentagon (20301) or even Beverley Hills 90210. I certainly cannot imagine how their potentially ‘priceless’ marketing data is worth a dime. Or a Euro, come to that. How sad.

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The Friendly Ghost PowerPR Index for August 2007

With explanations below:

fgpowerindex2.gif technorati_reactions.gif yahoo2.gif google.gif blogpulse.gif total.gif
1 Micro Persuasion 10 10 10 10 7 10 10 10 77
2 Center for Media and Democracy 10 10 10 10 7 10 10 10 77
3 Online Marketing Blog 10 10 10 10 6 10 10 10 76
4 a shel of my former self 10 10 10 10 6 10 10 10 76
5 NevilleHobson.com 10 10 10 10 4 10 10 10 74
6 Strumpette 10 10 10 9 5 10 9 10 73
7 Todd Andrlik – the Power to Connect 10 10 10 7 4 10 10 10 71
8 PR Squared 9 9 9 9 6 10 9 9 70
9 On Message Wagner Comms 10 10 9 9 6 8 10 8 70
10 Communication Overtones 9 10 10 9 6 7 10 9 70
11 Pop! PR Jots 9 9 9 10 5 8 10 9 69
12 PR Meets the WWW 9 9 9 10 5 9 10 8 69
13 PR 2.0 Silicon Valley 10 10 9 9 4 8 9 10 69
14 Canuckflack 10 10 10 6 6 8 8 9 67
15 PR Blogger 9 9 8 9 6 9 8 8 66
16 The Bad Pitch Blog 9 9 8 8 5 9 9 8 65
17 Media Orchard 8 8 10 10 5 6 9 7 63
18 Strategic Public Relations 9 9 8 9 5 7 7 9 63
19 A PR Guy’s Musings 8 8 9 8 5 8 9 8 63
20 Marketing Begins at Home 8 8 8 9 6 7 9 8 63
21 Pro PR 8 8 9 8 5 7 8 9 62
22 Paul Gillin – Social Media 8 9 8 8 6 8 8 7 62
23 Web Ink Now 9 9 9 9 1 7 8 9 61
24 Common Sense PR 9 9 8 5 5 9 7 9 61
25 Cooler Insights 9 9 7 8 4 8 8 8 61
26 Corporate PR 7 7 8 10 5 7 9 7 60
27 Spinwatch 8 8 8 10 3 10 6 7 60
28 Tech PR Gems 8 8 7 6 5 7 8 9 58
29 Blogging Me, Blogging You 8 8 8 8 5 4 9 7 57
30 Media Guerrilla 8 8 9 6 5 7 7 7 57
31 The Buzz Bin 8 8 7 7 0 9 8 9 56
32 New PR, ranked by readers 6 6 7 8 6 8 7 8 56
33 PR Works 7 7 7 7 5 7 8 7 55
34 PR. Differently 8 8 8 7 4 6 6 8 55
35 ….the world’s leading…. 7 7 7 7 5 6 7 8 54
36 PR Studies 7 7 7 8 5 7 7 6 54
37 PR Communications 7 7 6 8 5 8 5 7 53
38 Piaras Kelly PR – Irish Public Relations 6 6 9 7 5 6 8 6 53
39 Beyond PR 6 6 6 9 5 9 7 5 53
40 Drew B’s take on tech PR 6 7 7 8 6 6 7 6 53
41 The New PR 7 7 7 6 5 5 8 6 51
42 Murphy’s Law 7 7 6 5 5 6 7 7 50
43 PR News Online 5 5 5 6 6 10 6 5 48
44 bitemarks 6 6 6 6 5 9 6 4 48
45 Young PR 1 1 8 7 5 9 9 8 48
46 Heather Yaxley – Greenbanana PR 7 7 6 6 4 4 6 6 46
47 ToughSledding 6 6 5 7 5 3 7 6 45
48 Client Service Insights (CSI) 6 6 7 3 5 6 6 5 44
49 KDPaine’s PR Measurement Blog 6 6 6 5 5 5 5 6 44
50 The New View from Object Towers 7 7 6 4 4 5 4 6 43
51 The PR 2.0 Universe 6 6 4 6 3 6 5 6 42
52 The Friendly Ghost 6 6 5 5 5 3 6 5 41
53 PR Disasters 5 5 5 5 3 8 5 4 40
54 Technobabble 2.0 7 7 5 4 0 4 5 7 39
55 Onalytica – analysing online buzz 4 4 6 4 5 5 5 6 39
56 Alan Weinkrantz PR Web Log 5 5 5 5 4 5 5 5 39
57 The New Marketing 5 5 6 4 5 5 3 5 38
58 The PR Place 5 5 6 5 4 4 5 4 38
59 Glass House 5 5 5 8 5 2 6 2 38
60 Wired PR Works by Barbara Rozgonyi 6 6 3 4 5 2 6 6 38
61 Naked PR 5 5 4 5 3 8 3 4 37
62 Wadds’ tech pr blog 5 5 4 4 4 5 5 4 36
63 Active Voice 4 4 6 7 4 4 6 1 36
64 wordymouth.com 4 4 3 3 4 9 4 4 35
65 PR Voice 5 5 5 3 4 4 4 4 34
66 PR 2.0 4 4 5 4 5 2 6 3 33
67 Teaching PR 4 4 5 3 4 4 5 4 33
68 media mindshare 4 4 3 6 4 4 3 5 33
69 Valley PR Blog 5 5 4 3 4 5 3 4 33
70 PR Girlz 3 3 4 6 4 4 5 2 31
71 PR Conversations 4 5 3 5 0 6 4 4 31
72 Don’t eat the shrimp – Josh Morgan 3 3 3 4 4 6 4 3 30
73 Tech PR War Stories 3 4 3 3 5 2 4 6 30
74 The Rosemont Loving 4 4 2 6 5 3 3 3 30
75 The Thicket 3 3 4 4 4 6 4 1 29
76 Tech for PR 4 4 3 2 5 3 2 4 27
77 Indian and Global PR 3 3 2 3 5 3 4 3 26
78 nerd-in-residence 3 3 3 2 4 5 3 3 26
79 DummySpit 3 3 3 2 4 3 3 5 26
80 Engage in PR 3 3 4 3 0 5 3 5 26
81 Clogger 2 2 4 3 4 3 5 2 25
82 Media Artifacts 5 4 3 2 0 4 3 3 24
83 point being: 3 2 3 4 4 3 2 2 23
84 The last man in Europe… 3 3 2 3 4 2 3 3 23
85 IndiaPRBlog! 3 3 1 2 0 9 3 2 23
86 Corporati 2 1 1 7 3 3 2 2 21
87 Fusion PR Forum 2 2 2 2 4 2 2 5 21
88 GREENblog 2 2 4 3 0 3 5 2 21
89 A communica-holic’s view of PR 1 1 1 5 3 2 1 2 16
90 First Person PR 2 2 2 1 4 1 2 2 16
91 All Things PR 2 2 2 1 3 3 2 1 16
92 PRactical P.R. 2 1 1 2 3 1 2 2 14
93 Public Relations Rogue 2 2 2 2 0 2 1 3 14
94 my(PR)palette 1 1 2 1 2 2 1 4 14
95 copypunk 2 3 2 2 0 1 2 2 14
96 Small Business PR and Marketing 2 1 2 1 4 1 1 1 13
97 PR India Post 1 1 1 2 2 2 2 2 13
98 PR (in a jar) 2 1 1 1 3 1 1 2 12
99 On the face… 1 1 2 1 3 1 1 1 11
100 72 Point Blog 1 1 1 1 4 1 1 1 11
101 The Jive Man 1 1 1 1 4 1 1 1 11
102 note to editors… 2 2 1 1 0 1 2 1 10
103 The Spud Gun 1 1 1 1 0 1 2 2 9
104 The Byline 1 1 1 1 0 2 1 1 8

technorati_reactions.gif yahoo2.gif google.gif blogpulse.gif total.gif

This one took quite some time. I’ve been trying to automate it using the Easy Bee software and whereas it’s great for small amounts of data capture it gets very slow indeed as you go into the hundreds of queries, which is of course what we have with the PowerPR index. I realise there are much more sophisticated ways to grab this data using APIs but I just don’t have the knowledge to do this. I got about 75 percent the way through the automation but then decided I just wanted to get this version out so that I can complete the work and add some enhancements to the next issue.

Other points to note:

  • The biggest change to the index this time around is the scoring system. In previous indexes I had used simple ‘percentage bands’, so the top 5% by value scored 10, the next 10% scored 9, and so on. However, I had a bad feeling about this because it seemed quite arbitrary, not least because different percentage bands needed to be used across different populations. As I discussed in the previous index, I tried to look into normal distribution treatments but I just don’t think we have normal distributions here (as I discovered when the blogs proved to describe a long tail).

    So, I took professional advice, from a government statistician no less. It seems this kind of thing really is more an art than a science (as Humphrey proved to Jim Hacker in Yes Minister), so all approaches are valid. In the end I settled on one suggestion which was to take the total number of blogs, and give the top ten percent of that population a score of 10, the next 10 percent a score of 9, and so on. 

    We have 104 blogs here, meaning our ‘ten percent’ bands are roughly groups of ten. So in this index, roughly ten of the blogs will get each score, from 10 to 1, with slight variations dependent on decimal places which you can’t see in the integers of this index (which is also why some scores appear identical like the top two in the index, but they are in fact separated by decimal points differences in the spreadsheet).

    I like this method because it works for any population and lends itself nicely to Excel calculations (you can do it easily using the COUNTA and RANK functions). The disadvantage is that it doesn’t show how clearly the big blogs such as Micropersuasion are ahead of the rest. I did consider log scores for this but then my brain started to hurt.

  • Google Page Rank is different. I just list the actual page rank because that’s supposed to be out of 10 too – although it never actually seems to reach 10. Strange one, that. I tried to normalise using the same method but got odd results, such as a page rank of 6 getting a score of 8 while a page rank of 5 got a score of 4, that kind of thing. It’s also strange that of all these metrics, page rank is the only one that doesn’t cover all these blogs (a score of zero indicates data unavailable). I was very tempted to remove page rank altogether, simply because it is used in the Power150 and I’d very much like to move away from that so I can provide something more complementary. Perhaps I will do that next time.
  • Three of these blogs have moved and I have a strong feeling copypunk used to be someone else too. I wasn’t sure how to treat them, whether to add their new values to their old ones or just continue with the new values. In the end I decided to go with the new ones, so the three blogs I detailed as moving yesterday might have slightly odd positioning for a while. If this annoys people I’ll see what I can do about it.
  • We now have hyperlinks so each index entry is clickable.
  • I would have liked to include indicators showing movement up/down/no change, but I simply don’t have time to do this right now, plus the number of blogs is considerably bigger so it seems to make more sense to compare like with like. I’ll save that for future issues. Likewise other ‘nice to have’ features which I recently discussed for the Power150.
  • One very quick calculation I can make: the total PR blogosphere according to the figures accumulated here. In the last index, if I added together quite literally every metric (except Technorati Rank which works ‘the other way around’ in that the smaller the figure the better, so I just removed it from the total), the sum total was 1,914,778. Divided by 83 blogs, this gives a figure of 23,070: that is, each blog accounted for, on average, 23,070 ‘FG points’. This time, the total is 2,045,886 across 104 blogs, so each blog accounts for 19,672 points – quite a bit lower. This represents a reduction of 15% from June to August. The PR blogosphere would appear to be shrinking, or perhaps that’s just because I have more blogs with lower scores. The next issue should be clearer on this point.
  • Finally can I point out that I’ve tried my best to be accurate with this, which was another reason for using automation. If anyone can see any glaring errors in it then please let me know, and I’ll try and fix them. I know for example that YoungPR has problems with Technorati which have recently been ironed out but, it seems, too recently for me to get any figures for it yet. If/when these figures emerge, expect a change there at least.
  • I just realised, it’s no longer Todd And’s Power150, it’s Ad Age’s. Oh, what the heck. Here’s a link.

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Housekeeping: three PR blog moves

We recently had three movers in the FG Blogroll. Given that this might affect their positions in the Power150 and PowerPR index (yes, I’m still working on it), here are the changes:

  • IndiaPRBlog has moved from http://indiapr.blogspot.com/ to http://www.indiaprblog.com/. This blog consistently comes up with good, useful information and comment, proving that PR lessons can be learnt from any source regardless of geography.
  • Barbara Rozgonyi has fled the WordPress platform to www.barbararozgonyi-wiredprworks.com. I wonder if this is anything to do with the little contretemps she had with them a while back? If so then I’m sure she’s made the right decision – update your blogrolls please.
  • Finally – and I’m not the first to report on this – TWL has not only moved but had a distinct facelift, from http://theworldsleading.blogspot.com/ to  http://www.theworldsleading.net/. It’s an extremely original look and I’m sure it hasn’t just come about as a ‘nice to have’ – to me, this signals some real statement of intent about TWL’s plans to become a reference blog, not least with the mini-ads for jobs and services and the fact that TWL employed a design agency for the new look. It’s a welcome change and proof that PR blogs are becoming more sophisticated.

It’s interesting to note that all the moves are away from blog platforms to unique URLs. Could this be a trend? If so it implies to me a greater permanence and independence in the PR blogosphere. This could be an interesting tie-in with the recent indication that PR blogging is declining in quantity – which could almost imply an increase in quality.

If/when I finally get the latest PowerPR table out I shall be basically adding up all the metrics to give an overall ‘PowerPR index’, from when it will be interesting to see, like the FTSE, how the blogosphere is doing – is it expanding or contracting and if so, at what rate?

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Similpedia: providing related Wikipedia content

Similpedia is a nice idea. It takes a web page or paragraph of text and cross-references key words in it to Wikipedia entries. In this way you can look up terms or follow the Similpedia suggestions for ‘related content.’

Check out their demo page and you’ll see what they can do. They provide scripts and widgets for WordPress, Firefox and websites generally, as well as an RSS feed which you can see at the bottom right corner of this page. More on that later.

What I didn’t see on their website was functionality for passing a page’s URL to the Similpedia engine. This would be useful for wordpress.com users such as myself who cannot use script. So, I emailed them. And about an hour later, got a reply. The answer is fairly simple, you just pass http://www.similpedia.org/engine?q=%5Bquery URL here] to it. So, if I wanted to add a link to the bottom of each post, as I currently do anyway with my ‘BlinkList | Blogmarks | Digg’ etc links (I use a Word file and search/replace a keyword in it with the post URL), I could just add that as a link and off we go.

Almost, but not quite. Here’s one query listing from my recent ‘tecchy’ type post:

As you can see, it lists entries for social networks, blogging and so on. This makes sense.

However, here’s a query on a very different post indeed:

… and you get similar results.

How can this be? The posts are totally different. So, let’s see what happens when I copy the text from that last post and paste it into Similpedia:

Pearly gates
The Pearly gates, in Christian mythology, is an informal name for the gateway to Heaven, inspired by the description of the New Jerusalem in Revelation 21:21&mdash The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate being made from a single pearl. The image of the gates in p….

The Wish List
::For other uses of The Wish List , please see The Wish List (disambiguation) The Wish List is a fantasy novel by Eoin Colfer. It chronicles the adventures of Meg Finn, a spirit who has struck a perfect balance between good and evil and as such, is barred from entering ….

James Broadwater
Reverend James S. Broadwater was a Republican candidate for U.S. Congress from the southern state of Mississippi. Broadwater is staunchly conservative and an evangelical Christian. He is unabashed in promoting his personal belief that Christianity is the main source of ….

The Farmer’s Curst Wife
The Farmer’s Curst Wife is Child ballad number 278. Synopsis A farmer had a bad woman for his wife, and one day the devil came for her. They reached Hell, and the gates were shut, so she struck him. She made life in hell so bad that the devil brought her back to her hus….

Heaven & Hell (album)
Heaven & Hell was a compilation album released in 1989. It contains songs performed by Meat Loaf and Bonnie Tyler. Tracklisting 1. Bat out of Hell 2. Faster Than the Speed of Night 3. You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth 4. Have You Every Seen the Rain 5. Read ‘Em a….

The Marriage of Heaven and Hell
The Marriage of Heaven and Hell is one of William Blake’s prophetic books, a series of texts written in imitation of biblical books of prophecy, but expressing Blake’s own intensely personal Romantic and revolutionary beliefs. Like his other books it was published as pr….

Heaven’s Gates, Hell’s Flames
Heaven’s Gates, Hell’s Flames is a touring evangelistic drama that has been performed worldwide. The tagline on the official website asks, “Where will you be when reality strikes?”. It is based on an evangelical interpretation of the “Gospel”, and presents the message t….

Morgan Pym
Morgan Pym is a character on the television series The Collector, played by Chris Kramer. Story Morgan Pym was a monk in 1348 who sold his soul to the Devil to save the woman he loved, Katrina, who was dying from the plague. After 10 years The Devil came to take Morgan’….

Jane (band)
Band history Jane was formed in October 1970 in Hanover, Germany. Line-up * Peter Panka – Lead Vocals, Drums * Charly Maucher – Lead Vocals, Bass * Werner Nadolny – Keyboards, Vocals * Klaus Walz – Guitars, Vocals Discography Vinyl * Together (1972) * Here we are (1973)….

LAB (band)
LAB is a gothic rock band from Finland. Their single ‘Beat the Boys’ is featured prominently in the PS2/Xbox/PC game, Flatout. Releases Albums * 3/2000: Porn Beautiful * 3/2002: Devil Is A Girl * 3/2005: Where Heaven Ends Singles * 6/1999: Get Me a Name * 9/1999: ‘Til Y….

Very different results, and more the kind of thing I would expect to see, although still not perfect. I’m not sure I’d be interested in Morgan Pym after reading the post, less still the band ‘Jane’.

Is this because the URL approach takes the entire page, including my blogrolls to the left and feeds to the right, I wonder? Whereas just copying and pasting the text uses just that text and nothing else? Another email to Similpedia and lo, again I get a response. Turns out I’m right (I occasionally am), and they’re working on making the algorithm a bit ‘cleverer’ to get around this.

But if you use Feedburner you have a workaround. Feedburner just takes the content of my posting and, among other things, creates a straight HTML page without all the other stuff. So, let’s point Similpedia at my Feedburner page and see what happens:

Something tells me close but no cigar. We’re still getting a lot of tecchy stuff and I daresay this is because of the content that Feedburner places at the top of the page, listing all sorts of quick links to subscribe via different services.

Let’s look at their RSS feed tool. I don’t quite get the point of their RSS demo because it refers to a static page, and surely you’ll always get the same results from it. So let’s give it a page that changes quite often, in my case, my PR feed.

So I  add an RSS widget and point it at:

You can see the results to the bottom of the right-hand column on this page, under ‘Related content’. They’re different, you have to admit, but I’m still not totally convinced they’re useful (which is why the widget is at the bottom, so that I can test it for a while).

So, what next? Until Similpedia develop a ‘clever’ way to strip the non-specific content from a page, we’re left with the method that works but is manual – copying the text and pasting it into Similpedia. I’ve created a Word macro that takes the Similpedia results and converts them to straight HTML but this is a workaround and not, I would say, an ideal one.

Still, it’s a nice idea, very like the online report I recently profiled which cross-referenced Google hits with Wikipedia and other source entries. If you can use scripts or widgets then you’re laughing. Ha ha.

I get the feeling they’re still developing it so let’s watch it with interest. Perhaps they’ll tweak the search engine to weed out the slightly odd results that can crop up, and zero in more on the specific content than the stuff around it. I would also like to see a quick and easy way to point people towards ‘copy and paste the text’ query results such as the one listed above.

Meanwhile they deserve a big round of applause for taking the time to answer my queries because that makes me a fan, and perhaps that’s our small ‘PR learning’ for the day (above and beyond the main PR reason for posting this, which is that I tend to find a lot of execs spend time looking for stuff and I try to help them by providing cool tools I come across but they very seldom seem to want to benefit from this).

Looking forwards, Similpedia have a teaser on their site promising news and blog services coming soon, and I can’t wait to see what that’s all about.

EDIT: I just realised, how about pointing my Google Reader feed directly at Similpedia instead? This doesn’t have all the added content at the top which the Feedburner page has. Also, why do I have to point a page? Why not a feed? Surely a feed would work better? Tried it, but get virtually identical results. So, how about pointing it at the public Google Reader page for that feed? At last! We start getting related content. But is it useful? At the time of writing it’s giving me lots of lookups for ‘Johnson’, presumably based on a ‘Johnson And Johnson Suit Against The Red Cross‘ story. Hmmm. ‘Johnson’ may have resonance for The Big Lebowski lovers but I’m not so sure…

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Enhancements to the Power150

The Power150 is here to stay, like it or not.

So, while it’s still all lovely and fresh and new, here are some enhancements I’d like to see on it:

  • A script for including your position in the list on your blog. I currently update mine to the left of this blog manually, but an automated script would be better. And, for wordpress.com users who cannot use script, a Feedburner-like chicklet would be nice.
  • Taking inspiration from financial systems, I think we need to see a timestamp for the last update, then from that we can see who’s moved up/down since, alongside the biggest risers/fallers or most/least active over the day/ week/ month/ quarter/ year. Charts would be cool too, complete with simple indicators such as moving averages. And then a total for the entire list – total Technorati Authority, total Bloglines score – would serve as the total ‘index’, again with charting and movement indicators. It could be very interesting to see whether the blogosphere as defined by the Power150 is expanding or contracting.
  • And one thing to take away: the mysterious ‘Todd’ rating. To me, this is totally bogus. Why add something so subjective? OK, so you can explain away the worth of the other metrics but this one really doesn’t belong here.

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Web 2.0, to Web 3.0, to Yahoo Pipes, to Pandora, and back to Life 1.0

This weekend I managed to set aside some space to look into three areas in more depth: Web 2.0/3.0, Yahoo Pipes, and Pandora. It should come as no surprise that all three are linked and provide massive, oooh-hate-that-word-but-must-use-it, leverage (yuk) for PR.

First, the web. My feeds have thrown up several interesting posts over the past week, which I have shared, on the subject of web 2.0 and its soon-to-emerge successor, web 3.0:

  • Micropersuasion argues that even though Web 2.0 appears to be in the hands of a few players – Google, Yahoo, IAC, etc – it’s far from a monopoly in this era and nothing to be concerned about.
  • New Media in the Land of Manana showcases a fascinating video in which Eric Schmidt (Google CEO) gives us his thoughts on how a Web 3.0 movement might further alter the online universe. His view is that the future of media is in content aggregation and community, and will be built using these types of viral applications.
  • Rough Type offers a brilliant discourse on different ideas of what Web 3.0 – and beyond – could be. The Googleplex approach could be ‘Web 3.0: web as universal computing grid replacing PC operating system and hard drive’, while the semantic approach is ‘Web 3.0: web as machines talking to machines’. His consolidation of both viewpoints is: ‘Web 3.0 involves the disintegration of digital data and software into modular components that, through the use of simple tools, can be reintegrated into new applications or functions on the fly by either machines or people.’ He concludes: ‘Stick that in your Yahoo Pipe and smoke it.’

It was the last comment that made me sit up and take notice because Yahoo Pipes was going to be one of my projects this weekend. To take the ISO model, I’ve always believed Web 2.0 is the online delivery of the application layer, and it strikes me that Yahoo Pipes perfectly encapsulates the ideal of people being able to build their own online apps in the Web 3.0 environment.

So, let’s look more closely at Yahoo Pipes, which I came across when looking into feed filtering recently. This enables you to create your own feeds, and how. Not just merging but filtering too, and taking the output from one feed and mapping it to another. So for example a simple pipe could bring together several disparate feeds, filter in/out, and produce an output that you can in turn subscribe to. More complex examples can take news items and attach Flickr images to them: a photo editor’s dream. I have a strong suspicion the Google Report I recently came across could be built using similar technology.

So Yahoo Pipes offers a way to zero in on the web-as-personalisation and web-as-machine-communication. So might Pandora, the online radio service. It takes the results of the Music Genome Project, in which the musical characteristics such as pitch, harmony and rhythm of thousands of tracks have been analysed to provide a ‘DNA’ for a track. This means you can specify an artist – say, Flaming Lips if you have any taste – and Pandora will come up with ‘similar’ music. You can give tracks the thumbs up or down if you like or dislike them – very Digg-like – and you end up with your own station, essentially by matching your own DNA to that of music. The results are astonishing.

Now, this is where it all comes together. I see Pandora as a serious exercise in tagging: adding extremely sophisticated meta-data to characterise content. Now, I know there are bazillions of people tagging content in a massive exercise in Folksonomy right now, but wouldn’t it be great if somehow online documents could be automatically tagged to a similar degree of sophistication? Not just sentimenting, but semanticising (is that a word?). This would be the blueprint for a cool search engine which I’ve discussed previously.

So, get this. Imagine you could take feeds and do the same with them – thumb up or down and increase the useful hits from them. Slowly, a ‘DNA’ profile of the news you’re interested in is built up and matched to the DNA of items floating around. You could then link or subscribe to other sources with similar profiles – other blogs, forums, groups, wikis. It would be an incredible vertical search engine, and if you could then route that through Yahoo Pipes for extra tweaking, and you’ve got yourself a great news engine. Surely this is exactly what a PR practitioner needs? In fact, there seem to be pipes that already do this and I’m busily setting some up for myself right now.

But where’s the serendipity? How do you come across great ideas out of the blue? Well, Pandora for one is offering me entire new areas of related music to find out about, so it would work the same with other content types. And don’t forget, for PR, you could always read the newspapers in the traditional fashion or even just surf the web (remember that?).

There you go: from Web 2.0, to Web 3.0, to Yahoo Pipes, to Pandora, and back to Life 1.0. Don’t ask me about Life 2.0. I may be a ghost but I’m not quite there yet.

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Have you ever done a Ratner?

I just posted about ghost-blogging and looked up Gerald Ratner as a warning for all those agencies considering giving their clients blogs. Ratner became infamous in the UK when he described his own company’s jewellery produce as ‘total crap’. The result: half a billion pounds wiped off the company valuation and he was kicked out 18 months later.

However, I found a better link: turns out, there’s an actual phrase, ‘Doing a Ratner’ and this page contains a superb list of other execs who have also ‘Done a Ratner’. You can nip across to Wikipedia and read it but the list’s so good I reproduce it here:

  • In July 2001, David Shepherd, then brand director of the clothing chain Topman said in a trade journal “Menswear”, that his customers were hooligans and “Very few of our customers have to wear suits to work. They’ll be for his first interview or first court case.”
  • In March 2002, Woolworths’ Gerald Corbett said, regarding Woolworths’ progress at his stores, that “Some city centre stores are vast open deserts with nobody there.”
  • In March 2003, EMI’s chief executive, Alain Levy said the company had cut the artist roster in Finland from 49 artists, as he did not think there were that many people in the country “who could sing”. The joke went down like a lead balloon over in Helsinki, with the managing director of EMI’s local subsidiary pointing out that the Finnish firm commanded a 20% share of the local market thanks to Finns who can sing
  • In October 2003, Matt Barrett, the chief executive of Barclays (owner of Barclaycard, one of Britain’s most popular credit cards) said on a parliamentary Treasury committee on credit cards, “I do not borrow on credit cards. I have four young children. I give them advice not to pile up debts on their credit cards.”
  • Anders Dahlvig, the chief executive of furniture store IKEA, said his stores were “appalling” on weekends.
  • Freddy Shepherd and Douglas Hall, bosses of football club Newcastle United, said Geordie women were “dogs” and mocked fans for purchasing £50 replica football shirts that cost the club £5.
  • In the United States, a Forest City Enterprises executive, developer Bruce Ratner, characterised his own Atlantic Center mall as “not something that we’re terribly proud of”. Additionally, in May, 2004, he memorably insulted customers who live near the same mall to a NY Times reporter: “here you’re in an urban area, you’re next to projects, you’ve got tough kids.”
  • On 3 June 2007 in an interview in the Financial Times, Nicholas Ferguson, chairman of private equity firm SVG Capital, said that capital gains tax rules mean that many private equity executives “pay less tax than a cleaning lady”. Media and political uproar ensued, and the asset class is now the subject of an ongoing investigation by a Treasury Select Committee into tax rules that see wealthy private equity executives pay 10% tax on carried interest, as opposed to the 40% income tax rate.

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