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Brought knife to gun fight

 IMG_1024
 Thanks to Oliver from CricHQ for the snap.

 

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Categories: BLACKCAPS.

Actions, not words

Some quick thoughts on the Telecom -> Spark thing.

Telecom’s biggest challenge has always been doing less. Like any incumbent telco, it has no end of systems, processes, technology and products that keep getting in the way of having a product line up that’s simple and complete while still innovating at the pace demanded by the telco industry. And despite all that, they’re doing a pretty reasonable job, potentially enabled by the energy injected by new leadership. Anyone paying attention can see that Telecom is moving in the right direction and out-thinking the brash up and coming ISPs and telcos that were doing so much chest beating in the last few years. You don’t hear much from them these days.

On the back of today’s news, marketing chap Jason Paris says in the NBR story comment thread: ”…there are still key, fast growing customer segments that tell us they will always just out right reject the Telecom brand.” I have to say I dealt with enough people with long memories in my time there to say with confidence that people have long memories and no-one is going to forget that Spark = Telecom, especially after the front-page stories, tweets and Facebook comments exploding today. And isn’t it Skinny or another of the sub-brands’ jobs to reel these folk in?

Why not just show people that Telecom is able to listen to customers and give them what they want at a reasonable price with great associated story than bet the farm on a new name? This process is well underway already. Why not wait a while and see if it’s still necessary? I mean, today Telecom has announced a pretty interesting foray into TV, precisely the kind of thing you want an innovative, data-driven telco to get into, but the fluff and froth of the rebrand is getting the headlines.

Anyway, it’s happening and I sincerely hope it goes well – the people responsible for pulling this off have a lot of work in front of them. I understand the organisational transformation that started before I left has continued and is making good progress, I hope the re-brand helps rather than hinders the pain and effort everyone’s gone through to get this far.

Would also hope the folk in the shops and call centres are front and centre in everyone’s thinking and there’s more in it for them than a launch party and (another) new set of posters. As we all know, the folk you speak to when your phone or broadband needs sorting out and what they’re enabled to do by the company’s products and processes are far more responsible for a company’s brand than an advertising agency run by one of your board members.

Like I say, good luck to everyone concerned. The last thing any company needs is a clever dick ex-employee banging on about stuff like this, especially without the benefit of actually working at the company and knowing what’s actually going on, which is always vastly different to what you see from the outside / gets reported. I hope that in five years time we’re remembering the awesome products and service coming out of the organisation rather than the name shuffling.

 2011-08-05_09-47-14_549
 Not a Photoshop BTW.

Misc. thoughts:
- Not having the @sparknz Twitter handle among other things is a bit of an issue, but I imagine a large corporate wanting to obtain a punter’s dis-used Twitter handle is not that big a deal to quietly sort
- I await the new branding with interest. My personal opinion is that the agency’s track record is not great when it comes to Telecom and hope they can do better and more sustainable than previous efforts. Let’s face it, the Telecom marketing campaign everyone remembers is SPOT, can’t you guys just, erm, come up with something like that? I joke
- Troy has been kicking arse on the Twitter
Lance Wiggs’ article is worth a read

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Categories: @telecomnz.

You don’t really need a Wolfram Alpha strategy

There’s a school of thought that says whenever two chaps in a garage get a 0.3 beta of a social network out the door, digital folk everywhere should drop everything and get on it.

This is bollocks. Your valuable and limited time, energy and resource is best spent on Twitter. Or Facebook. Or the platform(s) that work best for your customers / fans / etc. When an organisation proudly lists all the platforms they’re on (and the list could be pretty long by now), the question is ‘are you any good on them?’ and probably ‘do your fans care?’.

How many times have you heard ‘this could be the new Facebook’, only to struggle to even remember its name weeks after the initial squeee-ing dies down? I really question the need to spend time building up a platform whose goal might ultimately be to be brought by Facebook or Google when they get popular enough.

You won’t miss much in the early days of a new platform – often you don’t get a fair reflection of what the platform is going to be like because there’s simply no-one on it yet. You’ve got plenty of time to make ground up if you don’t get in on the early days. Take Instagram – for a long time, people on Android, the world’s largest mobile OS couldn’t even use it – folk seemed to catch up just fine.

As always, you need to figure out what platforms are the right fit for your organisation’s fans or customers and what’s right for you.

Some social platforms are more useful as handy places to store your content – think Flickr for photos and YouTube for video – and sharing your content somewhere more suitable, like Twitter or your website. Honestly, no-one really enjoys YouTube for its social functions.

Remember, tthere’s questionable value in getting involved in non-social platforms like Snapchat (where content can’t be shared or even allow a link back to your website). Sure you might get some street cred points for being there, but it feels a bit dad-rock to me if it’s not the right fit for your organisation.

In short, what I’d do when a hot new platform comes along is:

a) register your company name, because 1. it might come in handy one day, and 2. it stops the hilarious pranksters from nabbing it, and
b) keep an eye on it. You’ll know when it becomes right for you

Remember, channels are channels – don’t throw your strategy out the window because someone invites you to a pets-only mobile app.

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Categories: geek, internet.

Speaking on Mediawatch on the ACC

I was on the Radio New Zealand Mediawatch show talking about the Alternative Commentary Collective, a caravan of chaps commentating the cricket this summer.

Hear the interview at Radio New Zealand (my bit’s on about 20 minutes in) and here’s a more thorough run down at sportreview.net.nz.

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Categories: BLACKCAPS, media.

2013 in mobile phone pictures

Third instalment of mobile phone photos of the year, here’s 2011 and 2012. Big year this year, with new job and a big work trip, and trying to fit everything in.

You can click all the pictures to make them bigger.

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I changed jobs in February…

Ibanez Talman

…and turned 40 in February also. Quite a month. I had a lovely party with friends and family all in attendance. This axe was my mid-life crisis acquisition – it’s been loads of fun.

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The new job’s offices had a pretty different vibe to the last one, in fairness.

2013-05-16 23.15.27

I spent a lot of time this year watching cricket and tweeting about it, happy days.

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This is a traffic light that looks like a TIE fighter.

2013-05-11 15.47.09

Straight to the pool room.

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Wee fella.

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Wee fella and wee girl. Family is going great.

2013-12-08 19.21.45

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So this was dinner

I tried to lay off the bad food photography this year, but… you know.

Fire walk with me.

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Most bad-ass birthday cake awardee here.

We got serious about lego this year.

Quick selfie

I got right on board the selfie boom.

2013-10-10 16.30.40

So I went to Bangladesh with the BLACKCAPS. This was Chittagong.

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I never get tired of posting this – signing a bat at Hotel Agrabad over breakfast.

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I saw a number of cool modes of transport in Bangladesh.

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Dhaka.

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This was my last meal in Bangladesh. Bloody good it was too.

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Someone did some pretty sweet burnouts on our street.

2013-11-23 09.22.10

Colleague sorts out hipster DJ at Christmas party.

2013-11-23 17.40.05

Watching the Ashes while BBQing was a bit of a highlight. Merry 2014 all!

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Categories: @telecomnz, BLACKCAPS, meta, new zealand, photo.

What’s In Your Bag, Bangladesh edition

I’m a big fan of features like The Verge’s What’s In Your Bag? and The Setup, where folk share the stuff they use everyday in a cheerfully narcissistic fashion.

[Get the full run down on the Bangladesh trip over at sportreview.net.nz]

For the last month I’ve been in Bangladesh with the BLACKCAPS, writing for our website, live-tweeting matches and taking photos and video. This is what I’ve been using – click the picture to see the full size version.

Whats in my bag 041113

 

A - Timbuk2 Messenger. These are bullet proof. I’ve had mine for almost ten years, in which time it’s seen regular use as a cycle-commute bag, and it’s only just starting to show wear now. It’s roomy, it has not-too-many and not-too-few pockets and it has a well-padded shoulder strap, handy when you’re lugging a whole lot of heavy crap around. Recommended.

B – Power board. Plug local adapter into power board. Plug your phones / cameras / computer / iPad into power board. Charge all the things.

C – 3rd generation iPad. It’s an iPad, you know the deal. This is my personal one, and it’s 16GB, WiFi only and white. Mail, Tweetbot, Twitter, Facebook Pages Manager, Chrome, Dropbox, PlainText, CricInfo and Instapaper are the go-tos.

D – 5th generation 120GB iPod classic. I like to take all my music with me. It also holds podcasts and full-res copies of  all my iPhotos as a backup. Comes with in-ear Sennheiser headphones and ancient neoprene Body Glove Palm III case.

E – Cables n USBs n stuff. USB – mini USB, USB – Samsung charger, USB – iPad, iPad wall socket, 2 x 8GB USB drives, Bluetooth headset and a Mac – Monitor adapter which I haven’t used. All these go in a handy neoprene pouch, which it appears I have a thing for.

F – Samsung Galaxy S3. Bloody good phone this, I’ve used this as my main personal and work phone for the last 18 months. Camera, Twitter, Carbon, Instapaper, the Camera, Dropbox, Mail, Chrome, CricInfo, Voice Recorder and pictures of my kids are what get used the most.

G – Samsung Galaxy Mini. Work phone with local sim card. Gets used the most for hot-spotting data.

H – 320 GB Western Digital hard drive. Nothing special. Contains Time Machine backup files and TV and film entertainment.

I – Fossil Blue watch. Nothing special. One thing with cricket is that using phones is banned in the dressing room and viewing areas during matches. Considering I use my phone as my watch normally, the wrist watch has made a come back.

J – Apple Magic Mouse and no-name mouse pad. Nothing like your own mouse and pad to make you feel at home. Good mouse this, and a good size. Say no to painful-to-use ‘travel’ mice.

K – MacBook Power cable and carry case. No matter how carefully you put a power cable inside your bag, when you open it up at the end of your journey, it will have unravelled and tangled itself throughout all your crap and take 15 minutes to pull out. If you take anything from this whole naval-gazing exercise, my tip to you is to find an appropriate carry case for your power cable if you go mobile a lot, it will make your life at least 4% better. You’re welcome.

L – Pens and a notepad. My #1 pen is a Pilot Dr Grip ballpoint with the fine blue refills and my backups are Pilot SuperGrip ballpoints in the fine blue versions. Not anal at all about this stuff, ah har.

M – Panasonic AG – HMC41E and Sony mic. I’m new to shooting video, but this camera does a really solid job.  I don’t really put it in my bag, it has its own one on wheels, plus the tripod.

N – 15″ MacBook Pro. 2.6GHz with Intel Core i7.  Work laptop. I love everything about this machine, with the weight the only quibble. Chrome, Opera, VLC, Text Wrangler, iMovie, PhotoShop, Dreamweaver, Audacity, Dropbox and Quicksilver are the most-often-most-recently-used.

O – Canon Digital Rebel EOS 40oD with 18-55mm and 75-300mm lenses. My personal one. Like video, I am only a very amateur photographer. Luckily the pros stepped in for this tour, but I managed to get some OK shots in the meantime.

 

That’s about it – not pictured are hand sanitiser, insect repellent  and bottles of water, all of which I’m going through like nobody’s business. The only thing I think I’m missing is some kind of bluetooth speaker arrangement for the hotel room.

Luckily, not all of this gets humped around at once, on match days I take the laptop and training days the iPad comes instead etc. It’s been a lot of fun figuring out what is needed when and working completely mobile. The WiFi has been excellent at the grounds and everything has worked, no tech disasters so far, touch wood.

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Categories: BLACKCAPS, geek, meta, work.

Hairy feet not pictured

Nerded out at Hobbitton this afternoon

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[Click to make bigger]

Hobbiton was ace.

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Categories: new zealand, photo.

The revolution will not be photoshopped competently

Here is the drill. Every so often I photoshop this photo into what I imagine will be a willfully obscure film / TV pop culture reference for my Twitter - which turns out to be depressingly predictable 80s fare nine times out of ten.

You can see the rest of these here and here.  As always, apologies in advance for the photoshopping.

Charlie brown kicking football copy
 steven-spielberg-20070609-267574 copy
 Starship_Troopers
 Raiders
 Oscar_in_his_trash_can_1
 Lost Boys
karate-kid-photo copy
 familyties copy
 Facehugger
Dastardly_ani copy
 Dark side
anson-williams
 1769947-100_robocop copy
asterix2 copy
 Animal House
Frankin
 James Bond
Wall st
 storm copy
John-Cusack-in-Say-Anythi-002
 lego_spaceman copy
212_ScreenHunter_ 14-Aug

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Categories: meta, twitter.

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She’s a hard road finding the perfect Android Twitter app, boy

I use Twitter a lot, for work as well as my own fecking about. Much of this happens on my phone - but I’ve never quite settled on the Android Twitter app that’s quite right.*

Actually, that’s not true. Tweetdeck for Android was perfect – but Twitter killed it. It was fast, easy to use and no-frills, relatively. I’d go back tomorrow if I could.

tweetdeck-android OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Anyway. Once Tweetdeck was off the menu, I needed something else. In fact, because I use one app for work and another for me to avoid Tweeting From The Wrong Account Disasters, I need two. I’ve decided the perfect Twitter app needs to be:

  • fast (some apps are excruciatingly slow going between screens, gathering conversations, etc)
  • ad-free (this Candy Crush sounds ghastly)
  • able to autocomplete Twitter handles when composing a tweet (which is v handy when you’re trying to tweet ‘@NeilWagner13 strikes, takes out @StuartBroad8‘s off stump, @ECB_cricket now 111/8′ as fast as you can)
  • able to show mentions under a user profile (handy for stalking context)
  • to show ‘in reply to’ and conversations (as above)
  • great to look at, and easy to use. I don’t ask for much

Trouble is, even though there are heaps of Twitter apps in the Google Play store, most of them aren’t up to it. And I’ve tried them all. Here’s the run down, ordered from ‘shoddy’ to ‘quite good’.

Screen Shot 2013-07-25 at 8.49.11 PM UbersocialTweetcasterEchofon and Plume are ruled out straight away, as they have ads and no ‘mentions’ view.Seesmic is actually good. But, it has ads – and frankly, I can’t stand the icon and wouldn’t have it on my home screen. I mean, look at it. No-one wants a raccoon on their phone.
Screen Shot 2013-07-25 at 8.40.49 PM Hootsuite is great, but slow. It feels bloated and you often find yourself scrolling through endless screens to get where you want to go. I used this as my main ‘work’  Twitter account for some time, but my abiding memory is flicking between screens to get where I needed to. When you’re on mobile, you don’t want to be fecking around with that, out it went.Yes, it has all kinds of stats built in, but if I’m not paying for them, I don’t want them on the app. Humbug.
Screen Shot 2013-07-25 at 8.41.18 PM Tweetings is so close to being great… I used this as my main app for some time, and it does everything you need, short of getting you a beer to enjoy while you browse Twitter. One snag – it’s so sloooooooow. If we extend the ‘getting a beer’ analogy to a painful extent, your lager or what have you would be past its expiry by the time it came back. Shame – would trade again, if they can approve the speed.
Screen Shot 2013-07-25 at 8.40.01 PM Twitter’s own app does an admirable job. It’s fast, has autocomplete for usernames, mentions and conversations, searches well, and is simple to use.I still have no idea what the ‘discover’ tab does (does anyone?), but it’ll do. I use this for my work account on my phone, and my iPad**. If they chuck in the mentions view, it’ll be the One.
Screen Shot 2013-07-25 at 8.41.00 PM Carbon is my recommendation for Android Twitter app at the moment. Yes, it has a silly ‘sign in screen’ with a bald eagle or some such, but once you get past that (it only appears for a second, but it feels like an age), it’s great.

GREAT looking, unobtrusive animations, fast, mention views. It’s got the lot. There’s not a lot of options in the settings, but you don’t really need them, it’s good to go, from the box. Um, Google Play store. Go nuts.

* I actually googled ‘Android Twitter app power user’ once, to my shame.

** For completist purposes, I use TweetBot on my iPad, and it’s bloody perfect. I know, not really Android-loyal of me, but as far as I’m concerned, Tweetdeck For Android WAS perfect, and now it’s binned. LOoking forward to something that’s so good, it becomes the ONLY choice for Android users. I’m waiting!

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Categories: geek, twitter.

Plain language guide to faster broadband with a master filter or splitter

Today’s announcement that the English Premier League will only be available over the internet has caused a little angst among people worried about their broadband speed. Because many folk aren’t getting the best out of the broadband connection they have, here’s the best single thing you can do to improve things at your place*. Your experience may vary of course.

What is a master filter or splitter?
It’s a piece of equipment that separates your broadband signal from the other things that run over your copper landline phone line, like phone(s), MySKy or burglar alarms. Mine sits somewhere under my house, I haven’t laid eyes on it since it was installed.

Why should I get one?
Separating the signal means your broadband has its own dedicated line and interference from all those other things is dramatically reduced, so you can go faster, have a more stable connection etc.

 
 Your master filter at work - image nicked from here.

But sir, my house wiring has not skipped a beat for the last 40 years etc. 
Most people’s houses were built before broadband internet connections shared phone lines, and their home wiring was not designed to accommodate these new fangled thingos comfortably. A master filter or splitter is the most cost effective way to make sure you’re getting the most out of your existing broadband connection.

How much does it cost and how do I get one?
I paid $150, and I understand it still costs about the same, give or take. It’s a one-off fee. You get one by calling your internet service provider, and they’ll arrange for Chorus to come and install it, whoever your ISP is. Some electricians and cabling specialists can do it too, have a Google.

My own experience
I live in Auckland’s East Coast Bays, a few hundred metres from our local broadband cabinet**. When I first had a splitter installed back in 2008, my connection went from 2 Megabits Per Second to 6MBPs. When our cabinet went live, that went up again to 8-10MBPs, and when Chorus came out to do some other work in the area, noticed our wires were corroded and replaced them, that went up to 12-14MBPs. Ours is nothing special, a bog standard connection, I’m on a standard full speed retail broadband plan.

I can download iTunes music, watch YouTube, use Apple TV and surf the internet on my desktop machine, iPad or our work laptops over WiFi just fine, we’re very happy with the speed and reliability. Here’s a speed test I just did, in the mid evening, peak time for internet use. I imagine if I sign up for this Premier League carry on, that will work great too.

What else?
I have an ADSL2+ enabled router (or modem), which means I can go as fast as I can on standard modern broadband. It cost about $120, ring up your ISP if you’re not sure what yours is, they’ll tell you. Most modems or routers ISPs supply these days are ADSL2+, it’s in your ISP’s interests that you’re a happy customer.

Don’t take my word for it
Here’s a fairly typical experience – Helen Twose of the Herald increased her speed by 30%, and there’s more here. Geekzone is full of examples like this, I’ve found Geekzone an extremely helpful place to find information and ask for advice.

I want to go faster
Fibre and UFB is coming. And it’ll be great, but it’s a few years away for many. A master filter or splitter is not a silver bullet to Korean-internet-cafe-speeds, but a sensible way to maximise what you have now in a reasonably economic fashion. If you care about your home internet connection, it’s worth investigating.

 

* This is meant to be a plain language version of Steve Biddle’s excellent and comprehensive post on the same subject. If you’re more technical than me (that’s most of you), go there, you’ll learn something.

** You can check your own situation ADSL2+ or fibre wise on Chorus’ map.

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Categories: geek, internet, new zealand.