March – top search strings

I wanted to share three strings that people typed into search engines in March before being directed to this site:

– 2005 news a new born baby being born with teeth hair and weight
– did jacqueline onassis write two books from her dog’s’ [sic] point of view
– duodecimal excel

Not surprisingly, none of these was searched on more than once, but all directed people to my site…

Brand dilution

There are a number of big companies that seem to have shares in the domain registration business. Search for Nissan on Google, and in addition to www.nissanusa.com (the official site), www.nissanmotors.com, www.nissan.co.uk, www.nissan.co.jp, www.nissandriven.com, www.nissan-europe.com, www.nissan.com (nothing to do with Nissan Motors), www.nissan.ca, www.nissan-global.com and www.nissan.be complete the first page of results.

While most companies seem keen to proliferate geographically-based domains, Nike has based its domains around activities – in addition to www.nike.com, there’s www.nikefootball.com, www.nikegolf.com, www.nikebasketball.com, www.nikecycling.com etc. They also differentiate by gender, although there is no male equivalent to www.nikewomen.com.

I’ve been troubled by this brand-dilution for a while, but www.adidas-1.com (the first intelligent footwear) was the one to compel me to post.

At first, I was under the impression that this behaviour was driven by technical issues – having a single domain fed by multiple infrastructures and content delivery engines could be quite a challenge. But this can easily be managed at the DNS level through sub-domain entries. Yahoo!’s regional domains all redirect to subdomains of the yahoo.com domain (e.g. www.yahoo.co.uk goes to http://uk.yahoo.com), each of which could easily be served by a different system.

With this excuse out of the window, I can think of only two other reasons why this behaviour might be so widespread:

– The standards (limitations?) imposed by the corporate site are perceived too limiting for the sub-site’s specific needs
– The chosen domain (www.adidas-1.com) is perceived to be cooler than a sub-domain of or sub-directory within the corporate one (e.g. http://1.adidas.com, www.adidas.com/1).

The combination of these two reasons explains why there are over 3,000 .gov.uk domains. Who knows – maybe they’re up to 4,000 by now.

The benefits of adhering to the standards imposed by the corporate centre outweigh the associated limitations. By creating a whole bunch of "campaign" sites, sites that often stray from brand guidelines, short-term localised goals are met, but at the detriment of the brand itself. No wonder the UK government struggles to develop a powerful brand with so much distraction.

Check out www.nikegolf.com and www.nikefootball.com. The only commonality between the two sites is that you have to disable pop-ups to get beyond the homepage – how to reduce your audience by 70% without thinking. Surely it would be more powerful if they were skinned in a similar way

Keep it brief

Did you ever see a woman coming out of New York City with a frog in her hand,
I did, don’t you know, and don’t it show?

Nice and brief (and surreal) from Mr. Bolan.

Too much mail

I’m always somewhat baffled by the fact that every web service seems compelled to offer an email service alongside its core offering.  Whatever I sign up for, flickr to share photos being my latest example, Friends Reunited being another, as well as being able to share photos/contact old friends, I can access yet another email account.  Do they really believe that I’ll decide to use my flickr account as my primary email account, informing all my friends of my new contact details?

Leave mail to the experts – Google, Yahoo!, AOL, your local ISP or Rob.  Concentrate on your core offering and make that as good as it can be, rather than trying to create an all-encompassing world that locks me in.  My view is that offering a bunch of services in parallel to your core offering will dilute the offering as opposed to increasing people’s loyalty.  I’m not going to go to Friends Reunited unless I want to contact an old school-friend.  I’m not going to flickr unless I want to share some photos.  And if I want to update my professional contact details, I’ll pop along to Linked In.

There are two types of loyalty as I see it: positive loyalty and negative loyalty.  Positive loyalty makes the consumer happy to be using a company’s services.  In the UK, I have a loyalty to BP (not sure why), Sainsbury’s over Tesco, the Gap, Tetley (beer) to name but a few.  Negative loyalty occurs when people use the service, but only because they can’t get out of it.  Apart from annoying the hell out of me, this is why I’ve never signed up to AOL.  They lock you in through their browser and software, and using the internet at my parents’ house always frustrates me hugely for this very reason.  Doing anything outside the world of AOL is hard work, too hard, they hope, for you to bother.  For a while back in the early 90s, BT was in a similar position.  In a similar way, Microsoft has done the same, although I’m much happier with the world that they have created.

Although not directly related, in the offline world, the offering of services in parallel to a company’s core offering reminds me of the fact that shoe repairers also cut keys.  From a user perspective, it’s rare that the two services are needed at the same time.  The lathe (to buff-up the shoes and cut the keys) is the only common element.  I wonder if there are any shops that specialise in one or the other?

Fame at last

I remember when Directgov went live, I was proud that "I’d" made the BBC News Homepage, as its launch was the top technology article, and a link to the story surfaced towards the bottom of the page.  (I experience a similar glow when I see links to the Department of Health site from the BBC’s Health section, as I came up with the suggestion of it changing domains (from www.doh.gov.uk to www.dh.gov.uk) to be in line with its offline brand and to make the migration headache that much more bearable.)  Today, I’ve gone one better.

I rarely submit comments to websites, but Pete Clifton’s article last week inspired me to put fingers to keyboard.  In spite of receiving "hundreds of emails", mine was one of the few he chose to reference, which made me grin widely.  The fact that the article is linked to from the homepage with a teaser picture is even better.  Ooops – there I go, grinning again.  (Note: must stop smiling to myself in the office.  People [will] think I’m weird.)  For those of you that are too busy/can’t be arsed to read it all, I can be found in the "You were saying…" section almost halfway down.  "There must be hundreds of Dans in New York", I hear you say, but no others that would write to the BBC about inline links, is my retort.  Nice to hear that he’s in agreement with me.  Obviously, my site constitutes a ‘conversational column’, and so I break my own rule 🙂

Slightly concerned for Alicia Hempleman-Adams in her bid to emulate her father David by walking to the North Pole.  Two points in particular concern me:

– "She will be joined by her PE teacher Jo Simmonds"
– "It’s going to be pretty cold…", a quote from Alicia.

Now I don’t know about you, but I don’t think being a PE teacher necessarily qualifies you to venture to the North Pole.  I suppose, however, that Jo’s geography skills will be up to scratch, given that it seems to be a pre-requisite academic subject for PE teachers to adopt.  As for it being pretty cold, I think she might be right.

iPod battery

Some time ago, my iPod lost a significant amount of charge potential, seemingly overnight. However, I’ve not got round to replacing it, what with one thing and another. Instead, I charge it every night, and the limitation has also forced me into a new way of listening.

I used to regularly put my 5,814 tracks on random, pressing the >>| button whenever I heard the intro. of a song I didn’t like/know. This is expensive from a battery perspective, as the cache/buffer system becomes redundant due to the unpredictability of what’s coming next. Nowadays, I’m more likely to select an artist, a playlist or an album and hear it through, which conserves the battery greatly.

I recently downloaded a compilation of Little Britain from iTunes: almost 2h30m for around $7. This was based on a reminder of its brilliance by my Mum. The problem is the fact that it comes as a single track, but I’ve listened the once, and it was a true pleasure, both to remember the characters and to appreciate once again that British humour. I’m still shocked that Benny Hill gets airtime on BBC America. Completely forgot that the American version of The Office aired tonight on NBC. Will have to tune in next week to see whether it lives up to its British equivalent.

Content Management

For those of you interested, it may be worth checking out Pete Clifton’s weekly posts over the coming weeks.  He promises to give some insight into the inner workings of the BBC site.  I’m sure it will be more from an editorial perspective than one of technology, but I’m sure it will be fascinating to get a glimpse into this world.

The Office of the e-Envoy hosted a conference just over a year ago, at which someone from the BBC presented on the challenges they faced in this area – it may have been Pete who gave this keynote speech.  I was gutted not to be able to attend, due to the coinciding targeted go-live of my project.  Circumstances beyond my control meant that even if the conference had gone on for three months, I would have still been back to the office in time for go-live.

A salt and battery

Just ‘bladed uptown to 12th/13th and Greenwich Avenue to pick up some take-away dinner – fish and chips, actually. The place is called A Salt and Battery. I’m sure my Dad’s smiling internally at such a wonderful pun.

They forgot to put the baked beans in the bag though, so next time we go, we get a free meal on the house, which is nice. Would’ve liked the baked beans, though! If this was in the UK, it would be a below-par chippie, but alone in New York, it stands out and it was a welcome reminder of home. Benny wouldn’t approve, though – no deep-fried ribs on the menu.

When you get to the area bound by the Westside Highway, West 14th Street, Sixth Avenue and West Houston Street, the world goes a little bit mad. This is Greenwich, or the Village. Greenwich Street and Greenwich Avenue being so close to one another I’m sure is just a cynical ploy to confuse you (or me at least). It’s also somewhat disconcerting to find a section of West 4th Street north of West 12th Street, and West 11th Street and West 4th Street intersecting at right-angles. I think I’d be OK if everything was named rather than trying to maintain numbers in this mixed-up world. Finding things takes me way longer here than anywhere else in Manhattan.

(BTW, I’ve just noticed that the ordinal numbers assigned to streets and avenues take on different behaviours. The streets always take the numerical version (1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th 5th Street etc.), while the avenues always take the written version (First, Second, Third, Fourth, right up to Eleventh Avenue). Interesting. I remember the episode of Seinfeld when Kramer dates a woman from downtown, equating this to a long distance relationship. When stumbling across First Avenue and 1st Street, he thinks he’s at the nexus of the universe. While trying to find a link to a page about this episode (and failing), I googled seinfeld kramer "first avenue" "first street" only to get a single result – that of my own site – that’s before I even posted this article. Freaked me out a little. I digress.)

It’s been a rather alcohol-infused week thus far, so tonight is a rest day (in Tour de France speak). Tuesday, I went out for a meal with Claire, daughter of my old boss Chris – the word old here refers to the fact that he’s no longer my boss as opposed to his age. Feel free to comment. After getting a bit confused on the subway (my fault – too busy chatting), we went to Penang on Spring Street for a nice Malaysian meal (as its name would suggest), kindly paid for by Chris. Thanks, Chris! Washed down with a bottle of wine and then on to Puck Fair for a couple more beers/glasses of wine (delete as applicable). I then ensured Claire got back to the hostel safely (no mean feat, since it was on 103rd street) before heading home myself – how chivalrous! Had a great night, getting home at 1:30am – ho hum!

Both affected slightly more than one would expect by the alcohol intake. I had a dull head the following morning, although it seems Claire was in a way worse state.

Then Thursday was St. Patrick’s Day, so felt compelled to go drinking at work’s local bar. Another good night with a surprisingly clear head to follow today.

Our apartment

Our apartment

Our apartment is the building directly below the Empire State, facing on to the area of parkland, the furthest of the two adjacent red buildings.  Thanks to Claire for the rights to use this 🙂

Best words ever?

The words from The Beatles’ All You Need Is Love have been voted the greatest words of all time. I mean, please!

First of all, while I love words, it’s a rather farcical competition. Secondly, the song starts with:

– Love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love.

And this is the chorus:

– All you need is love, all you need is love,
– All you need is love, love, love is all you need.

So OK, the interim verses are a little better, e.g.:

– There’s nothing you can do that can’t be done,
– Nothing you can sing that can’t be sung,
– Nothing you can say but you can learn how to play the game,
– It’s easy.

…and admittedly, it beats the trite that is Imagine, but is this really the best of the best of the best? We’re not talking songs here, we’re talking words. To put this into perspective, Martin Luther King Jr.’s "I have a Dream" came tenth. Churchill’s "Never in the field of human conflict has so much been owed by so many to so few" came fourth. Shania Twain’s "That Don’t Impress me Much" seventh.

(That last entry was artistic licence on my part. Her lyrics were not included in the competition, although I’m sure that if they had, they would have stormed it.)

Next Page →