Merry Christmas everyone

The card above is believed to be one of the first mass-produced Christmas cards - dating back more than 160 years - and can be found among the extensive special collections of Bridwell Library at Southern Methodist University's Perkins School of Theology.
The lithographed card caused a controversy in some quarters of Victorian English society when it was published in 1843 because it prominently features a child taking a sip from a glass of wine. Approximately 1,000 copies of the card were printed but only 10 have survived to modern times. Bridwell Library acquired its copy in 1982. The card was designed for Henry Cole by his friend, the English painter John Calcott Horsley (1808-1882). Cole wanted a ready-to-mail greeting card because he was too busy to engage in the normal custom of writing notes with Christmas and New Year's greetings to friends and family.
The card pre-dated color printing so it was hand-colored. The card is divided into three panels with the center panel depicting a family drinking wine at a celebration and the flanking panels illustrating charitable acts of feeding and clothing the poor.
Cole, who also wrote and published Christmas books, printed more cards than he needed so he sold the extra cards for one shilling each.
Widespread commercial printing of Christmas cards began in the 1860s, when a new process of color printing lowered the manufacturing cost and the price. Consequently, the custom of sending printed Christmas greetings spread throughout England.
Now we can just stick them on the internet… have a good Christmas.


Person of the Year? It’s you

Time Magazine’s annual Person of Year takes a neat turn in 2006 by nominating You this year.
According to Time’s Lev Grossman: “The "Great Man" theory of history is usually attributed to the Scottish philosopher Thomas Carlyle, who wrote that "the history of the world is but the biography of great men." He believed that it is the few, the powerful and the famous who shape our collective destiny as a species. That theory took a serious beating this year.
“But look at 2006 through a different lens and you'll see another story .. it’s the story about community and collaboration on a scale never seen before. It's about the cosmic compendium of knowledge Wikipedia and the million-channel people's network YouTube and the online metropolis MySpace. It's about the many wresting power from the few and helping one another for nothing and how that will not only change the world, but also change the way the world changes.”
That's what makes all this so interesting. Web 2.0 is a massive social experiment, and like any experiment worth trying, it could fail. There's no road map for how an organism that's not a bacterium lives and works together on this planet in numbers in excess of six billion.
Come 2007 will blogging and social media sites make a difference? I don’t know. Do you? Now is the time to build a new kind of international understanding, not politician to politician but citizen to citizen, person to person.
At LeWeb3 the parting shot from the conference was a positive one – blog for a better world. That’s what I am going to do – cheesy I know – but each week I hope to post a comment on changing the world for the better. Whether that’s by random acts of kindness or pointing out injustices in the world. Will it make a difference – it’s not sure but if enough of do it… so join in the conversation.


Matrimonial mashups in Brum

With a nod to Stuart Bruce I was interested to come across the above. What a delicious revenge to take against an errant husband and what a brilliant way to harness the use of "old media".
Apparently the billboard in the centre of Birmingham cost about £2,500 to expose Jane Doe's philandering husband's affair with her best friend. If you're struggling to read it - this is the text in full:

To my 'dear husband Mark' and 'my best friend Shelley',
You are the most despicable, deceitful people I have ever met. I know what you did and I'm disgusted.
I've changed the locks Mark, burnt your clothes and emptied OUR joint account - to pay for this poster.
You deserve each other.

All well and good but when you go online to Jane's MySpace site she has 1983 "friends" offering advice and support. At present I can't find any reference to her Ex having a similar site. And as Stuart points out Jane has been a regular correspondent about her suspicions with local Birmingham radio station BRMB's Elliott and Caroline - who also just happen to be the first friends that appear on her MySpace blog.
Writing this now this looks like a great story - although I've seen no mainstream coverage as yet - but Stuart is suspicious as BRMB's involvement might mean that this is not all that it seems. The station is accomplished at creating controversial publicity for itself, such as its 'Two strangers and a wedding' stunts. Whatever the truth of the matter it's another good example of how old media is not dead and how new media adds another dimension to the marketing mix.

If this is the case we should be told - but then again there is nothing new under the sun as a similar stunt was pulled off in Manhattan earlier this year (see picture below). I'm not sure how I would react if my wife had an affair but I suspect my fiery Celtic temper would not be as polished as Jane's.


What a complete f**k up

What a complete f**k up. Sam Sethi has been sacked for blogging negatively about LeWeb3 on Techcrunch UK&Ireland by Michael Arrington – one of the event’s sponsors. The site has now been put on hold.
Meanwhile, Loic Le Meur is being vilified throughout the blogosphere by all those who wanted to open up a conversation which he chose to close down – this from the guy responsible for one of the main blogging platforms in Europe.
I for one thought that LeWeb3 was going to be an un-conference with lots of conversational feedback, bust-ups, arguments, fights and disagreements – which is fine. However, the fall out from Loic's political fumblings has been to completely undermine his own position with the very audience he should be engaging with.
My colleague Simon, in this matter, believes in the cock-up theory and although I have never been a champion of the conspiracy theory it all smells a bit fishy - but hey I used to be a journalist.
I wish Sam well and hope that he/we can create something useful out of all this. How about a Web2.0 Un-Conference in the UK? Any sponsors out there? Any thoughts? Let's make something in the UK.
By the way the picture is of the media scrum which took all attention away from the conversation we hoped to have to allow that Sarkozy to have his onoastic moment in front of a non-plussed international audience.
After all the above, a nice counterpoint to all the arguments agaist LeWeb3 can be found at Gaping Void where Hugh MacLeod argues all the positive points that came out of Paris. I, for one, need some time to think about it before I commit a detailed analysis of the whole event.
But at the end of the day it has got us all talking.


Politics, blogging and bluster

We will shortly be leaving Paris and LeWeb3. Did we learn anything new?
Well we learned that the big corporates have now woken up to the opportunities of Web2.0 and social media and are now seeking to muscle in on the scene by claiming to have wonderful new products that will make us shiny happy people?

We have learned that the Americans like to talk down to the Europeans – and you cant really blame them when we set our ambitions to low. We learned that China is getting bigger and that the English language is taking of the world – which is nice for us Brits.

We learned that French politicians will pick a coin out of piece of dogshit with their teeth if it will get them a vote (I paraphrase this quote from Flaubert).

For those of you who didn’t know most of the audience at LeWeb3 are not happy that the last day of the event was hi-jacked by two of France’s leading politicians who are all posturing in the run up to the general election.

What annoyed most people, at what was supposed to be an un-conference, is that François Bayrou, president of the centrist Union for French Democracy and Nicolas Sarközy, Minister of the Interior – spoke only in French.

Everyone elese at the conference had spoken English. In the crush of media Sarkozy barked out his 15 minute speech – a call to arms for all French bloggers and plea of “vote for me” – and f***ed off.

It went down hill there from there on in – although my colleague Simon Collister said the conference had already taken a noise dive before the politicians turned up so at least they made it interesting.

A final word on Loic LeMeur – who has taken a battering for his organisation of LeWeb3 (check out the following technorati seach). At the end of the conference the face of Six Apart in Europe told the delegates (those few who remained) that he apologised for the unexpected appearance of two sniping politicians, but faced with the same opportunity in the future he would do it again.

I think a career in politics beckons - what do you think?


Simon Collister shows Katie Jenkins - the founder of Live The Lingo - the different blogging options available to would-be bloggers at LeWeb3 in Paris. Typepad or Blogger - which way will she go?

A-lister gets down with the people

It’s always a dangerous thing to meet someone you’ve admired from afar – so I wasn’t sure how I would react when I met Gaping Void’s Hugh MacLeod.
He’s due t
o wrap up the conference with a talk on micro-branding I think.
I’ve just met him in the coffee area and can report he is a top bloke.
I like the way has created, in Stormhoek and English Cut, two very different stories that were seeded on the internet to grow into two successful businesses by basically sticking two fingers up to business convention.

I think we both agreed that as soon as you start telling a story about your brand or product – they will come. That has been the case with Wensleydale and Ladybank Company of Distillers.

By the way there has been some interest at the conference about Ladybank and the whole concept of a co-creation company and we are hopeful to find a speaking gig for James Thomson, the brains behind the Britain’s first co-creation whisky producer.


LeWeb3: More stuff from Paris

The second part of the LeWeb3.0 morning session allowed David Sifry, founder and CEO of Technorati to pimp up his company. Which was fine but I learned nothing new other than the more you blog, and the longer you have blogged, and more sites that link to you means that you will have more authority as a source.

I’ve never understood this argument unless you accept that the more links to you means you have more authority – do links mean quality though? No. There are is a large British contingent here but it is still dominated by the French and the vast majority of the big name speakers are American. They appear to be here on missionary work and you get the feeling our ex-Colonial friends don’t give a damn about the Old World – with our different cultures and languages we are just too amorphous to attract their interest or their investment dollars. If the Americans are asking themselves how can we make money out of these guys the truth is they probably can’t not unless they spot a successful business and then buy it up. This point was made by some of the local VCs.

Alexis Helcmanockl – of IPSOS - was interesting and presented a neat piece of research on how bloggers are influencing internet users' buying decisions. He said that in the EU 61 per cent of internet users read blogs and 52 per cent use the interent to make a decision about a purchase.

Moreover, the more you purchase over the internet the more you trust internet purchases and that a third of surfers will not buy a product if it has a bad review on a blog. More than half would buy on a positive comment. No surprise there then!

For some reason the e-commerce stuff and web2.0 was too lame that I had to leave. Perhaps I’m getting to old and just don’t want to make any more money.

Day One: LeWeb3

LeWeb3.0 – Early morning session.

Brilliant no internet connection as Orange managed to cut the wire. So far it’s all been a bit underwhelming. Have I learned anything new? No I don’t think so – just had a few prejudices and convictions confirmed.

So who has said what?

Niklas Zennstrom, founder of Skype and Kazaa said that English will be the language of the interent – which probably didn’t please our French hosts, adding that the developing countries will become more competitive by harnessing their skills in English through the best use of the internet. He added that anything that can be digitized will be digitized . Four out of five stars for content.

Lorraine Twohill, Marketing Director EMEA, Google. Message was Google is great. Two stars.

Has Rosling, Professor of International Health, Karolinska Institutet and co-founder of Best speaker so far who concentrated on how the global market was changing and the convergence between developed and undeveloped worlds. He prefers to divide the world into lower, middle and high income countries and gave a compelling argument on how the internet will further aid convergence. He reckons true globilisation is still 20 to 30 years away. An idea often thought but ne’er so well expressed. Simon Collister has point out this theory is almost like the Long Tail for developing nations. Five stars.

Panel session with bigwigs from Yahoo!, Orange, Nokia Multimedia and Widows Live. Message we plan to be around for a long time. Do we sound smug? Yes we do! Two stars.

More later when they get the wi-fi back!


LeWeb: It must be Paris

Have arrived in Paris to attend LeWeb3.0 - early start tomorrow then. I'm not planning to do blow-by-blow on each speaker - although I might do a starred system on the best and worst.
Discussion on the way over here was whether we would actually learn anything. I hope so. It cost enough to come over here!


Clinton got a blow job

Just spotted on Gaping Void - I've put this up for Tom Johnson. Very funny and sums up what's wrong with America at the moment. Reminds me of the cocksucker joke!


Off to Paris

Well that's it for this week - I'm off to Paris on Sunday.
After a weekend with the wife and kids chilling out (hopefully - as I have been told we have to go in to town tomorrow for Christmas shopping) myself and Simon Collister are off to the French capital to attend Le Web3.0 .
If you're there please get in touch via the blog or by my mobile (07855 341283). I'm not sure at this stage whether I will learn anything having been the unhappy owner of a burning parachute during DotCom in the 1990s - but I live in hope.
The thing with these sort of conferences is that you either have all your prejudices/beliefs confirmed or shattered. I would like mine to be shattered! We'll see.
Hopefully we can dine out on the recent rave review about Wensleydaleblog.

PS - We plan to post from Paris - so watch this space

The most inventive blog

Over at GREEN Communications we're rather proud of the work we've done for Wensleydale Dairy Products. As well as all the traditional public relations tools we have used - to great effect - we also set up a blog for the company.
Moreover, we have used a range of social marketing tools for the company including YouTube.
Since the launch of wensleydaleblog more than 10,000 people have now signed the Uniquely Yorkshire petition in support of Real Yorkshire Wensleydale Cheese!
It's only five months since we announced that the creamery had put forward a submission to protect Real Yorkshire Wensleydale through Protected Designation of Origin or PDO as it's more commonly known.
So time to bang our own drum! In PR Week's review of the year they dedicated a section to blogs and I quote: "But marks for the most inventive blog have to go to Wensleydale Dairy Products, which in September produced a blog to raise support for a campaign to protect the origins of Real Yorkshire Wensleydale Cheese.
"The blog was created by GREEN Communications, after Wensleydale's (bid) for Protected Designation of Origin, which protects EU foods based on their geographical area of production."


CIPR and the Groucho Club

Many thanks to David Brain and Stephen Davies for standing us a few drinks at the Groucho Club in London last week.
The guys from Edleman met myself and my colleague Simon Collister to discuss the Chartered Institute of Public Relations’ consultation document on its proposed code of conduct for social media. What was so telling was we only spent about 10 minutes actually discussing the document – before moving on to the more interesting stuff about agency life.
My views on the code can be seen on a dreadful video of me at David’s Sixty Second View, as can Simon's. But to elaborate my main problem is that the code seems to me to be unenforceable. Most importantly, those people who have embraced social media as a public relations or marketing tool, already understand the pitfalls of messing around with the Web2.0 community.
Much of what is in the CIPR’s existing code should hold true for Web2.0, but at the end of the day is should be about common sense: be open, be honest, join in the conversation.


Rowing and reflections

I've been out all day in Newcastle with Bradford Rowing Club - us stout gentlemen veteran rowers have been taking part in the Rutherford Head.
It is a 6,000 meter head race and I thought we did rather well - we kept the rythm going, not sniping in the boat, no accidents, no arguments. A good solid, technical pull from start to finish. I am now knackered and have fears for my ham strings and groin (I am prone to strains in this department).
However, one topic of conversation on the drive up was the Thresher wine promotion. Interestingly, none of my fellow oarsmen had seen any of the online conversation but picked up on the piece that appeared in today's Times and are all planning to take advantage of it (after I email them the coupon).
This has been a very nice piece of PR and while Threshers argues they have been over whelmed by the reaction, I rather think they planned this all along. Forget margins and concentrate on volume (I can hear their FD's words ringing in my ears).

PS: Can some brave soul step up to the plate and admit they were behind this - Stormhoek perhaps.

PPS: I need to do a post about the CIPR Social Media Code of Conduct following an interesting meeting with the guys at Edleman.

PPPS: I also, in due course, will add a post about our word-of-mouth conference in London at which Andy Green, Simon Collister and Mark Borkowski spoke.

PPPPS: The picture is from last year!