BBC ´s Qi

I’m watching more and more episodes of something called QI. Basically a bunch of funny British celebrities participating to a quiz of unknowable facts. Here’s why:

Qi on wife beating:

Qi on “hello”:

Favoritest Eastpack Add of all times

Funny, but not that far of reality as you might think.

Chop Chop from Birdbox Studio

@Andy Cronin on milkshakes


Windows phone commercial…. Really?

FAN-Friggin-TASTIC Commercial, funny, ironic, beautifull. I doubt that it does the product any good though…

Breaking news: a little bit of snow came down

Back in 1954 a very poor Romania attacked meters of snow whith shovels keeping tramlines running. Now in 2012 veeeeeery rich countries like the Netherlands, France and Great Britain get completely stuck because half a centimeter of snow. We are seriously a bunch of ridiculous wankers!

Strange and unusual buildings

The title says it all: 50 Most Strange and Unusual Buildings Around the World are on display on Houses that are upside down, shaped like a basket or just wierd.

Arkasia – Fall of the republic (from t(he movie Suckerpunch)

Not a big fan of the movie, big fan of this clip though:

Sliding down on the fast lane

In a similar spirit to this post Volkswagen kept up the creative spirit and promoted their “fast lane”. They consider this a dedication to everybody who wants to speed things up a little. No idea why this would make me want to buy their cars but I love the idea:

Structuring headclutter: Mindmapping

It is not so long ago that I discovered Mindmapping and its advantages.

These advantages depend on the type of person you are. Me, I have a lot of ideas, great structuring skills but not enough space in my head to do these at the same time. If you recognize yourself in that description mindmapping can be a miracle worker. But even if you’re not it can still be very helpful.

The first goal of this system is in the name: mindmapping structuring your thoughts. Ideas don’t come structured they come in the most illogical shapes and most useless times. Than the major problem is that for most uses of your ideas you need a structure, to answer the question: which idea applies where?

Mindmap allows you to put a waterfall of ideas onto paper (or digital format) and structure them. This often has two phases: A phase in which you just enter everything that comes to mind in more or less the right categories without worrying about misplacing anything. The most important thing here is to get as many things you can out of your head and into your mindmap.

It is only after that, that you really structure this thing, to really make sure that there are no overlapping categories, subjects or that some points need more precision. This is crucial because while mindmaps are quite self explanatory on putting your thoughts in, the can be a bit tricky to read afterward. This is really something you have to get used to and is rarely easy the first time. But don’t worry you’ll get used to it soon enough.

This putting down thoughts mechanism isn’t limited to your own thoughts, you can think about brainstorms, meetings or even projects. And it is the latter that is actually the second functionality.

Piano stairs the “fun” theory

Encouraging people to do something good through making it more fun:

You can find more of these on:

Shaking for practicality

It has been two weeks since I started work now and I have the same problem as many. Not always the time to eat properly let alone healthy. My answer is a blender!blender

With no more than 50 euros you go to the blender store to buy (yes really) a blender and you will have money left to pass by the supermarket to buy your favorite (and even not so favorite) fruit and vegatables. Almost everything that you find in the fruit and vegetables department will do. Bananas, tomatoes, nuts, apples even the disgusting things like lemmon and celeriac goes because the sweet fruit camouflages the taste in most cases. With some things it is recomendable to take the peal of but for the rest you just stuff in there. It is however a good idea to make sure to stay a quite a bit under the lid though, I tend to overdo it sometimes.

Then you add orange juice or milk until it reaches the highest positioned piece of fruit, you close the lid, put your blender on max  and 3 minutes later you are ready to go. Compact, not disgusting, easy to eat, quite filling and supposedly healthy in short very practical if you lack time. Only downside is of course that you cannot keep it for longer than a few days. (the advantage of orange juice over milk is that it tastes better the next days)

(Don’t know if this is even a good idea I just asumed. I’m no doctor so don’t use me as a reference for what is or is not a good idea. Do it on your own risk!)

The downside of choices

It is stunning how we automatically assume that more is better. More money, more freedom, more choices, they all go as the basic foundation for the society we live in. You get promoted; of course you accept. Laws try to assure a maximum of market freedom, and even more choices are a direct result of this.

And whether it is figuring out which detergent to buy or bigger life questions like whether to get married or have children or not, we still tend to prefer the bigger supermarket where we have more choice.

Free market has resulted in “buying yogurt” just not being a simple task anymore. And we rarely ever find ourselves questioning this while on the long run it doesn’t necessarily make us happier. Barry Schwartz talked about this on TED:

I wonder if shops function this way: is bigger (and thus more choice) better or is small just not adapted enough? Could there be such a thing as a small quality supermarket?

Marketing wise yes, you put your prices a bit above those of your competitor, you hire somebody to keep your alleys cleaner and more organized than those of you competitor and you spread the perfume of freshly baked bread and your commercials can start spreading the word on how your brand is superior.

This often without the products in the store really changing. Meaning that sometimes the fruit at the cheaper competitor is still better and we actually find the same a brands for a bit less money as well.

How about building a smaller store with higher quality products. A selection of quality brands for a specified target group, real unpoisoned fruit and a french quality baker all wrapped into fluff of polite and helpful personnel, slightly more intelligent then elsewhere. I think we could call this a black hole in supermarket positioning, probably because it is lacking demand. We want big, we want choice.

Books and Beyond

Marketing in school resembles a bit to math. Counting the number of positive answers to the question “would you buy this if” and you’re ready to go. It is exactly this that distinguishes good from bad management, because the best ideas out there didn’t come from math, they came from understanding customers (and their needs). By leaving it with math companies minimize their growing potential.

I thought a great example of this is bookstores. They have been suffering from big superficial book chains and especially online bookstores like Amazon. Many of them had to close because of not understanding what distinguishes them from these stores. As soon as they saw the prices online, the ease with which you can order and the laziness of the consumer masses they got paralyzed kept everything exactly the way it was and soon found themselves forced to close a little while later.

And yet other book store managers knew that to keep their business booming they needed to innovate; they also knew their customers and their product.An example of this is Carturesti in Bucharest, Romania.


What started out as a bookstore evolved into what I like to call a culture store. The books that you find here stay limited to higher quality books. All sorts of categories can be found but the focus seems to be on culture, traveling, design business but also the usual storytelling is accounted for. Chances of finding somebody that doesn’t speak English here are slim because the offer is quite internationally oriented. And of course attracting a somewhat intellectual public their is no point in stopping with books: You find quality music from countries you never even heard of (the popular offer is quite limited) photos, games and they have art expositions on a regular basis. To top the whole thing of part of the shop is a tea house where you can find an infinite number of types of tea: no better place to read a book, what a coincidence! Being in the city center of Bucharest it is now crawling with students, it is a place that inspires, that makes you curious about what they have. There is no better place to look for the next book you want to read, even not being a typical bookwork I can walk around here all day long.

An episode of Accents d’Europe (french) gave another perfect example:

Lentner in Munich. which also to distinguishes itself by having a particularly high standard of quality and knowledge. And quality is not the same as popular; also lesser known authors can be found here that can not be found on Amazon or Standard bookstores. As a customer you kind of trust them with the first selection and the advice they give you according to your taste and their expertise. In another store they did something a bit more like Carturesti, but they replaced tea with wine.

If your French is good enough listen to this (15 January 2009) and other episodes of their podcast. They have many interesting subjects every week on today’s issues and innovations in Europe. Accents d’Europe is a collaboration of RFI, Deutsche Welle, RTBF, Radio Prague and Radio Roumania International.

CV2.0: A new way of CV-ing

When we look objectively at CV’s we can only conclude that it is a very superficial way of presenting yourself that has to much value attached to it. What is wierd is that with all of the technological means we have nowadays we didn’t really manage to revolutionize this. It is something that mostly talks about academical skills that in the end do not really distinguish people. Problem is that most companies like relying on this classical model because is saves them time, which with the amount of CV’s they receive is most crucial. So coming up with something more useful is not easy.

The most significant change we had is online networks like Linkedin and Viadeo. I have to say I kind of like them, it gives you easy and fast insight in peoples capacities and facilitates contacting them. However in the end we have to conclude that it is little more than a digital CV with digital networking advantages. I think its biggest advantage still comes from the fact that other people in your network can write something about you and give you recommendations.

There is something a little less known which is called CV 2.0 which focuses on that last aspect of recommendations. It assumes that you have a lot of them and makes them visible by category. Like that anybody that wants to know about all your recommendations in ICT they click the tag and all of the related recommendations appear. I see two problems though:

1. I don’t think that recommendations is a broadly used item on Linkedin. And what is the point of categorizing something you don’t have a lot of?

2. I’d need to subscribe and maintain yet another social network. When does somebody have the genius idea of centralizing these things?


So, no thank you, I think this would only become interesting when it is implemented in an existing website. But if it is, it could become really usefull and popular. Where social networks used to be about getting most contacts they could now become about getting the most recomendations.

Music opportunities

Music producers do not miss out on any opportunity to complain about “illegal” downloading. It seems to be the oldest marketing mistake in the book: confusing an opportunity with an threat. What they do is count the number of downloads, they multiply this by the number of euros that download would have cost in the store and voila: their losses. Broken CD

If I wait for the garbageman to come on Monday and tell him about this then even he can tell me that this is not correct. No marketing education, no accounting courses not even a ridiculous salary and still he’d be more intelligent about this.

Fact of the matter is that if it was up to the music industry we wouldn’t even be able to pay for downloading individual tracks. Even today’s technology having more practical ways of playing music (not their invention either) they stick to the highly unpractical CD. When they are finally forced to bring music online they make sure that it is still not practical (DRM) and they insist on keeping labels separated so that people still don’t have one practical way of downloading music. Why did they need Apple to come up with such a huge opportunity as ITunes. Why was it so hard to come up with a music player from which we can easilly download every song we want, every album we want and to give the consumer a little bit of freedom for his money. (quite frankly, it’s still a lot of money) Sure the fear of losing money would probably have played a role, but didn’t they lose more money now?

Surely, reseach from a renowned research organisation TNO from the Netherlands shows downloading as a great opportunity. Many people “would not buy the same quantity of music if they wouldn’t have had the chance to download it” They also seem to buy more merchandise and go to concerts more often. Also, “there are a lot of consumer that through downloading get to know the music and still buy the record afterward”. Personally I used to be one of those, well, before ITunes gave me the opportunity to listen to songs first that is.

Well yes it is very easy to talk about this afterward and to play the blame game. But lets be honest here, even back at the beginning of mp3 this could have been anticipated. I don’t think its strange that there were fears about downloading. What I do think is strange is that these researches don’t come from the music industry, that they didn’t come up with something as easy and accessible as ITunes. Apple should have never stood a chance.

The first objective seems to be to make life harder: making it impossible to buy individual songs or to copy a CD that you payed for. If anything they contributed to people downloading illegally. In the Netherlands you now pay for music rights even when you buy a CD for backing up your harddisk or sharing your family pictures with friends and family. Then you are even forced to download without paying, because you already payed for it anyway.

We can easilly talk about incompetence here, their only response to this is to focus on merchandise making quality even lower, which I think was the only reason people stopped buying in the first place. If Grammys nowadays get handed out to a guy that sings about how a lady in the club “wants to lick him like a lollipop” then you can easily conclude that the quality level has lowered. Yes, I want to have the song, Yes I want to hear it everywhere I go for a week because of that awesome rhythm but I’m sure as hell not going to spend one cent on it.

Customer service… Finally

In a not so distant past customer service by phone was every consumers worse nightmare. A continuous process of being patched through to more and more impolite people that didn’t seem to have any intention of helping you. It seemed the companies cut costs by putting incompetent people behind their phones and by giving them no means at all to really solve anything. The solutions were obvious but to “expensive” (short term that is) and consumers didn’t have much choice because it seemed to be the same everywhere.

I know, the fact that I’m putting all this in a past tense is not really justified, however today I talked to people from 2 helpdesks in France and things seem to be changing here. The first asked at the end if I was satisfied with the way the consultant answered my questions. (which of course is recorded and listened to and analysed for the superiours) I had to respond positivilly and quite frankly I’m not used to that anymore.

surveyThe second went even further and send me an online questionaire in which there were 6 different ways of asking if I was satisfied with my call. And again I was!

I think all of this is potentially magnificent! I mean, of course it depends on what a company does with it but it seems ideal. They only have to listen to all the answers to that one question and as soon as there is one that is negative they can take a closer look as to why not.

Of course all of this wouldn’t be necesarry if the company has proper means for communicating with their empoyees, I guess we’ll wait another 15 years with figuring that out. For the time being there is at least some improvement. Woohoo!

The Manager and the Engineer

A friend of mine sent me this small story which is not only very funny but also points out the obviousness of communication problems between some fields. Either way I had to share with you:

A man in a hot air balloon realized he was lost. He reduced altitude and spotted a man below. He descended a bit more and shouted, “Excuse me, can you help me? I promised a friend I would meet him half an hour ago, but I don’t know where I am.”

The man below replied, “You are in a hot air balloon hovering approximately 30 feet about the ground. You are between 40 and 42 degrees north latitude and between 58 and 60 degrees west longitude.”

“You must be an engineer,” said the balloonist.
“I am,” replied the man, “but how did you know?”

“Well,” answered the balloonist, “everything you told me is technically correct, but I have no idea what to make of your information, and the fact is I am still lost.”

The man below responded, “You must be a manager.”
“I am,” replied the balloonist, “how did you know?”

“Well,” said the man, “you don’t know where you are or where you are going. You made a promise which you have no idea how to keep, and you expect me to solve your problem. The fact is you are exactly in the same position you were in before we met, but now, somehow, it’s my fault.”

I posted something similar earlier.

Innovative company creation from France

France isn’t exactly known for it’s innovative attitude towards business. It is mostly seen as a country where paperwork and pride of traditions keep it from making significant progress. However even the biggest France critics will have to admit that they came up with something fantastic now. As of the first of January 2009 the French government put in place a law that allows people to more easily start a company.

  1. You subscribe fast and easy on the internet, you can stop it anytime you want. Both for free!
  2. You don’t pay any taxes if your turnover stays under 32.000 (services) or 80.000 (products) euros
  3. For administration you just hand in 2 lists: one with spending’s and one with income and you’re ready. So you don’t have to spend half of you’re income on accountants.

Especially the latter is quite revolutionary I guess, most of the administrative moves in this country come with a lot of paperwork. I don’t know if similar things are being done in other countries. Either way I think this is a great idea for stimulating economy and employment ratings.

Welcome in 2009!!!

newyearAaaaah, welcome to the year 2009, the year we should all fear. The year in which we will all go from a state in which we were so rich that we had to buy psychotherapy for our dogs to get rid of our money, to a state of desert land and the worse hunger this world has ever seen. And let’s be honest: it is getting a bit depressing that people often get payed so well for incompetent behaviour.

No, the year 2009 will be a blessing, a chance not only to redeem our evil ways but also to be once again be happy doing business. It will be the year where we will be forced to be open to discussing improvement and innovation. Not just as part of our communication strategy but as a way to solve problems. It will be the year of people with great and innovative ideas. Not to achieve more but to achieve better.

And not “big house, huge car and the biggest rack on my wife that you’ve ever seen happy”, but happiness about doing what we do best and making a living with that. The year that the wealthiest countries in this world will no longer need Prozac to be happy with their wealth, but where they will discover the joy of sharing.

I wish everybody a new and improved 2009!