September 2009

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Today, Mangahigh (www.mangahigh.com) launched the first curriculum-compliant, games-based learning site focusing on maths for secondary school students. Led by Dr. Marcus du Sautoy (maths professor at the University of Oxford and Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science) and Toby Rowland (co-founder of King.com, one of the world’s largest casual games companies), Mangahigh has already been acclaimed by Vic Keegan in The Guardian as leading the revolution in formal teaching. John Humphries on Radio 4’s Today program also welcomed the launch of a company that is making great efforts to help reverse the downturn in the standard of UK maths education.

As a parent, I wholeheartedly welcome this launch. My 10 year-old son has no problems sitting for hours playing games on his computer, yet ask him to focus on maths homework for 10 minutes and his focus wanders. So, by engaging him with maths through a medium that he enjoys and at a quality that he expects, I know he will learn and have fun doing so. It sounds so simple, maths and games – why has this not happened before? Many companies, individuals and institutions have tried and failed, but the reason Mangahigh will succeed, as identified in The Guardian, is due to the heritage of the two leaders of the company. The result of bringing together a games expert and a maths visionary is games that are worth playing for their own sake, with maths at the core.

With the UK behind Tunisia, Belgium and the Czech Republic in the international performance tables for its maths standards, some new thinking was overdue. Mangahigh has certainly bought that new thinking and its warm reception by the media is proof of this.

When I was in advertising, they used to tell me that in order for an ad to get noticed, it had to have at least three impressions.  In order to convince people your products are great in a presentation, repeat impressions are useful too.

Repeat after me – Apple is great, great, great, awesome, awesome, awesome, incredible, incredible, incredible (well, watch the video and you’ll see what I’m talking about)

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See and download the full gallery on posterous

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The team descended upon GigaOm‘s Mobilize conference yesterday and was surprised to find the press attending had swollen to about 200, which is quite impressive given I heard the overall attendees were around 800.  Why so many press so suddenly?  Motorola announced a new phone at the conference called the Cliq, which utilizes Google‘s Android operating system.  The whizz factor of the phone is the visually stimulating screen packed with pictures and text bubbles that illustrate social media conversations come alive.

“I can’t imagine in five to seven years’ time, consumers not thinking of this” (cut to Motorola’s co-CEO Sanjay Jha shaking his phone at Om Malik, founder of GigaOm) “as their primary computer.”

I agreed with Jha.  I too believe the phone is heading in the direction of the PC and can’t wait for the day I can go through an airport security line and not have to lug out my behemoth Dell and then get electrocuted when I pick it up after it’s gone through the x-ray scan.

Another highlight of the day for us was supporting CEO of Flirtomatic, Mark Curtis, at the conference.  He spoke on the “Monetizing Mobile Apps” panel and had some great stats to share:

“A mobile user is 3 times more likely to spend money on our service than an internet user.”

“Mobile advertising has a great future ahead, but it’s currently only 25% of Flirtomatic’s current revenue.  Flirtomatic sells mobile advertising to it’s users so that users bid the most exposure on Flirtomatic. Flirtomatic gets the most exposure: 4x CPM on user-based-advertising vs brand-based advertising.”

When asked how do developers monetize mobile web apps, Mark responded:

“I think they need a 3-5 year plan. It’s possible to monetize mobile web apps, but it’s not easy.  “When the [carrier] revenue share on billing gets to a more reasaonable level, I’m going to be doing handsprings.”

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There was a line up of slick and expensive cars on Sand Hill Road to turn into the street that housed the venerable Silicon Valley VC institution, August Capital.  A crew of valet parking guys dressed in white ran up to each car to whisk them away while the crowd filtered into the expansive patio at August Capital to rub shoulders with the rich, the very rich and the soon-to-be-rich.  Scanning the name cards, it seemed that every VC firm was represented and judging from the aura of money during the mingling, I think I was probably one of the poorest peeps there.

I saw VCs like Tim Draper from DFJ, Naren Gupta of Nexus (and plenty of others),and my tomodachi Howard Hartenbaum of August, plus entrepreneurs such as Gunnar Piening of Swoopo (one of August Capital’s portfolio companies), Josh Steinitz and John Monson of NileGuide (Howard invested while at Draper Richards), Gannon Hall of Kyte.tv and plenty of others.  There was great food, great wine and great conversations.  Hope I get invited next year too!

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I used to have a great memory – I could replay what you said, when you said it and what you were wearing when you said it (when I was single, my boyfriends used to hate this). But as I’ve gotten older, my memory has seemed to fade and I’m now lucky if I remember my husband’s birthday (just kidding… of course I remember that).

I do believe that technology has contributed to a change in my processing powers and I’m not sure if they’ve gotten better or worse. While I can now multi-task between writing a proposal, reading a Tweet, following up on an email, sitting on the phone and perusing the newspaper all at the same time, I also confess my comprehension is sometimes as shallow as the battery life on my iPhone. But now there’s a chart which illustrates what’s happening! I’ve become a victim of digital distractions!

While this is all tongue-in-cheek, there certainly is more demand on our attention span these days. Especially in the business of PR, I find myself constantly tapped in to what’s being said about our clients or the categories they live in. I’m scouring for stories via mainstream media and blogs, I’m checking the Tweets of professionals and punters on their sentiment of the moment, and I’m bouncing between emails, Facebook updates, wiki entries, etc. to be sure I’m up to speed. And that doesn’t even involve what I need to do when I’m “offline.”

Life is full of distractions – digital and organic. But then again, many of those distractions are precisely what gives life its spice and flavor.

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I’m inspired by Gary Vaynerchuk’s story (Twitter: @garyvee). He followed his family’s passion starting when he was 17 and not old enough to drink wine. He knew there were descriptions of wine like bouquets of leather, violet, berries, etc. and decided to taste all of these flavors to develop his palate until he turned 21. By then, his nose and tongue were sophisticated enough to likely challenge the venerable Robert Parker, but instead of taking his reviews to the high-falutin, he kept them real and raw, attracting the regular folk who enjoy a glass or two but couldn’t really differentiate between a bouquet of under-ripened strawberries vs. vanilla-scented cherry.

The New York Times writes: 

He begins with the usual jargon, talking about nose and mid-palate, describing flavors like apricot, buttered popcorn and lilacs, as many wine writers do. But then he departs from the script, saying a wine smells like a sheep butt or that drinking it is like biting into an engine.

With his authentic voice, irascible sense of humor and clever commentary, he built a following worldwide and even appeared on such shows as Today, Ellen Degeneres and Conan O’Brian.

“My mission is to build wine self-esteem in this country,” he said. “I want people to know their palate is a snowflake. We all like different things. Why should we all have the same taste in wines?”

So when you’re wondering how to build your Twitter base, or how to lift your company’s awareness amongst the crowd, just remember the simple tenets of success: keep it real, keep it simple, and live it passionately.

“It’s about stories,” he said. “If I can tell the story to America, whether it’s riesling or a boxer from Harlem, it will sell.”

He pauses. “I know on my gravestone it’s going to be, ‘Storyteller.’ ”

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Tried using the spatula in addition to the brush but I don’t know what I’m doing so I got frustrated and ended here. Started another experiment which I ‘ll share. All done on canvas pas, which I don’t really like as it soaks in the paint too quickly.

Sent from my iPhone

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Today Dimdim launched their easy webinar service (http://tinyurl.com/nek4ge), further raising the bar for legacy providers such as Webex and GoToMeeting and taking even more marketshare from them. The market for web conferencing and webinars had been an expensive, clunky and consumer unfriendly business that lined the pockets of Cisco and Citrix, until Dimdim disrupted their businesses almost 2 years ago to the day. With today’s launch of the most cost-efficient, easy, and attendee-friendly webinar offering, backed up by comprehensive support for monetizing webinars, the big guys are really under threat from the nimble, forward-thinking new kid on the block.