Just because it goes viral does not mean it was a good idea!

Below is a video made for the Danish Tourism authority. The woman is an actress. The baby is not hers. It was a viral marketing stunt. It was highly successful in attracting attention, but is this really the image Denmark wants to project? And what kind of tourist are they wanting to attract? The BBC reports the “official” version of the ad has now been pulled, but it’s still available of course, as you can see below.

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Private forums with GroupJive and Kunena

I’m currently building a multilingual health focused community site, FitTogether (note: at time of writing still under construction!). We’re using Joomla 1.5 along with a variety of third party components, including Community Builder, GroupJive and Kunena forum components. GroupJive allows you to create private and public groups that site members can create and join. It has the ability to send “bulletins” to group members, but no inbuilt discussion forum ability. That has been solved by integrating it with the Kunena forum component. But there’s a problem – neither Joomla 1.5 nor Kunena currently allow you to restrict access to forums to particular site members or groups of site members.

This functionality is planned with Joomla 1.6, but as is often the case, I needed a solution now. Fortunately I managed to come up with one and I thought I’d share it.

The solution uses Stephen Brandon’s powerful MetaMod module. MetaMod allows you to enable various “rules” on a Joomla page for turning modules on and off, writing particular messages, redirecting – whatever you can come up with. Using MetaMod I created a rule that checks to see if the logged on user is a member of the GroupJive group connected to the forum he/she is trying to view. If they are not then it redirects them to another page. It does the same if anyone attempts to view the parent category. This step isn’t necessary if the parent category is unpublished in Kunena.

To enable this solution, download and install MetaMod and publish it on the Kunena forum component page. In my template I publish it with no title, in the footer, and with class -nobox so that it’s effectively invisible to users. In the module itself I set the following PHP code –

//
// Block access to GroupJive Forums
//
$group_catid=21;
$redirect_url='/';
$catid = JRequest::getVar("catid");
//Redirect if in main group category
if ($catid==$group_catid)
{
      $app->redirect($redirect_url);
}
// check if forum is in group category
$query="select parent from jos_fb_categories where id=".$catid;
$db->setQuery( $query, 0, 1 );
$row = $db->loadObject();
$parent_id= $row->parent;
if ($parent_id==$group_catid)
{
$username = $user->username;
$gj_query = "SELECT username FROM jos_gj_users
INNER JOIN jos_gj_jb ON jos_gj_users.id_group=jos_gj_jb.group_id 
where category_id=".$catid." and username='".$username."'";
$db->setQuery( $gj_query, 0, 1 );
$gj_row = $db->loadObject();
$gj_username = $gj_row->username;
if (is_null($gj_username))
{
      $app->redirect($redirect_url);
}
}

There are two things you need to change in the first few lines of code. $group_catid should be set to the Kunena category ID where your having GroupJive create forums. $redirect_url should be set to wherever you want the user to end up instead of the private forum. You may want to setup an error message page. In the future I think I’ll set mine to redirect to the main groupjive page with an error message stating the forums are private and they need to join. Alternatively I might simply redirect back to the page they came from. That’s it!

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Seth Godin on Leadership

It’s uncomfortable to stand up in front of strangers.
It’s uncomfortable to propose an idea that might fail.
It’s uncomfortable to challenge the status quo.
It’s uncomfortable to resist the urge to settle.

When you identify the discomfort, you’ve found the place where a leader is needed.

If you’re not uncomfortable in your work as a leader, it’s almost certain you’re not reaching your potential as a leader.

Seth_Godin_TribesIf you’re in business, or participate in community groups of any sort and haven’t read marketing guru Seth Godin’s book Tribes yet – do it now. It’s a brilliant book offering insights into the realities of marketing today. It’s not about selling products or services – it’s about building and leading communities, building and leading tribes. My favourite book of 2009.

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ZipCodeShop – a word of warning

For the past year I’ve been involved in developing a social networking type website where we wanted the ability to do a “radius search”, ie you could for example ask for a list of all site members who live within 10km of you, or all health food stores etc etc. The site is being built on the Joomla framework using Community Builder. One of the reasons we went with this combination rather than dedicated social networking software, or  a dedicated social networking Joomla component like JomSocial was because of the availability of a “Community Builder Zip Code Radius Search Component” (for searching members) and a “Mosets Tree Radius Search Component” (for searching a directory of businesses) from a company called ZipCodeShop.

Alas, our experience with ZipCodeShop (ZCS), despite starting well, has not been a good one. I contacted them and told them I was looking at buying both components, and they were more than helpful. I purchased the ZCS Community Builder component, for US$99, and started trying to implement it in my site. I sort of got it working, and for 2 days ZCS support via email were extremely fast, and extremely helpful – though they did continue to ignore requests to be given access to their support forums. The component itself was encoded and hardcoded with a licence linked to my domain name. This concerned me as we had plans to change the domain name, but they assured me it would be no problem to do so. After a couple of days I was still having a few problems, and they informed me a new version was coming the following week, and that prices would be increasing – so I should buy the Moset’s tree version straight away. I elected not to do so.

That was in February. Since then I have lodged more than a dozen support ticket requests and followups through their online ticketing system. I have sent numerous emails directly. I have left messages with their Live Online Support. I’ve even tried several international phone calls. Nothing. I would be concerned they had gone of business, or the principles had some serious health issues or similar, but at the end of April a message appeared on their site stating they were upgrading their site and the new one would be up at the end of the week. At the end of the week, the message disappeared but nothing else changed. Thus, I’m left with an encoded component who’s bugs I cannot fix, and which I cannot easily customised for my purposes, as I was assured I could.

Sadly, posts on Joomlapolis indicate my experience is not unique. I left further messages last week advising ZipCodeShop I would be doing this blog post, but there has been no response.

In the meantime I’ve developed a replacement component to the ZipCodeShop radius search component using the excellent Fabrik development framework, available at www.fabrikar.com. For those who have been left wanting by ZCS I’ll try to blog about my solution in the next week.

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Wolfram|Alpha is live! A different kind of search engine

A new tool in the search engine arena has today been opened to the public – Wolfram|Alpha. Unlike search sites such as Yahoo or Google, which attempt to catalogue the entire internet and provide links to anything you can think of, Wolfram|Alpha does something different – it focuses on the numbers, it’s a “computational knowledge engine” or as it says on the About Page –

We aim to collect and curate all objective data; implement every known model, method, and algorithm; and make it possible to compute whatever can be computed about anything.

For example, I asked WolframAlpha “how far from Stockholm to Moscow?” Instead of providing me with a list of pages where I might get the answer, I was given the distance in kilometres, the approximate flight time, a map, plus some other potentially useful information like the current time in both cities and their populations.

I’m about to have lunch, so I asked WA – how many calories in a pancake? This time I was given the average calories, some other energy measurements, and an interesting graph of where pancakes like in a distribution ranking of different food and the caloric content.

It’s going to take a while to learn when’s the best time to use WA over google, but I think this is going to be a great tool!

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Just launched my new health blog: optimal-health.info

I just launched my new blog focusing on health issues, particularly nutrition. Only a couple of posts up so far, but there’ll be many more to come! www.optimal-health.info

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The Obamas

This photo was taken back on January 20, 2009 – the day of Barack Obama’s inauguration as the 44th President of the United States of America. I only encountered recently on the front page of the White House Correspondents’ Association website and simply had to repost it. How beautiful it is! A healthy young couple in the prime of their lives, enjoying a day that can be barely believed – and being so obviously, and publicly, in love. Fantastic.

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Superb Spotify

Newspapers and online communities have been awash the past week with the news that a Swedish court found four men connected with The Pirate Bay website guilty of aiding copyright infringement. They were sentenced to a year in prison and substantial fines. The verdict itself wasn’t a surprise to most, since similar websites had lost similar cases in the past. Interestingly, there were reports before the verdict that Sweden had recently seen a 100% increase in legal online music sales – most likely as a result of the introduction of the new IPRED law which makes it easier to track down the end users of copyright infringed works.

One Swedish company – Spotify – has been ready for these developments for a while, and yesterday I finally signed up with them myself. Why I took so long I don’t know – my broadband provider, Bredbandsbolaget, provides free access! So what does Spotify do? Well, they don’t sell you songs for download like iTunes or provide links to “torrents” like The Pirate Bay does. Instead they take advantage of the superb broadband infrastructure available in Sweden (I have 100mb fibre connection) to stream music on demand, all backed with agreements with record labels and bands. There are thousands and thousands of tracks available, you can listen to a whole album, or select individual tracks, or even select the genres you like and let Spotify create a playlist for you.

So far I’m impressed. The range available is extraordinary, the quality is fantastic, and the software is fairly easy and straightforward. What’s more – it’s all 100% legal! Spotify is still in beta and requires an invite if you want to join the free offer and aren’t using a current partner like Bredbandsbolaget. I have 10 invites to use, so anyone who wants to give it a try – drop me a note! All it needs is 256k connection and Mac or Windows.

Superb job Spotify – well done!

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Finally – a battery bottleneck breakthrough?

I’ve been saying for many years that if you want to make a lot of money from an investment, find the company that develops the next big breakhrough in battery technology and give them your money. Today’s modern electronic society is dependent on batteries, but a lot of further advances has been stymied by them – they tend to be heavy and bulky and need recharging often. Check your phone or your laptop – most of the weight (especially sans screen) is the battery. Most of the “size” of the device is the battery. Everything else is essentially built around that restriction.

The Tesla Roadster Electric Car

Finally it looks like one battery technology barrier may have been broken down by a team at MIT, and a surprisingly simple breakthrough it is. It had been assumed that the speed lithium ions could move through a lithium battery was greatly limited by some impenetrable factor. It seems that assumption was wrong. The researchers studied more closely how the ions were moving through the material and discovered it was essentially a design flaw that was causing the problem. Imagine you had 3 lanes heading into a tunnel that had only one lane. When engineers design roads, they take these kind of bottlenecks into account and actively set things up so vehicular traffic can merge using a “zipper principle”. Now imagine we didn’t do that, and just suddenly ended two of the lanes with no real way for vehicles to get into the lane that went through the tunnel.

It seems that’s essentially what is happening right now in the battery in your phone or computer, or for that matter, hybrid car. The MIT researchers have discovered a relatively simple and cost effective way to build lithium ion batteries so that they “guide” the ions into these tunnels. The result? Dramatic increases in speed and efficiency. Batteries will be able to be charged in minutes instead of hours. They’ll also be able to discharge faster, providing the kind of bursts of power needed in electric motor vehicles like the Tesla, and since manufacturer’s will no longer have to provide “extra” battery to cover up the inefficiencies, they’ll be smaller and lighter too.

The best news? The new manufacturing process is relatively easy to implement, and scientists believe the new batteries will be on the market in two to three years.

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Is PR more important than PR when it comes to PR on the internet?

Yesterday I came across a blog entry on the website of a Swedish TV company by one of their “personalities” in which he essentially stated that one of the world’s largest and most succesful direct selling companies was an illegal enterprise. (Headline translated to english: Quatro, Amway, and other pyramid scams). I don’t watch a lot of TV so I had to go read up on who the blogger, Edward Blom was. It seems that apart from being a TV presenter he’s also somewhat of an authority on Swedish business history. He’s even written books on the topic.

I thought perhaps that despite these credentials he perhaps didn’t actually realise that “pyramidspel” (literally “pyramid game”) are illegal and he was doing the all-to-common mistake of using the word to describe companies that use multi-level marketing. Alas, he wasn’t, as was evidenced in the rest of his post where he claimed “only the people who get in early make money” and that you “make money by recruiting people” – two other myths about multi-level marketing.

So here we have a (supposed) business historian and TV personality publicly stating that a 50 yr old global company operating in 90+ countries in territories was an illegal business! I wonder what his lawyer would think about that?

I should have known better but I couldn’t help but to try to set him straight with a rather lengthy comment (in english) complete with links to numerous sources talking about Amway and the various awards and recognitions Amway had received around the world.

To his credit he posted a response withdrawing the claim against Amway, but he then continued with the myth-building, complete with linking to a 10yr old swedish anonymous anti-amway site that does little more than report other myths – including doing price comparisons that are completely wrong! (he for example compares the price of a concentrate that when mixed with water make 4 bottles of cleaner to the price of one bottle of a competitor).

That post of course answered the question of why he got his first post so wrong in the first place – he’s getting his education about Amway from the Internet. Once upon a time research involved reading reports and studies by respected authors in the field, in particular peer-reviewed research and reports. Even newspapers had editors who would fact check articles before they were published, a form of peer-review. Today however the lazy journalist and researcher does little more than hop onto google to see what they’ll find. I suspect Edward Blom linked to the article he did for little more reason than it appeared highly in a google.se search for Amway. A decade old, anonymous site, published on a free web hosting service – and Edward Blom, a published author in the field of business decided that was a good enough place for him to learn about Amway.

How sad. In the “old” days he might have had to go to a library. Then he would have found and read books like The Direct Selling Revolution: Understanding the Growth of the Amway Corporation by Professor Dominique Xardel. Professor Xardel is a former head of ESSEC, one of the most prestigous business schools in Europe, and a former editor of the Harvard Business Review. He spent 2 years researching Amway. Who do you think has the most accurate opinion? Some anonymous blogger who went to one meeting then surfed the net, or a respected business academic who spent 2 years researching the topic?

Alas, today it doesn’t matter. For the google generation, PR (google Page Rank) is more important than PR (Peer Review) when it comes to PR (Public Relations) on the Internet. What Edward Blom did is all too common, not just for journalists and supposed professionals, but also the public at large.

Is this the final death throes of professional journalism? Are amateur blogs of dubious quality going to rule the information highway?

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