Those of you who follow my Twitter feeds will know I have a curmudgeonly love/hate relationship with the tech PR industry. At the heart of it lies the fact the press and the PR industry have wildly different agendas.
For the PR, everything their company (if they are in-house) or their clients (if they are with an agency) does is THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN THE WORLD – until of course the next time they do the most important thing in the world.
For the tech journalist, the most important thing is their readers. Journalists (like all writers) want people to read their stuff – and the best way to do that is to inform and entertain their readerships.
Readers, for their part, are not going to be informed or entertained if all they see are endless good news stories about the same bunch of companies. Not least because readers (in their capacity as consumers of tech) may have had distinctly bad experiences with the PRs' clients.
Add in the fact that even in specialist, niche vertical markets there may be dozens, if not hundreds, of players, to focus on just those whose PRs squeak the loudest and most frequently, would result in an unbalanced news coverage that is a disservice to readers.
It's all a question of balance and different agendas.
So, it's CyberMonday, the day we buy loads of tech gear online however here on Gonzo News we retain a healthy suspicion that many new apps and gadgets are just gimmicky solutions in search of problems.
Definitely falling into this category is piece of Dutch innovation called Block a "luxury that helps you break away from your phone". In effect this is a miniature Faraday Cage that will hold up to six phones so, when you are out for a meal or in a meeting, you can pop your phones into a Block container and that will block off any incoming phone calls, messages, alerts or notifications.
Pricing starts at €99.00/US$105.00 and the company is funding its first production run, crowdfunding style, from pre-orders – which it hopes will be ready by Christmas.
Are we missing something here but wouldn't switching your phone to airplane mode achieve exactly the same result?
Although there are an increasing number of apps that fall into the category of solutions in search of a problem, the latest version of the Adobe Acrobat Reader app for iOS and Android is one that is definitely worth downloading, if you don't already have it. (Or upgrading if you haven't set your smartphone or tablet to auto-update.)
Why? Because it includes free scan-to-PDF functionality, so you can capture illustrations, documents, receipts, whiteboards etc with the device's camera and save them in a PDF file format.
After that, you can store the file in Dropbox (or similar), scribble annotations on it, add a signature etc. In other words do a lot of the stuff you are used to doing with the desktop version of Acrobat Reader.
In fact this functionality has been available for some time but it was previously only offered as a chargeable extra subscription service.
From a personal point of view, it has also meant I've been able to ditch a couple of separate apps (Evernote Scannable & Skitch) I previously had purely for scanning and annotating captured images.
The only caveat is the app does not work with some older devices. If you are a Mac user then it only works for iPhone 5s+, iPad 3+ and iPad Mini 2+ otherwise great.
Something for the Weekend? How about some books – and not just any books but three new (as distinct from classic) cyberpunk novels?
I'm currently reading my way through a torrent of new science fiction novels that have been submitted to a major international book award (I'm one of the judging panel reading my way through them) and among them were three intriguing cyberpunk novels. They are, in no particular order:
Escapology by Ren Warom (Titan Books) which I suppose is the most "conventional" of the three in cyberpunk terms – although totally outré when compared with most genre fiction. It's also a cracking thriller.
A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers (Hodder & Stoughton) features an AI that actually has better characterisation than most of the people I've encountered in many books. Has an element of the late Iain M. Banks Culture novels about it.
United States of Japan by Peter Tieryas (Angry Robot) is an alternative history on a Man in the High Castle theme but with giant mecha and computer games. This is also a gripping thriller.
All three are not just well written but have protagonists you can care about and endings that you don't see coming from page three. All recommended.
A commercial cartoonist I follow – Tom Fishburne aka The Marketoonist – recently published a post on the concept of the Creator's Code. (This was devised by Hiut Denim & David Hieatt – here's a link to Tom's post + see graphic)
The aspects that interest me the most are
Point #5: Chase the work, not the money. The money will come in time.
And Point #9: There are no short cuts. Do the work! (If I was being picky I'd also amend #10 to read Great Green Tea Helps.)
But seriously... Points #5 and #9 are the ones most people get wrong – and in the case of #5 usually get the wrong way around and focus entirely on chasing the money.
In both instances the killer factor is short-termism aka instant gratification – unrealistic expectations – looking to make a quick buck.
I've seen this with magazine and website publishers (I've been the launch editor of a number of titles) and software businesses/startups. Let me explain...
With publishing, the way you shouldapproach a new magazine launch is to focus on generating insanely great content – which will then attract readers. And this in turn attract advertisers and their money.
Sadly too many publishers approach the project from the opposite direction: "Oh look, here's an industry niche with an untapped marketing budget, let's get ourselves a slice!"
So they fill the zine or site with advertorial (sponsored copy or whatever else they want to call their pay-to-play model) that keeps the advertisers happy – and they will certainly never dare run stories remotely critical of their advertisers.
But then they are surprised when nobody reads the publication (readers aren't stupid) and they subsequently lose the advertisers. Add in the way many publishers set unrealistic targets for new publications and 12 months later you see the publication being quietly buried.
With software companies the situation arises when they are trying to expand into new market but, once again, they want to do it in a hurry. So, they spend a shedload of money on advertising (usually in the wrong places) and sponsoring events (usually the wrong events) and then are surprised to discover, 12 months later, that they are not market leaders. Like unsuccessful publishers, they then pack their tents and slink away into the desert.
With startups, the problem is usually outside investors who have unrealistic expectations that the business is going to be The Next Big Thing and pull the financial plug before it ever has been given a proper chance to thrive and succeed.
These are all long-term commitments. There are no short-cuts, you have to do the groundwork. You have to get the basics right and then you will reap the financial rewards.
Anything else is folly. Short-termism is the enemy of creative innovation and promise.
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Barrister and Reuters correspondent turned writer, award-winning tech journalist, radio presenter, podcaster, and sometime werewolf-hunter Charles Christian chronicles his adventures in the worlds of writing, radio, geek, tech, media, marketing, music, and the weird. The site also has links to all Charles Christian's books including fiction and nonfiction, plus the latest reviews.
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