Wednesday, November 17, 2010

FaceBook Fatigue?

Are we lesser interweb mortals suffering from Facebook Fatigue? Twitter Tire-Out?

Social Media is now maturing very rapidly in terms of new acquisitions. Also many believe a high degree of gaurdedness, even cynicism is needed when sharing private details and even your name and location on SM.

From another perspective looking at innovation: the web sites have somehow backwardly evolved from being young, quick evolving Gazelles into would-be dinosaurs of the itnernet: Their own weight of internal management and number of members globally makes it hard for several SM sites to evolve and now excluded any full revolution to a new format for their home pages.

FB is only really trying in becoming fully interconnected: The latest is importing your skype contacts so you can read about maybe a couple more half-known people and the minutiae of their micro blogs.

I belive the current sites: FB, Linked-InTwitter and Blogger (all TM recognised) ,and the other smaller brands will not only have a declining return on recruitment of new users, but they will struggle to hold the interest of many users and the trust of others, talking about not just facebook fatigue, but facebook farewells or making new, guarded profiles.

People are getting bored with the format, the selective post displays and the functionality of FB. Also many of the "On FB" 40% on average in most western countries, are not very active and the ones with most time are teenagers ( low spend) and narcissists, kind of self brands.

I think there are two or I think FB / twitter is addictive: one there are the narcisists who crave the attention they get for their posts and the related "social light bulbs" who must incessently touch other people and be touched otherwise they don't exist. Then there are the opposites, and the wannabees: People like me who wonder why their friends are not more active on FB and wonder if there is a good social value in it. The wannabees want to be social media nodes, where they become narcissitic and don't need to nurture other posters with more than occaisional comments and links back to their own little world in SM.

In other words, the followers want often to be followed: they are not benign little lap dogs who utterly dote on what the lead writers post, but rather they are traffic steelers wanting to shine from a rub off from a top blogger, FBer or twatter.

Where the real social network value is lies with mobile, always on. Even then it can be a bit tedious to arrange any social life, and better to avoid the fluff and just send an SMS. Also how much can we have as public?

I set a rule on my FB use a while ago and social value: For people I added or whom added me, if I posted something to their wall/ comment/ image and got ignored, talked over, then I would just delete them immediately from pals list. Perhaps they had me straight onto ignore, either way I am not interested. I try to keep my FB down to under 60, and even then I find that FB hides interesting posts from family which I have no interest in hiding!

A while ago I destroyed my own smart phone, having had a few from companies also, but I just popped into a shop and got el cheapo is great: the batteries last a week, if not two with just SMSing. It starts up in 5 seconds and never crashes in any of the functions. It even has a calendar which you can import and export to SMS! And I love it: no distractions, just a monotone LCD screen which does SMSes very nicely and will not run out of juice when someone needs to call me.

This phone parallel is apt: what do you need from a social space?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Keep Your Head Up! Get that Job!

I think this will be my last post on this topic for a while: I am very keen to help students and recent graduates to get onto a good career train, or as good as it gets in the recession. However the readership is not huge and social media blogs are of more interest to Freddie readers apparently

The American way we often here is "who is recruiting? " : this is a good, direct way of thinking about grabbing opportunities: for these companies, and think company, growth and not job titile, your USPs ? ( unique selling poits)

1. Cheap: think 5 pounds per hour as ok! You can also be relocated cheaply. As going direct and avoiding recruitment consutlatns / bemanners you save them money, especially on a average graduate start package in the recession. Do not, repeat do not, turn down a good opp' on cash, or any opp in marketing right now. In graduate flat pay or "staff" jobs you will work many 12 hour days without moaning! That averages out to about 35% extra work free for marketing departments and suppliers of marketing services.

2. Available: you can start yesterday! As a graduate of 2010. Also you are most likely young/free/single-ish ( lie!) and therefore can relocate. When head count is to be secured by a manager facing "use it or lose it" budgeting, this can get you a job, or when a spotty non marketing graduate with two years photocopying in a boring marketing department has to give 1 months notice, you can be in there!

3: Skilled: at Thinking and Communicating. this does not go without saying, but you should have good skills here otherwise get out of marketing asap

4. knowledgeable: The MSc is very useful for more strategic approaches to business, which is useful believe me, even if you are not steering any strategy yourself, you have to interpret it and place actions within the mission statement for the company and your department. Once again on balance you are of higher value to the company than all and sundry sales-reps and marketing assistents sans education in the very art, especially if your first degree or work experience from before is relevant.

The last is only any good when coupled to no.3, with numbers one and two being deal closers.

Once in a job you can use the other job jumping techniques to get onto a better career ladder if need be. See my last post on recruitment consutlants.

Dealing With the Recruitment "Industry"

Job Seeking for Strathclyde MSc Marketing Graduates

::::: How to Deal with Recruitment Consultants:::::

At the moment if we take the majority of you with no relevance work experience, then recrutiment consultants will be the last people on earth to hold an umbrella over you in the current rain weather. They have very, very few graduaet jobs that are a good career start fro you. This is made worse because now they have on their books, lots of people made redundant from marketing and related jobs with only a year- or two's experience.

However, "Who is hiring" is a good Americanism to think a look at it. Recruitment consultants are sources for information on who is expanding, or who maybe has a "chicken run" .Through their overt advertising and in revelaing the companies with marketing jobs on the phone, they point the spotlight on a company which is maybe expanding or replacing staff. These advertised jobs may not be relevant to your experience or directly in marketing, but you should use recruitment houses to get the names of the companies and send direct applications or get in the door from other job interviews when actually using the consultant.

Now these "shopping window" interviews may not be for jobs in marketing; it may be admin, customer service or the evil of sales : phone or field. Give them a call, find out who and where their client is. Apply direct to the firm with an open application, or if you feel up to it, go through the consultant to get in the door, make a good impression and leave a much more detailed marketing CV with the client. Also consider making business cards, these can be useful when the consultant sits in, and I have had jobs offered to me after the first position with thrhough consulant is filled.

As advised in a previous FredRant, be careful when using "shopping window" interviews in sales or other functions. A sales manager will be furious to have yet another " work a year or two in sales and then into marketing" if they have just had a string of reps do that. Humour them, get to a head office interview and meet the personnel, maybe agreeing (only with personnel!) in forehand to have a look round the marketing department while you are there to consider the range of opportunities relevant to you. Get your detailed marketing CV and business card to personnel and anyone you meet.

Sales has been discussed before as a route in to marketing: it is a very double edged sword. However a field sales job in the recession is better than nothing and can be a good brand name on the CV. ( Often when I go to interviews, I note that the interviewers put far too much importance onto the larger brand names I have worked at or on: I often had more responsibility or relevant experiences on the smaller ones, but the big ones stick in the mind!!)

Sales jobs in marketing services companies, selling the firm, not working on behalf of clients, are also really worth applying to now: in any given city or industry you will get your feet in the door at countless good contacts and be able to see who has spend immediately: spend= head count as much as ad's and websites.

Other shitty jobs at interesting firms are to be avoided: telesales, call centre etc you really want to do this? Well you may well want to get your face inside the company and get some interview expereince so go along with it, leaving a copy of your own, pepped up marketing CV with personal acheivements and positions of responsibility etc on there. Some other crappy jobs in good firms, or on behlaf of good brands ( consumer or B2B), may be worth getting in to as a first stepping stone. the brand name is worth a lot when you want to move up.

Also, as discussed before, because you are cheap, available tmw and have marketing know-how, you are in fact up for jobs which recruitment consutlants will not send you forward to : one to two years experience. SO work around them on all occaisions: they are a barometer and a way for managers to save time and manage wage expectations on the way in at the lower levels of the copannyu

Through all this though, do not PISS on your chips: keep some recrutiment consultants sweet: or just leave the good ones alone until you have that precsious work experience under way. Recruitment consultants tend to have good memories for people, but they remember a very short-hand version of you: so you need good personal branding and being a "Pushy student who had no real work experience and tried to present himself as a marketer in a sales job interview" will stick with you in their minds or in some euphenistic notes on their database.

Don't feel guilty about using smaller consultants/agents to get leads and "shopping window" interviews. Many of them will go bust soon, or never be able to offer you quality interviews later on in your career. On the other side it may be worth leaving registration at the marketing specialists until later: either when they have a graduate job or when you have more experience.

In both cases Consultants like "fresh shelf wares" - there is a true recency effect, despite their databases: a recent, active job seeker is easier for them to motivate to agree to go to interview than an experienced marketeer sitting in a good job.

Small agencies will use you sometimes in a string of interviews they know you are an outsider for. Large agencies do the same, but you will be relevant to a larger extent than the small, struggling-for-numbers agencies. In both cases they both tire of you or develop guilt complexes and leave you alone.Don't be naive, this is easy to spot: they are doing the hard sell on you and the last point will be the actual crappyness of the job or unlikeliness of you to get the position. It is possible to cut deals with them on this front: Ask them to promise to put your CV speculatively to three companies or get an interview with a better job which is advertised before agreeing to go to some also ran, salesy interviews as a presentable filler.

Much better to hit the MPMs of the world later, long after you have abused other small consultancies with good clients to get in the door and on the ladder of a markeitng career.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Team Work and Job Hunting in the Credit Crunch

Why bother with team work, especially in the dog-eat-dog credit crunch, sorry, recession....

What will team work achieve for you?

The first necessary ambience for team work to happen, and the very crux of why more-minds-are-better-than-one, is the flow of information. As always, knowledge is power.

So this means getting your heads together to share job tips: where a company is hiring, who has a chicken run, what is new and hot , new agencies, and all the paraphenalia: business forum meetings, the gazelle awards, recruitment visits to glasgow...and so on.

It may seem very alien to be doing this...job hunting appears a jealously gaurded occupation. Capital is to a large extent these days dependent on labour not organising itself. ( which means that more labour become capital by starting their own businesses) Being organised means that you will feel the benefits of letting go this selfishness after a short deal of pain. In any case, after June the class will disintegrate into individuality so even the most egocentric has everythign to gain by cooperation.

Now another thing which is key to team work is dividing the tasks up: all these events are not going to be covered by everyone, so a small platoon can go and get the "gen" on each of these.

The final thing about team, for the purpose of this rant, is that a team presents a united front: I have written before that you should get the best CV style you can, and push yourselves forward as strong, leader potential personalities....But this done collectively will make a bigger impact...a strathclyde uni proffessional CV may start to build the class brand, but will also make immediate recognition for qaulity,,,,first step to brandiling

To your own well being too, you will feel better and on a bigger learning curve by being with other people on solving the problem of getting the first post MSc job.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

More on Job Hunting in the Recession

We are in a recession, and no calling it just a credit crunch or liquidity speed bump will make that economic fact go away. Growth is just about to be dealt a huge blow in the EU, with Great Britain in particular slashing public budgets, and with the anticipated atvist-republican swing in both congress and the US senate.

So now you are really up against the wall as a recent graduate of the 2009-10 MSc Marketing at strathclyde, while if you are underway on the 10-11 course then at least you have some time to gather your forces for the post graduation struggle to get on the career ladder.

Enough dwelling on the negative, companies need marketing: so how to get some action job hunting in a recession

1) Find sectors which are growing

2) Find "Gazelle" and "Mini/ Baby Gazelle " companies

3) Follow Entrepreneurs in New Industries

4) Follow any "chicken runs"

In detail

1) Find sectors which are growing

Some sectors are growing faster than the average economy, either in spite of the recession or actually because of the recession. For the former, you can see that environmental products and indeed services such as ISO 14000 or home-energy certifisication are areas with growth. Certain biotech areas, within proteomics for example, are growing strongly. And of course internet marketing is growing having both surpassed traditional "above the line" spend on advertising while also displacing many budgets and even entire companies to this channel. Social media and related monitoring is also growing, as will internet services such as web page call centres, where you get to skype a human or set up a call-me now.

One thing companies in these sectors have is a pile of clever, well qualified candidates who have not only come across them but can demonstrate a real involvement in their market.

Getting more granular then you can not only find sectors, but also individual high growth companiesor high potential start ups. viz

2) Find Gazelle Companies

Gazelles and baby gazelles, are young companies which outperform indexes to a set of economic parameters currently defined by Dun and Bradsteet. Many gazelles are of course in the growth sectors of the economies, or within niches of growth, while others are purely bucking the trend and capturing market share in otherwise languishing sectors.

"Mini" or "Baby" gazelles are those which are small now but could become a gazelle, or conform to high growth but on a smaller scale.

Whether small or larger, these are companies with the most hiring requirement, especially relative to the average well established company in a recession, who are likely to be dropping head-count.

3) Tracking Entrepreneurs As Individuals. Gazelle companies are often started by experienced entrepreneurs, and they are the type to see opportunities during a recession, or those actually CAUSED by the down turn.

This may just be a casual internet tracking, and you discover they have set up something new. Alternatively it may be that they are US based (in particular) and wanting to expand into the EU. On a local scale, say for the West of Scotland, you may want to actually contact some successful entrepreneurs who are marketing oriented. Certainly you should track these people.

Areas which are actually growth opportunities presented by a recession are things like anything which is cheaper on the high street or internet, especially for families, and rented accomodation. Maybe an entrepreneur is starting a new web mediated flat rental company or servicing rented appartments.

A slight extention to this route would be to track successful Venture Capital firms, higher risk investment hot shops or new business incubators to find out who is going to expand, or if they are looking for (cheap) staff.

4) Chicken Runs: Ambulance Chasing. This often afflicts marketing services companies when a group of employees, en masse, get up and leave to either start their own company or follow the leader to a different work place. Also some companies show dire signs of financial death in any sector. There can be an obvious chicken run as middle managers with good CVs move on like rats leaving the maybe sinking ship. Okay, they may go bust but you have a rung on the ladder and a good excuse to call recruitment consultants.

Read about new agencies, new internet developers/marketing companies- where have the people just come from? Or look for news on companies with large marketing departments who are facing very tough times. Usually it is mid management who go first, but most often the public symptom is seeking a new marketing director, as he/she has boo-gerred off before the fertiliser is inducted into the air conditioning..


From the above you will see a common thread: "nimble" companies and people. Even in the last option, the quick brown fox has leapt out of the company leaving space for you.

On the last throw away point, you will be "cheap" most likely in order to get a foot in the door at a high growth company. Once in, don't under sell yourself: if you are asked to take on extra responsibility, then it should come with promotion: if you are asked to work extra hours, then it should come with a pay rise. When I say cheap, not much over minimum wage and maybe a months work practice. If on the other hand, the actually have a solid position then don't offer to sell yourself cheap: just let them stipulate the pay and don't complain if it is going to be valuable experience.

Also as I have said often before, MOVE for the right career step. It need not be London, but even then you may get cheap board with a fellow employee or a relocations package if you are lucky. It is really about finding a growing company which

Public Spending: Too Good For The Poor

Looking over the Atlantic, the US faces a groundswell of right wing, individualistic and gun oriented campaigning which the rather radical, neigh reactionary, so called conservatives are riding with the "tea party".

The tea party smell a little of Thatcherism: a hard line direction to "conservative" activist values and a branded bus to get on if you are serious about governing as a Republican. The movement has a simple appeal: cut taxes to those who have a comfortable life and give more freedom to gun owners.

There are several ironies not lost on we Europeans, firstly that the "Boston Tea Party" was in fact the first act the constant history of north american republican protectionism for the US economy ( read up on it elsewhere; steel, commodities, luxury items and of course weapons. Free market?) while the PR went the way of "freedom" from taxation. Infact the freedom was for the local colonies to tax and defend their control of the american coffee trade against the flooding of the market by cheap tea taxed by the British central administration.

Secondly that public spending is bad, bad and bad .....unless you are of course a republican with interests in anything from health, education, defence ( of course!) or the emerging environmental industries. Spending on you if you happen to be poor, uneducated and worst of all sick, well what country based on any economic values would want to waste hard earned taxes there?

I think we will see a new era of lobbyist politics, where individual bribery will outweight the benefits of a true free market. Entrenched un american activities which seek protectionism and subsidy via this insidious influence will be protected from the hard weather of tax cuts with a gaurantee of free flow of tax payers money to them, secured in the back rooms of Capitol Hill.

A Perspective on Public Spending ...where do the taxes go?

Picking up on health then: The USA has an enormous military budget relative to even population. The vast majority of the capital budget is spent on native suppliers. However at 14% of public spend, it is surpassed by healthcare. But of course this is by in large not government hospitals and generic drugs: this flow of gravy goes on Medicare and Branded drugs, produced predominantly in the USA.

Even many Republicans, those who are probably crazy enough not to take Medicare lobby money, point to the poor deal the state gets in paying private health insurance. A health industry which would be at least less attractive to investors if it did not recieve this scarcely vieled subsidy. Furthermor, the US government invests in R&D and education which benefits the industry by means of subsidy through the education sector....and rightly so, this is one area Strong Governments win on.

Medicare aside, tax cuts to the middle class, not to the poor because the undeducated "working" class will still pay more of their income on state taxes at point of sale, are a good thing to stimulate the economy? Tax cuts run the risk of pointing the spotlight on amongst other spends, medicare, whose lobby groups may not be able to fight a serious round of "reaganomics" now. Also defence!

Now you start to cut into areas which are expected to contribute high margins and growth in standard of living and effectiveness of armed forces:; two qualitaitve curves which have been by in large expect to grow irrespective of political colour in the white house. However, just this week the flagship F35 jet fighter-bomber is delayed and this is undoubtely a result of foreign governments cancelling or delaying orders. The expected economies of scale and payback by volume sales are becoming a stick to beat Macdonald Douglas and the US governmence with.

Health "reforms" may take on a new route then, to negotiating and purchasing medical insurance for public employees on a fair, open and objective premise.

okay, so that is only 30% of the US budget we are talking about cuts in and that is only a third of ...wait a minute, the USAs own governmental web site quote PS proportional to GDP as ....over 40%!

This would seem ripe for cutting. Even to me a believer in the balanced economy of european social democracy we have seen since the early 1990s. Call me a "liberal"? Hey, way far right of where we stand !!

In the UK the book balancing is for earnest: gone now are the military pretentions, and the slashing of the defence budget may bring the UK in line with an average for EU countries at long last.

Dangers in Tax Cuts

Although there are some politico-economic benefits in cutting defence spending, on both sides of the atlantic, tax cuts raise the issue of stifling weak signs of growth, and that in only some sectors.

Growth, the topic of the next blog, is a pre-requisite for confidence to invest money, and hence stimulate the whole value cycle on the stock markets. When money is looking for growing sectos, uncertainty of supply of income to these is one thing which will stifle investment.

The trouble being that growth is expected in single figures in most sectors, ignoring niches, and if a cut in public spending affecting these sectors is made, then the meagre growth may fall into a viscious cycle of stunted growth and poor working capital, slowing investment for expansion and competitive advantage in these firms.

The Thactcher-Reagon Legacy

As in an earlier rant you can say that Reaganomics only actually worked for the US when the democrats came to power, and the same could be said of Thatcherism: It was Blair and Clinton who enjoyed steady growth in the economy, low interest rates and inflation and a lush public spending budget afforded in such a high time as the mid to late nineties. Indeed Lady Thatcher once said in the late 1980s that one of her greatest triumphs was in reforming the Labour party away from the command economy of nationalisation and unionisation.

Here though the USA should practicle what it preaches and fall into a cryptocommunist, "Lobbyist" politics where huge government funds are squandered as in a communist country due to the power that lobbyists exert. The Free Market should prevail rather than lobbying, which infers that weak industries can win over the virile challengers by their political leverage. Lobbying in its' current guise is in fact the very antithesis of the Free Market because the information is hidden, the political interests are not impartial and it suppresses new entrants and freedom of mobility of labour and capital by committing governments to monoliths like MediCare.

What I would call for is firstly a cut in defence spending and a refocusing on home land security in military and in the civil policing too. Secondly a liberalisation of the US health care market, whereby an independent federal purchasing body tenders the requirements out and international players are free to provide both domestic and foreign land mediated health care.An alternative which may become attractive once the market has been freed up for new entrants and international competition, a free market in fact, would be the freedom for state employees to negotiate either individual health plans in this multi-supplier market or organise their purchasing power in associations.

Couple to this the final liberalisation of the US farming industry and the savings in goverment spending and consumer benefits in diversity of wares and prices would have global benefits.

The Washington Tea Party

Now it seems the US likes drinking tea and no longer coffee. Both congress and senate will have leaves instead of beans to fuel their daily grind. They will call on republicans to come with them and throw their perculators, grinders and cappachino cups into the Potamac.

Weak taxation, weak government, weak gun crime control.

Firstly on the economic side, the middle class probably need to feel a dose of raw capitalism, sorry, lobbyism, with lower taxes and slashed public spending. Then they will start to realise just how much of their incomes were linked to indirect public spending and the quality of life for the semi- and un-educated working classes who provide them with labour and services.

The winners in this may well be the skilled working classes, who will be the "nimble" labour, also forming new businesses too as their older middle class employers founder, and being more oriented about being male-mobile: hubby travels long to earn big bucks. They will enjoy higher wages through this and cuts in tax. As we have seen in Europe in the last ten years, it has been the skilled working classes who have enjoyed the greatest rise in standard of living, with some commentators speculating that they now have better home economy on average than the traditional middle classes.

Secondly all the gun touting and intent to kill some internal enemy, perhaps sent by a future democratic party, or the largely peaceful and hardworking indiginous Muslim community, worse, the poor afro-americans and hispanics. All that killing yet no abortion for raped teenagers. And don't expect a welfare cheque Miss Raped Single Mom!

We have seen weak government before: the freedoms that allowed organised criminality to flourish in the pyramid selling of deriviatives levered against the ironically, subsidised sub prime house mortgage sector. It seems that weak private industries in the USA need a fix of subsidy, just as long as little of it ends up with the poor and undeserving........

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Ryan's Daughter: a 2010 critique

David Lean had directed two stylistic epics before he turned his creative powers to a more modest original screenplay, perhaps based upon the novel Madame Bovary. In its' smaller scale human plot, it does present a wonderful and wisely observed story which only a great film director and team could give such gravity to. At the time however, the film failed to create such critical acclaim and public appeal on either side of the Atlantic, despite Robert Mitchum's prescence.

Cinemographic Theme and Contradictions

The opening scenes are very much shot from the perspective of a still photographer. Huge atlantic waves crash against the beautiful south western Irish coast, with the barren islands just of shore giving depth and interest to the otherwise endless sea. There is careful attention to making this place feel far removed from 1970, being almost medieval in the specially created stone village and narrow roads. This place is awe inspiring, yet remote and at the edge of human existance.

This grand scale of the scenery is captured in enigmatic 65mm wide perspective, using fairly wide angled lenses and long depth of field. However, the cinematic theme actually became a criticism of the film because the magnificence of the Irish coastline coupled to the long, slow "takes" demanded by Lean's characteristic screenplay, were interpreted as melodramatic in relation to the claustrophobic human story being played out against such an etherial backdrop.

To me the photography is stunning throughout most of the film and this contrast to the human level of village mentality, very enthralling: from grandoise nature of the coast and turbulent seas, to the petty jealousy and frustrations of living in a small, remote village under foreign power.

Cast and Characters

Sarah Miles gives most probably the very best performance of her career, in her excellent and often subtle and well observed portrayal of the rather spoiled daughter of the local publican, Ryan. Her tragedy is that she is always seeking romance and having married her idol, played by Robert Mitchum, she finds herself drawn to the traumatised British Major, played by a lesser american actor Christopher Jones. Her stunning beauty with reddish auburn hair in the film make for an encapturing "femme fatale" who owns the hearts of the three main male characters in the film: Her husband, the widowed school teacher; the major ; and the village priest who himself displays his affection for her by never condeming her actions beyond what is forgivable.

Miss Miles seems to really engage and breath life into the part as an overly romantic young woman, and it is clear that despite some sublte understatement in many scenes and naturalistic acting, she holds the core of the film as the title should of course demand. ( despite her billing on the final credits being below the main male actors, with Robert Michum leading) Of all the non irish actors, she is maybe the one who masters the SW irish accent the best.o

Mitchum manages to tone his usually heavy prescence down to play the well cultured, benevolent widower and teacher, mastering a role which otherwise could be seen as dreadful mis-casting. That he found it a battle with Lean in delivering his understated performance, is not lost upon us. In the resulting subtleness of his character, he had given a new perspective to his long career as an actor most known for thrillers, war films and westerns.

Picking up on the topic of dialect portrayals again, a quoted weakness of the film, most of the cast struggle and often flounder with the Irish accent. Leo Mckern gives an almost laughable accent in otherwise good portrayal of a central foil in the film, Ryan the publican and father to Rosy, belaying his Australian and west end theatrical roots.

Tim O'Leary is played by "Van der Valk", Barry Foster who's charisma on- and off- screen was sadly lost to us just a few years ago. With a shock of red, curly hair and a passable dialect, he brings a certain intensity as the IRA leader visiting the area to collect weapons. His "dashing hero" portrayal contrasts to the anti-hero we recognise in both the overly modest Shaugnessy and the traumatised Major Doryan.

Robert Mitchum actually does not a bad job with his appointed dialect, and the same can be said of the American actor Christopher jones who plays the British Major newly stationed to the province after losing a leg in WWI. Trevor Howard also adds some gravity to the film with a strong performance as the priest, although his accent fights between Irish, Scot's and even northern English upon occiasion. The priest is the one wise and true man who spans the story as a major weave in the fabric, so we must forgive him his geographically itinerant tongue.

The late Sir John Mills is spared a talking role as the "village idiot": a handicapped man, Michael, who is also a foil to the story. His naieve eyes and wanderings are part of the uncovering of the affair Ryan's daughter conducted with the British Major. Although much criticised later for being an un PC character, for those of us who have worked with mentally handicapped people, Sir John gives a credible interpretation to an important process in the story. Mentally handicapped people often have strong "crushes" on beautiful local women, and see things some would rather turn a blind eye to.

Historical Setting

The film plays out as as a romantic drama with a backdrop of the summer post 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin. At the time of release in 1970, this would have been little palatable in the UK, with the "troubles" coming to a head in Ulster once again as a result of the activities of the Provisional IRA, and the use of British Troops to prevent a civil war between the incumbant "loyalist" and republican followers. ( In 1968, gunmen of the loyalist UVF took positiion on the coal yard at the Shankhill Road to snipe at will upon the largely republican Falls Road and west catholic areas in reprisal to IRA attacks, and this was one of many aggressive actions on both sides of the community which were suppressed by the English and Scottish regiments posted to Ulster)

The republic has enjoyed peace and national rule since the 1920s, and latterly with a by-in-large successful peace process in Ulster, the film can I hope now be seen in a historical context as a cinemographic epic. Perhaps the screenplay had been committed to before the "troubles" arose in Ulster because otherwise it would be obviously difficult for audiences in the UK. The film did take a turbulent, drawn out route in casting, perhaps explaining this, with Marlon Brando being asked to play a leading role. Lean and the producers had the US market clearly in their sights in casting a major US actor, at the risk of alienating audiences in both the UK and Republic of Ireland.


The screenplay involves much about betrayal and with the Ryan fanmily being flawed in both the father's and daughter's weaknesses.

At the centre of the story is Rosy Ryan, the daughter of the title, and her romanticising of love. Upon fulfilling her dream of marrying the obvious intellectual father-figure Shaugnessy the teacher, she loses her passion for him. She is a woman possessed with falling in love and not the reality of being in love.

Her affections soon fall upon a new romantic opportunity, the Major, as a hero-man-child who is in need of rescue from his tormented war experiences and injuries. Thereafter the film plays out the impossibilities presented by this affair in remaining secret and then being made public in an Irish Catholic and staunchly anti british village.

¨That McKern's character, Ryan, betrays the IRA has little credibility, apart from perhaps cowardice infront of the ruling law of English administration and his wish to perhaps redeem himself infront of the local constable. This does lead to an escallation to almost Greek tragedic proportions for the drama. His cowardice arises again later when he fails to incriminate himself for this betrayal and instead allows the mob to take their anger out on his daughter as the alleged traitor. It is a worthy twist in the story, if not fully believable in his motivations to betray both his countrymen and his own daughter.

One element which is still refreshing today is the portrayal of the sex scenes between repesctivley Mitchum, Jones and miss Miles' character, which have a sense of realism from the woman's perspective (I believe, writing as a man! ). Together with tender use of surroundings, the two scenes are made both personal and beautiful. Rosy Ryan both enjoys the fruit of her passions, but also is dissapointed in the consumation of her love in the simple physical act of sex. The simplicity and honesty of these scenes would reach a tender nerve in modern cinema audiences if the film was re-released and would be refreshing in the midst of holywood stereotypical "orgasmic" sex scenes we have had to endure since the 1980s.

Throughout its' long three hours, the film is kept lucent and coherent by Sarah Miles. Without her tenderness and attention to vulnerability in presenting a beautiful, gentle yet flawed character, even the originally cast Marlon Brando could not have carried the film so well to it's tortured conclusion.

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Cinematography and Atmosphere

Back to the overall feel of the film and a technical appraisal. The rapid changing weather is captured both with subtle exposure and often long depth of field, suggesting use of a split camera objetive to allow for both close and very distant scenes to be in focus.

The coastal scenes are the signature of the film with the moist Atlantic air giving a softness to the overall depth of field. Indoor scenes are shot with attention to capturing a realistic lighting, something Lean must have demanded of his camera men in all conditions.

The one scene which has been iconographic for the film, is the imaginary beach promenade infront of Robert Mithcum's eyes as he sees his wife and the Major in their finery on a romantic arm in arm tour to along the beautiful beach. The dreamy over-exposure and vivid colours are perfect for the scene.

The capturing of the atlantic storm in poor light is of particular technical noteworthyness and in terms of what must have been pure perciverance of the crew and cast.

One weak point in final packaging of the film is the brass and piano score which is very dated now and probably even a little inappropriate in 1970.

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Today this film makes a very watchable, if long excursion into David Lean's career and in some ways it has survived the passage of time and film reels better than the overly romaticised screenplays and acting of Mssr.s O'Toole and Shariff in "Dr.Shivago" and "Lawrence of Arabia".

"Ryan's Daughter" is an atmospheric and enchanting film with both a plot and acting which feel contempory, while having also a matchless, classic and etherial cinematographic splendour created by Lean's eye.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Facing the FaceBook

I look forward to seeing the film, "the social network" and I suppose it will be something to get clicky on Facebook about.

Not that I am a social network addict: okay I am a forum and blog addict which puts me in a minor league, with most likley just crawlers reading most of my hits. FB I can kind of take or leave and right now I am going through FB fatigue, although that is not as from any huge overdosing on it-. just boredom. I actually delete people from FB and keep my friends numbers to under 50. There are still a couple of people I would like to connect to, God excluded, and some I should maybe connect to, but I am pretty determined to keep to under 50, at least as my private profile goes. Maybe DF will develope his own profile, alter ego as he is.

(links to founders) The founders were, or have become, somewhat shy types who started the whole concept as a beauty rating project: very peri pubescent of them too. However, they soon saw the social value of a simple "face" on the internet with connections round Harvard and later of course, were lucky to ride the storm and catch the money wave.

As I wrote in my last ranting blogg, I am more interested in the beast than we fleas upon its' back. Or rather how we fleas feeding on the blood of the social network, organised to join up.

The beast itself holds some fascination for me, in its quintessential simplicity. It looks like any live content portal I would have worked on in y2000-2001: Conservative, text and thumbnail based. Simple, clear, familiar, and stable. The simplicity lies in "getting it" quickly,what it does for your wild social betworking imagination proposes to you, more on that soon. But the latter two are pretty important: it is familiar, like the php/cgi/cfm pages I'm thinking about. It has levels of permissions, like the extranets I designed a decade ago. You have to join to get in, and you have to be a good little boy once in.

So it is a familliar and therefore safe environment, and unlike many other predecessors, has no half-hidden agenda of fleecing you to make further progress in your sociableness. The stability is vital to this feeling of security. FB evolves very slowly and is currently no doubt have an internal security review after the spate of FB virus, spy-ware and spam "apps" which have plagued us like chain letters did in the 1970s.

Well, well. FB fatigue: I am a little bored, perhaps I got my personal branding wrong and don't have a little band of the cleveries with good reparte. I just find it a bit static, and fully expect a merger and take over YT-FB! Video with video replies, limited tweet wise to 4 Mb or the like.

So there it is, a totally unstructred, short rant for the evening. But what will become of FB, what is the next move? WIll there arise a new beast from the east or something else capture our imagination? What FB could do, in the mind of DF, will be the topic of a forthcoming rant.

How to Howcast ?


This is a new take on YouTube: or rather a new look opportunity for commentators on the internet and marketing to look back at the Mp4 Mpeg explosion on the internet.

So what is the core offering of to the consumer?

Basically web film makers (who are they?) put up MP4s video clips of "How To" do erm, "stuff" as the Yanks would say. So far, recipies and conversely, diets have been on the play list ticker-tape at the top of the page. ( Sorry, a side scrolling preview panel!) . Different to Youtube? yep, it is only for how to do stuff videos, and the etiquette for the format of content is to do things stepwise, both in the mpeg. Nothing really new ?

Perspective from The Ancient Archives of the Web

When we first heard about Mp4 a decade ago, what was exciting to me was the embedded database information, which meant that videos could be searched by keyword, and other data. This meant you could search a database of films or perhaps fast forward to the part you wanted, maybe the "money shot" eh?

A decade ago all the elements were well and truly in place for YouTube and there were various prototype social networking sites, recognisable as the blogs and Facebook of today. You could say the internet by-in-large is a social network. It would be interesting to see how much www traffic is free-time related: this would need a measure of Mb, page hits and interactions.

Why was there then such a lag until Facebook and YouTube came to the market?

Well they weren't first on the market by any means. More the market coincided with the two entities. People were bored with spam from googling and the sporadic special interest sites, or pay-for-connection social networks like "friends re-united". People wanted something trustworthy, simple, connected to both their friends and special interests and there with scalable. Most of all they wanted it to be free! When I say free, not only void of fees, but with advertising and spam at a low leve, and relevant to their interests.

In other words, people were looking for brands to match their percieved need for a social network, and a place with enough searchabel video content that they could rely on finding something interesting for their gnat like attention spans ( generation X and i- are not alone in this though- the old greys also have a pretty short patience for something playing on a 15" screen with bad sound and bumpy streaming!)

Now they have the two biggies in terms of bandwidth, consumer involvement and rich content.

Why Did FB and YT become so Big so Quick?

FB and YT were in the right place at the right time, and could grow by their very nature of connectivity, snowballing out as people first e-mailed links and invitations to each other and later tweeted, sms-ed or sent direct invites from FB in particular.

Also of course the two sites had the branding and the runway was clear for easy hits on Google and Yahoo ( hey where is Alta Vista these days? My favourite 1995-1998!)

Also an important perspective was that FB and YT came with their own ready baked early adopters and lead influencers: given FB started in Harvard, there was one social echelon which were both the early adpoters on insett, and also lead influencers. As "the face book" was released it spread through business student networks and into the parents of the Harvard crowd, the siblings, the non Ivy league pals and so on. Wider than the initial, and it must be said, established small social networks which were now connected, just about every company in the world had a little group of early adopters: IT and Web people. Then of course the media "luvvies" got into it and celebrities wanted to start getting scores on the doors. Big hit clips on YT and "n>400" friends on FB.

Now the only thing the two needed was enough banne-ad'-click -through revenue to support the server banks and international load balancing across their incoming land lines.

Why are there not More FBs and YTs?

Well that is answered in a self fulfilling spiral from the last point on economics. When consumer sites go big on the internet, they are massive. The nuclear chain reaction is fuelled by the social connectivity and user definable choice of content and sub channels ( groups, brands, likes, playlists and so on, the sub channels or internal clusters). The obvious snowballing in herent in FB meant that the chain-reaction was optimised once, as in the atom bomb, the material reached a critical mass. In fact, once started I think it would have been impossible to stop FB because if anyone had t4ied in say 2008, then someone else would have bought them out. It was just too good a concept and channel to stop. Being able to see friends-of-friends and either complete your current social circle on the net, grow it outwards or locate old friends, aquaintances or which ever celebrity you want to try ensured explosive growth once x% of internet users 14 to 40 years old were on. It would be interesting to know what x was! How much ure-cranium it too

The second of the two factors makes the brands "super sticky" for us: we find that we not only have immediate content we like or social contacts we know, but we can control what we see and explore areas we are interested in. It is not the channel which controls our viewingl. The channels are suprisingly passive, and well, that should not be so suprising.

Other sites like the temporary shooting star, "friends re-united", had annoying features and some lead to outright spamming as they sold out their members e-mail addresses and on site experience to the highest space bidder: either on the point of , or in fact the very cause of their implosion. Like a newspaper, we flick through things and choose what we browse for longer time, we do not appreciate restrictions on access or forced-view advertising content.

All the ingredients for FB were there from the very birth of the www, or even in the newsgroups of the older IP world on the internet. Groups, as discussed in an earlier blogs, by in large were absorbed into Google and Yahoo and became very stale: the problem was they remained special interest and not a portal to a wider yet also personal connectivity.

Portals and Channels

Twelve years ago in 1998, channels and portals were the next big thing on the internet, which did not get big , yet. Web rings were just dying out ( a little button which lead you to a "Jump station" indexing the sites on the ring, or to the next site on the chain, or to a random site within the ring) . Now everythign has come full circle: we go in social and interest rings and web sites want to connect us togetehr with a button to FB. Previously we sent links by e.mail and ICQd , now we micro blog in tweets and FB posts. Previously we toroturously sent round mpegs in e-posts, now we post links to YT on FB.

A decade ago "portals" started to go wrong because they were structure heavy and networking poor. Indexing was usually poor or actually not useable, even with good Atomz or google internal searches. The portals were push media devised by media owners from an earlier education and IT people from the six-levels-of-structural layers. They were push and not consumer-pull. The corporate, academic and quango portals in particular, grew navel-gazing side alleys and meaningless "intra.extranets" .

Channels became buttons which we soon grew bored of, because they were, ah-hem corporate portals. Stodgey and impersonal.

Everything was there for FB and YT and Twitter, but the WILL of those with cash to invest was not in tune with our WILL on the internet: a free and ever expanding source of knowledge, entertainment and social contact driven by our own curiousity and human wishes.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

On Being an Entrepreneur

The first thing about taking the decision to become an entrepreneur is......making the decision to become an entrepreneur :

" I Will Start a Business........ .......from thin air"

The next thing is to learn to ignore all the people who say "No" and turn you away: if there are people who must be persuaded or you really, really want on board for money, legal permissions, expertise etc, then gather enough people to go with you who say "yes" and ambush them.

Have you the "Right Stuff"?

Well if you have come past the first two hurdles, you have developed the perceiverance and bloody-mindedness to get on in life. Sucking up never got people all that far.

Worried about having the right psychographic profile? As a pal of mine once said, "You can't drive round town in a personality profile" when told of his suitability for a sales job which only lacked a company car.......

In other words, forget the profile. I have met small and large business entrepreneurs and many of them are not really very nice, some of them are real charmers on the other hand, while some could be described as somewhat self centred and introverted.

Organise "Yes People" Around You

What they have in common is they are quite good at weeding out people who don't say" Yes sir, no sir, three bags full sir" and keeping just a few advisers in the background to tell them things they might not like to hear.

Another thing they have is a vision of fulfilling something good for the customer: not necessarily unique! It could be a little cheaper, more amenable, understandable, trustable ....a lot of immaterial stuff as well as some kind of ability to pay everyone less for a long time while the business grows....not always the case but often, entrepreneurs pay less than the going rate when ever they can.



This is what the novacaine driven MBA set are really up to: getting the confidence of other people and then their money, to use in business and take a cut.

However the MBA crowd have had since the mid nineteen eighties to get it right in western countries, and come up with.......make it in China if it isn't military or healthcare, and if the latter two, grab your money from the tax payer by employing lobby firms to get more than the fair GM.

Now western economies are bored with the MBA crowd and are looking for masters-of-entrepreneurial studies and general those mad enough to "start a business from thin air". So as an entrepreneur you will be the one hunting OPM...and eventually MBA suckers to expand your business.

If you are smart, you will realise immediately than MBA guys are "No" people: in that "no, I know better" and furthermore, they will steal your concept or bail on you as soon as things get tough and their fees dry up.

Good news though, OPM wants you! Western economies need a higher business birth and expansion rate, and they need both the "facebooks" and "nikes" as well as the company which may never be more than a handful of employees.

OPM seeks young single, GSOH

Money has no shortage of 5% returns on investment, even in the current on going recession, er sorry, credit crunch. No it's a recession. What money always wants is a compound ROI of 19% per annum over 3 years. Money doesn't unfortunetly dare to go in too early, the little boat rowers are your first bet.

This is soft capital by many accounts if you are not self funding a start-up.

Now comes in my critique of the western system and the economic cycle: depsite the unpalatable nature of the Sub Prime Pyramid, it was just a symptom -probabky- of the end of a value cycle.

There are many economists who can explain this better than me, but basically all the chains of promises of delivtering growth and utilising investment run dry. In other words, companies do not make the profits they stated to "the street" and brokers sneeze, investors catch cold and eventually pneumonia if it gets worse.

Now the economies of the west need the new nippers who can be light on their feet around the dinosaurs from the 1980s and before. Nimble.

That is what you also need to be: hard nosed, but able to bail out or take a sudden new and better opportunity. Alternatively, able to react to change, "breath" as the company grows, cutting back when needed, and then expand quickly with initially termporary employees, premises and funding.

Like the soudn of it?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Peronality Tests

I did a very strange thing the other day apparently without realising at the time how abberant my actions were.

I went through a statement -scale agreement response personality test and answered everything with complete honesty.

The situation was not directly position related and I had no one to impress. I had neither nervousness nor excitement.

Now before in life as a job candidate I had both nerves and excitement and a deal of performance angst. I felt often very driven to have come so long in an interview process as to have the DISC test applied to me.

In the recent test, the most comprehensive I have had, I was relaxed and interested in exploring how extreme or non chalant my actual feeling based reactions would be.

I answered by in large also in the middle ground, "slightly agree" and the other side with only a very few what I would consider outlyers.

How I scored: well a hell of a lot more self centered and unstable than you would hear from any of my references and family. In fact I scored as down right antisocial, with no real need for much human contact in the work place, and recommended to take up laboratory work. Very far from the truth.

However, the extremes of the scale, are not actually that extreme and do not represent outlyers in the population.

Not Alone in Being a Psychographic A-Hole

Some years ago Scottish Enterprise decided that the country need to identify the "right stuff" which highly successful entrpreneurs had: people like Tom Farmer and Michelle Mone. Now they tested several successful, self made business people with some kind of "instrument", quite possibly like the NEO PI-R, and unfortuntely, Scottish Enterprise would have rather kept the results to themselves. What they uncovered, as was leaked later, was that many top Scottish ( and I presume no difference on an international basis) entrepreneurs were really quite unsavoury types: egocentric, aggressive, insecure, narcissitic....the leak went on but was PR dammage limited.

Basically they couldn't really go out and advetise for "WANTED Ruthless, self centred - control freaks to lead the Scottish Economic Revolution", which in all truth of the light of the profiles, may well have been the end result of being honest in marketing comms for a change!

The point being that these self made millionaires have nothing to lose in answering honestly. You see where I am going with this....

Understanding How Personality Tests Work

Even since times of the Greeks, personality traits have been grouped into four or five major categories, and the in ancient Athens people would be described by their predominant, expressed or percieed trait as one of four: Phlegmatic, Choleric, Sanguine or Melancholic.

Now in modern times psychologists have been able to organise "instruments" to measure the key personality trait categories: These have been by in large built from studying in detail a small group of diverse people to describe many aspects of their personality-. From these the "instrument" : a list of statements, questions or adjectives and measuring how they then answer to these. The tools are then condensed into less than 250 statements and later they have been compressed even lower to aroudn 60-70 as the key capture mechanism for job interview scenarios.

Often the original study group demonstrated strong traits or abnormal, even psychotic personality disorders. Hence the intial results were highly polar. Further candidates with a range of normal, definable personalities : most likely students and residents in the cities the Universities or institutions reside in.

Once the tools then were validated on this well characterised set of personalities, then it could be used to gather a normal distribution of answers from the population as a whole. Thus an average score within each of the categories coudl be produced, and therefore the original scores compared to this. The tool's wider validity could be estabished or fine tuned for results with averages which did not concur with normal or abnormal score-profiles.

What does this mean for me??

It means you are compared to how Mr Average responds : now in fact Mr Average does not respond in the middle scores to everything. Also if you take the profiling overall, there is not an average distribution of people between each of the five traits.

This also varies by nation, and probably region and of course sub culture especially religious groups. For national markets at least, a new normalised set of respondents must be taken through the test to produce the base lines.

How boring is Mr Average? The Problem with Self Projection

Well in fact Mr Average is quite a nice guy : according to him or miss average's self image.

There in lies the whole problem when you apply these tests to the whole population in a job seeking or even laborotory condition. The rose tinted mirror, the ideal self starts to poke out.

People lie. they fib about how nice or assertive or clever they are by choosing adjectives or interval-scale answers which they know will paint them in the light they would like to be seen in.

Two retorts I hear

1) >There are lie detectors in these tests
2) > The averaging out by sheer volume will mean the outliers are still easy to spot

To answer to one; yes, there are both lie detectors and measures for inconsistency leading to void profiles, but in general you will not activate these by just answering a little bitty rose tinted.

Averaging out by volume:

So if you are in a kind of laid back state of mind, beware: you may start to lie far enough away from Mr Average you may end up being on the verge of a neurotic unemployable: or worse, a reclusive psychopath.

People who read these are trained to look for deviation from mean and the pattern.

WHat is interesting to me is how the different patterns plot across the averages. This is a very shakey area of statistics because you cannot take an average of averages. You can though look at the conjoint analysis or adherence between different personality types and how categories of profiles behave around the different individual point averages.

My point to summarise is that it is easy to deviate from Mr Nice with his rose tinted windows, and your own truthful response will start to be an outlyer, beyond the usual response mean.

Hey! Be nice out there.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

1979 and 2009...Thatcher to Cameron


There are some parallels to be drawn between the period 1978 to 1980, and 2008 to 2010 when looking at both the US and the UK political and economic environments. Both have seen changes in political direction, although possibly divergent as they stand today, but also and both are periods of serious economic crisis.

Comparisons between the two economies per se are some what meaningless. The UK could be geographically absorbed into most US states and the size of the economy has been compared to Florida and California. However it is more in parallell ideologies and international leadership in fiscal policy and public investment which are of noteworthy discussion.

Many economists ( ref.2,3,4) agree that in fact the Reagonomics and Thatcherite years did not, within their terms, achieve the fiscal and full ideological goals of balancing the budget and reducing both the PSBR and the state budget / GDP gearing.

However what both regimes were able to very firmly achieve was a change in attitudes, without which the "neo neoliberal liberals" namely Messrs Clinton and Blair, could not have enjoyed both sustained economic growth, balanced annual budgets and taxation effective policies. The main difference being that this lead to sustainable increases in public spending for the Democratic and Labour governments of the 1990s..

.......As the Actor Said to The Grocer's Daughter...

Thatcher and Reagan were both from relatively naive political backgrounds, which was in fact a help rather than a hindrance. Thatcher was brought up above a Grocers store in Lincolnshire, becoming a university educated Chemist and went on to view fiscal policy very much in terms of the whole country being run like a small business and policies being treated like hypothesis based on current scientific fact.

Ronald Reagan had been a would-be-star in Hollywood and even when rising to office as governor of California, showed often naive political judgement. (ref..)

This naivity was however, not at all at odds to a ground swell of economists who came to be known as the "liberal economists" and their immediate afterfolllowers, arguably, the neoliberals. They too agreed fundamentally that the books had to be balanced.

Furthermore the economists were very much of the view that the rate of inflation in public services had to be halted. There was in the 1970s an expectation in the populous and those working in public service, that public service provision would continue to grow, in order to enjoy incremental investment and operational budgets. Over allever better services would both contribute to, and match the better-expected-living standards based upon perceived need and not sustainabe budget.

The New Right's Legacy for the New Left

The Clinton and Blair governments inherited a political and fiscal environment where economic growth could be stimulated while public spending could both grow, and be paid for by near-time tax revenues, and not long term borrowing.

Gone also was the left wing's punative view on the rich. Instead the nouveau rich of the entrepreneurial classes and the entertainment and sports "industries" were welcomed by both Clinton and Blair in the new vision of meritocracy and righteous social democracy. No longer would the super rich and general self employed be taxed punitively, but rather tax revenues would be optimised by making it attractive to live, invest and run businesses in the UK and US.

First Terms With Backward Effects

The first terms for both Thatcher and Reagan were on the balance sheet, not good. The cuts in public spending in the general services area actually contributed to low growth as government employment was reduced and wage claims curtailed. Also liberlisation of corporate law made it easier for companies in the UK to disinvest or realise liquidation of their assets as the only growth in share holder investment. Privatisation also lead to job cuts in the short term.

The first term of Margaret Thatcher lead in fact to higher public spending and GDP gearing because of the large rise in unemployment ( benefits being payed by the state, and resulting loss in taxation) and the Falklands War. Reagan achieved little of the hoped for tax cuts and cuts in real terms to public spending, due to the same reasons perhaps:unemployment and defence.

What these two first terms did achieve was to releive the inertia of the slow, crisis filled and recessionary 1970s with respect to public spending as well as business investment, growth and birth-rate of new enterprises. Both governments foundered yet managed in political momentum to hold the electorate who continued to want a move away from the stagflation of the late 70s.

One alarming parallel to draw today to the conservative-libdem government in the UK and the potentially righ wing senate and congress swing in the US, is that cuts in public spending lead to slower growth.

Cuts in taxes were popular, but in the UK the "Tories" put in place a large rise in VAT in 1979-80, which in fact is a proportionately far higher tax on the poorest in society as it taxed all VATable items of food, clothing etc at 15% up from the base of 8%. If this had been enacted in a growing economy, it would have inevitably lead to inflationary pressures in both margin-fulcrum effects on traded items and wage demands due to the increased cost of living.

The Cold War Defrosts

In retrospect one area of puzzeling ideology both Reagan and Thatcher held to was a large defence budget, as a far higher proportion of GDP than most western economies ( this is however, weighted by the post WWII withstraints on the key German and Japanese economies).

Ideologically, they had the "Great Bear", the USSR and despite a fairly stable period of cold war post Vietnam, ageing nuclear weaponry and delivery systems meant the Russians had a possible advantage in having the SS20 mobile missile systems, making it virtually impossible to either react to strategic targets ( launch sites) or pre-emptively strike them.

One response was the multiwarhead, longer distance Trident Missile system. The other, which was not nearly as far fetched as the name it gained suggests, was an close-orbit defence satellite system which could identify launched ICBMs and destroy them in the upper atmosphere: Reagan's "star wars".

It took more than a decade for both these systems, Trident as a detterent in the UK and an effective "star wars" technology, to actually come to fruition: and of course by 1992 these systems were really obsolete or of little strategic importance due to the collapse of the USSR . However, star wars did precipitate the initial fall of the soviet ICBM dominance and the credibility of their economic investment in the military, possibly tipping the of the politbureaux into the folly of their brand of totalitarianism.

Boom and Bust

It was really the mid eighties liberisation of capital markets at "big bang" in the UK and following connectivity of capital markets by the use of IT which stimulated the huge investments in western economies, and possibly over investment and later crash of Asian capital markets. Further to this, consumer credit was liberilsed beyond inflationary sensible parameters in the UK ( ref need to support any such claim for the usa 1984-89)

I dare say that you could track the number of people reaching their credit limits and not being able to make payments with the decline in captial markets in the late 80s: this tipping effect from consumer spending and irresponsible debt has reared its' head again with the subprime market ( "white trash bring down all the great empires" )

Inflation headed back up into double figures, with interest rates matching suit and the finance markets crashed and did not fully recover after Black Monday, the first major "correction" to the newly liberalised capital markets.

House reposessions and personal bankruptcies ran high in the UK, although the tories were maybe quite right in their view point on the "nanny state" when it regarded personal investment, debt and home ownership. This would be the first "attitude correction" perhaps in the new right's view, in other words individuals should take and make responsible decisions over their budgets.

Certainly the boom and bust was remembered by voters after the lack lustre Bush I and Major governments failed to cure the ills, with multiple terms and larger influence for the left on both sides of the atlantic being the result at the ballot box.

The Neo-Neo Liberals Take the Helm: Enter Clinton and Blair

As with the implementation of strategic defence strategies, once again it took the Clinton administration of 1993-97 to actually put into place the balancing of government budgets which 12 years of Reagan and "George H" could not. Similarily in the UK, the PSBR and GDP/Spend gearing was only finally achieved under Blair. Both state leaders resided over the longest period of sustained economic growth since world war II. ( 4)

This however in many commentators view was not just the result of a fortuitous inheritence. The two governments were able to present cohesive internal party politics and secure broad support across a spectrum of govermental ( sivil service), public service ( like the NHS and many Quangos), trade unions and economic actors in both international government, capital finance and captains of industry.

Further to this, when both leaders took over in the 1990s they were able to plan for optimised tax efficiency, meaning that both the private economy could enjoy growth driven by tax, legislative and fiscal environments. Public spending could once again grow with the aim of delivering enhanced and more efficient services, which also fuelled economic growth.

Low inflation, and in post war terms, super low inflation of below 3% became the fiscal goal of governments and this was driven by increased competition in the ever more enterprising economies. How two left wing governments, despite having moved to right of centre on monetary policy, managed to achieve such low inflation and interest rates is a mystery to the writer here.

The balancing act of low interest rates from central banks to encourage investment in the real economy could, and later into the 00s indeed did, lead to increased inflation. Lower bank interest rates released working capital through cost effective loans for both small and larger businesses while also making investing in governmental bonds and just savings accounts, far less attractive for private investors. Capital markets would need to also secure higher ROI from the real economy and deriviatives markets, where in both cases, value multiplicaiton could be acheived at a far better ROI than those investments linked to base interest rate.

A Bleak Future for the Neo-neo Liberal Right

The new right face a bleak future once they come to power with their proposed raft of tax cuts.


Western economies were already failing to deliver ROI when the internet bubble burst in 2000/ 2001. There after higher ROI was sought in what I call the "funny money" markets: deriviatives and investment mechanisms geared around at the base, consumer debt. It is somewhat Ironic that the speculators chose to focus their efforts in maximising ROI on what in the USA was in fact a US governmental subsidised initiative for poorer families to buy their homes: The sub prime market was invented, and the whole house-of-cards built around this con trick has lead to the near total collapse of the capitalist investment system.

Fundamentally, an economy must multiply value at several levels: private business must add value from raw materials and peopl'es manhours in rendering these higher value or providing services at a profit. SInce the internet bubble burst, and the far east finance crisis became a long lasting syndrome, westernised economies havve failed to add fundamental value and have instead imported from China.; but bluntly, the chinese are the ones taking the fundamental value multiplication.

Intellectual property is the mantra of the west: we do the clever stuff, and the Chinese will make it. However add the costs of intellectualism to the costs of the supply chain and then divide by increased competition and a low cost base for actual production of something which does not need you patented widget to work as well, and you start to disappoint "the street" on your ROI and profit warnings.

The service economy is of little help in saving this situation of low growth and reduced margins in the product economy. The service economy is in my opinion, fully dependent on two factors: value multiplication in the product economy and consumer spending power from the employees in the public sector. Take the pre 2010 medicare situation in the USA: it is completely dependent on the US police, sivil service and other employees to be able to survive financially. Why choose healthcare, that is just for sick people right? Health care is a large proportion of GDP in western countries with the new sicknesses which take longer to kill us than the old. Smoking, bad diet, lack of exercise and stress mainly from trying to get ROI for your stake holders.


What Blair and Clinton enjoyed economically and politically will be looked back upon as a golden time for both businesses and the public sector. In these years prudent fiscal management and revenue effectvie structuring of personal and corporate taxation meant that the public sector could further boost growth in the economy while intending to support a higher standard of living delivered to the electorate.

What the legacy of this vision of continual improvement of public services, and the freedom allowed the capital markets has lead to is the largest crisis since the 1930s. The gamblers on Wall Street were not the only boys in the casino in the mid 2000s: that governments continued to service wars in areas of little political gain, and had expanding public services now needing PSBR, has well and truly dumped the next rack of right wingers who will promise to do what Reagan and Thatcher did in 1979, and probably end up doing as badly as their well known predecessors.


(1) - (3) TBC

(4) Fiscal policy convergence from Reagan to Blair: the left veers right

Av Ravi K. Roy,Arthur Denzau

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Like an iPod, only Paddier

By the time Apple launched their tablet product, just about the only surprises were the name..... and the lack of USB ports.

Mr.Jobs closed the circuit in two respects here- firstly the pundits were betting on iSlate or iTab(let) as front runners, amongst a couple of other names: you can run the stats month by month on google advanced. However the second closed circuit I refer to was the channel and platform. What are the implications of a channel ( iStore) oriented web-book running a low-performance operating system?

Hype for an Underpowered Netbook?

Now we are getting a lot of hype about the iPad here in Norway, with its launch only a few weeks away to the local retailers. However, an astonishing 30, 000 have winged their way here already: mainly bought abroad by iPhone addicts, apple employees, app-developers and the largest group perhaps are journalists. That number is astonishing because it is nearly 1 % of the population BEFORE marketing actually have an iPad here.

Why are Journalists so Interested?

The traditional news media and publishing houses, finally see a controllable channel which will provide them with closed loop marketing and little copyright infringement: no more cut-n paste, no more hollow promises of XML, RSS feeds and syndicated news based on evapourating and thin ad' revenues. Apple hope to make a good take from the media houses and publishers through the iStore. At last, they have a socially acceptable and a corporate-brand-able channel button: the iPad "App" as a closed-circuit media delivery environment.

I hear the whining cry of superiority from the nerds in Linux, C++ and java land: it isn't as good, lacks the power, lacks the potential for developers, lacks the freedom.....well people trust those f##¤%ing litte app buttons on their iPhone to do something reliable and good for them...they will even pay a little for something that maybe could otherwise be free......if they can trust it.....that my whiny little geeko, is branding.

Wait up though: now the cat is well and truly out of the bag, with quite imodest goals! World media dominance no less?? Replacing the paper cover price with pay-to-read internet. News will no longer be free. Windows 7 / IE users will be teased over to the platform : "read the full story on your iPad". But can Apple repeat the iTunes success now with written media?

Jobs and Murdoch: Bid for World Dominance of the Written Word?

iTunes kind of crept up on us all: there were many sources for MP3 sales on the internet and the whole Napster thing: but iTunes brought branding for the music sector firmly back on the internet: a trusted source of qaulity product at a reasonable price, if you exclude the over priced iPod range itself! Perhaps the competition never got the critical mass they needed to be a serious threat to iTunes, but let's face it, when Spotify and maybe a major US player go on line in north America with on demand streaming, then were will iTunes stand?

Back from the tangent on music: the traditional print media are queing up - allegedly - to get in on this channel, direct to the shiny new pad on your lap. iStore will deliver closed loop apps But so will other channel players who will want to access millions already on mobile and windows devices. I think we will see more developed closed loop, non copyable user interfaces to pay-for published material running on a new type of browser and only exisitng in the clouds at MS and google.

Tablet, shortbread, palm oil?

But what about convergence mobile to data? Will HTC bring out something half way to a tablet: I mean their HD2 is huge, almost palm pilot size.

I mention good old Bill Gates and his almost fully functioning OS's. Perhaps android running on a linux background will threaten MS enough in the explosive tablet sector that Mr Gates will really pull out the stops and make a scaleable compact windows 7 or CE v8.0.

Missed Opportunities for Apple

Personally I think Apple should have gone for a hand held. Bigger than the iPod Touch but still pocket sized, or at least handbag or laptop side pocket sized. Remember the Apple Newton anyone? Not a bad product, ahead of its time, not at all profitable.

I guess we may see such a 2010s product from Apple but more serious contenders to the Pad GUI in palm size will be appearing at a hastened rate now: Android is going where microsoft CE failed, but I dare say Mr Gates will be pushing small and mid platform perfection for mobile telecoms and palm type machines.

2011 will be the year of the tablet, hand-and-lap-sized, and I can see why: touch screen has become normalised with you and I. Virtual keyboards are even PREFFERED by many punters

Missed Photo Opportunity

Where Apple have missed a trick is in providing a serious workhorse for Photoshop and their own image manipulation software. There are mobile versions of PS now, and an iPhone app but let us see this on a tablet! Why? well it will revolutionise how we handle pictures to becoming a far more immediate and tactile user controlled experience, leveraging Apples qualities as an image platform.

The iPad is not really powerful enough for running full PS, Corel or Gimp: it is less able than the average netbook. That is a major criticism of the product: you get a big iPod touch, only paddier.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

A Short History of Consumer-Generated-Media


Social Media, aka Consumer Generated Media: the latter is preferable to the author in context of marketing.

Social - people being erm, sociable, erm.... people communicating in an unofficial atmosphere

Media - The king of Medes and his Persian enemies predate even the use of the word in latin to describe the written capture surface, the network and the nodes there upon. In his case the papyrus letters, the couriers and the writers and recipients of politcal information and commands.

Social Media is definable by to necessary conditions : distrubtion via a network and dialogue.

In other words, if a blogger bloggs and no one reads it, did they ever really write it?

A Brief History of Social Media

When was the first network available for dialogue? Depends what you see as a network: when was the first electronic network available to enable social media to happen?

According to some commentators, you can trace social media back to the early days of interlopers on the phone network and modem based systems: the phone phreaks and the hackers.

However, if you think about it the very first illicit social media e-comms go way back before then: to the first telegraph operators and Marconni's transatlantic preambles. The official version will be the press release and "only for serious communications" but you can bet these guys along the "railroads" tapped out " hey , how are the wife and kids doing?" in 1845.

There are of course some more alley ways and oddities, like ICQ and messenger, which relate to tweeting today and you can read more on great blogs like this link. Here I give a pretty personal account, your honour, of my honest experiences with Social Media and monitoring there of.

Growing Up WIth Social Media

I can actually say that I have matured alongside social media: back as far as doing a bit of phone phreaking myself in 1986, and seeing my first green-screen e-mail in 1988.

The first sign for me that social media had arrived was when I worked in an early University internet department, mainly dealing with the intranet as it was even called back then. Newsgroups by then were well established, and had predated the www and even internet protocol per se.

Newsgroups were a special area accessible by early e-mail clients like GOPHER and the early Netscape. Despite their unglamerous text based appearance, they were really the most interesting area available through the new browsers to many like me: they were REAL people expressing opinions from around the globe.

For me, these newsgroups encompass all that we would recognise as social media today: discussion, micro blog alerts ( the twitter "glue spots" as I call them), closed or open social contact networks and blogging.

Newsgroups quickly went http/www and became franchised into yahoo who maybe even dominated a while, some other independent http and POP mail providers and then google groups which is maybe the most active today with perhaps the longest living newsgroups surviving in this media.

Bulletins and Jumpers

With http, and it's predecessors from dial up modem days ( one at a time user postings and readings), another type of media surface appeared; the bulletin board and a closely related species, the jump station. The subtle difference from newsgroups was maybe anonymity or lack of e-mail alerts : bulletins were organised like web pages or even forums of today, and gave useful updates or just chatter. Jump stations gave firstly address and telefon numbers to other "communities" and then later www. links. In a way they were like search engines and today you can compare jump stations to Twitter and people posting links in FaceBook.

Newsgroups evolved fully into the forum with threaded and embedded discussion, just as newsgroups had in 1992. Also they mostly still retain e-mail alerts which was ther back in 1995 at least.

The Birth of Social Media Monitoring

Certainly by the time I was working with web sites in all earnest, we had started to pay good attention to forums. I would have at a guess that the FBI were pretty interested in Phone Phreaks. Probably the CIA and KGB were looking into the quirky little communications programmers on the early military and governmental networks made: maybe even tolerating them in order to give themselves some more work to do, or even placing double agents in the loops.

In 1998 I was required to look into a forum and newsgroup the company I worked for had just taken over the DNS address for and advertising revenue. We took pretty good care to walk the legal line then; don't get caught interfering with social media as a host! As soon as you started policing the forums, you took a responsibility to continue doing this. Legal precedents were still in their early days, some lawyers would argue no doubt that this is still and inconclusive area steered by purely case law and libel. Forum rules were to be self policed as has been the standard means of keeping ISPs and hosting companies out of jail ever since.

Anyway, we monitored the forum and reported back to our clients, the advertisers and some other trad' media ones on what people were saying about them. This was done purely on a verbal basis as far as I was concerned.

We also had an internal use only, atomz search engine IIRC, and I guess we could well have started doing stats on brand name hits, certainly we did manual sentiment rating on threads and brands! By 2000 we were delivering crisis management reports and closing forums if anything went out of hand. Redevelopment or loss of original data were the publicised excuses for pulling contentious and libelous issues.

So really there is nothing all that new in social media or spying on SM, it by in large has been done before.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Social Media Watchers

I was reminded on the danger of over-analytics when I visited a forum myself recently.

My favourite camera manufacturer is going to focus, punnily enough, on smaller cameras and put a hold on new R&D in their older, larger lens system. This has resulted in a hole shit storm of over reaction in forums. They are just shifting focus according to their management.

For consumer electronics, forums are still the place to gain detailed insight into consumer opinion. Facebook is often left wanting for involvement with the groups, as they just never seem to get a critical mass for even large consumer gadget pages. Twitter and the other web SMSs can help with gaining a barometer view of consumer opinion and help firefight crisises. Perhaps the annonymity of forums (most use a handel with a similarily obscure hot- or G-mail address apparently) leads consumers to speak more candidly.

With the former, the one forum, dpreview, has over 29 million posts, but once you get granular on brands or sub forums, and look at recent posts, then you realise that analytic tools can be misleading. Looking at fluxes in consumer hits on brand keywords can be somewhat misleading, when there is a strong undercurrent of discontent or potential for NPI ears to listen.

It is in other words, often better to identify the key forums and just have a junior marketeer keep an eye for trouble and summarise threads rather than go employ a company to show you some key word hit counts and what happened long before you needed to know it happened!

With Twitter too, so far the tools are pretty useless and manual labour to identify keywords, tweet structire, retweet rate and then sentiment are so far a better bet. Very soon though there will be good sentiment analytics, but they will need continual manual tweaking to catch sentiment in the abbreviated tweetspeak world.

The value of analytics has to be balanced with the value of just reading the stuff and tracking the lead influencers manually, especially in "issue management" as fire-fighting is often called in the ePR world now. Over time, brand tracking and sentiment rating is of value, but must be seen in context of the development of the media itself and always related in relative terms to competing brands and some other benchmark brand arena.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Photo Time: Simulated Depth of Field, blurred in GIMP

Simulating Shortened Depth of Field : Making a mask and applying it to layers to blur the background.

In the old days, most quality cameras could produce nice portraits with the background brlurred. These days the smaller digital cameras create a vert deep depth of field because of the short distance to the sensor chip from the lens, so the background is often very sharp. On dSLRs too, some lenses don't «stop up» enough to give an open enough aperture to «throw the background» either.

However help is at hand because t you can make up for this in PS or GIMP etc, by drawing out a mask and using it with layers to paste a blurred background onto your original sharp foreground. In the image above you can get the idea!

I had a go at the GIMP GURU's excellent tutorial, but found for GIMP v2.6 that there were a couple of functions that either differed, or were desirable to use.

WHAT YOU ARE GOING TO DO: Work-in-porgress Images are at the bottom of the blog: you are going to make a couple of copies of the original, and then on one make a "mask" which will be the area the original, sharp background will shine through, so to speak. You will blurr the edges of the white mask so it merges to the soon to be fuzzy background, and then invert the colour to black. This mask is then laid ontop of the other copy which is first blurred in the software options. Finally you merge the mask to the blurred layer using " apply mask" and then stack this ontop of the original so the person or object appears sharp on a blurred background.


Small errors in the Layers Dialogue box can cost all: you have to take care to do things in the right order, with the correct settings for the "apply mask" and remember to stack them in the right order so the mask is on top.
: worth saving WIP copies as you go as xcf files.

"toggeling" between selected area after cutting and background on the mask build, then both in order to go through "cutting" the mast needs to be done fully awake!

It can also be difficult in cutting the mask and then blurring it's edges to get a natural fade into the background, with no halo and no sharp, unnatural edge or vignetted outline areas. Also, getting the right amount of blurring on the background


> Copy Original > Lasso Select Sharp Object e.g. person!

> Blacken bacground with paint can fill

> Work up mask in white with an underlying orig' image as guide in BW >

> Blur the edges very slightly to 4 or 5 on gausian, invert to black on white [SAVE A COPY!!! ]

> Open a copy of the original image and blur it to more than '20' on gausian

> [Add Layer Mask] to the blurred image ; NB as ['white opaque']> paste on the mask to this layer in layer's dialogue box

> Open the original as a layer in the window> move it down the stack order in the dialogue box

> merge down the stack to end with. [SAVE as jpeg]

In Detail: On GIMP v2.6

  1. Open image File, then CTRL D to make a duplicate GIMP window as a jhandy back up / reference

  2. Make a new layer as follows: [Pull Down]Layer>new from visible> duplicate this layer with CTRL D while in the layers dialogue box > rename the duplicate "Mask"

  3. Use the lasso to clip out the foreground or objects to be sharp. Go to a black and white view or a colour channel ( [Decompose], see GIMP GURU) if you need a clearer outline to work on ie more contrast between subject and background making it easier to lasso correctly

  4. Once the area is drawn around, double click/click on the lasso in tool bar. The area should now be selected inside a hatched line. Press [CTRL-I] to select background.

  5. Select FILL tool ( paint can) on black and fill the background

  6. Save a copy once you are here as an xcf file

  7. Now we want to try to force the outline of the subject to white. Right-click in the image and choose (Image/Colors/Threshold). Drag the middle pointer on the 0-255 scale left to extend white over the white areas

  8. If you have the image (copy from start) open as a layer, then make it grayscale: otherwise make a new layer and paste ALL of the original image onto it, anchoring the floating layer with the little anchor icon in the Layers dialogue window. Choose this new layer and reduce opacity to about 50 -60% such that you can see a ghostly effect : now you can check the mask fits and captures the area you want sharp. Once done, delete the mask guide layer by right clicking and selecting delete layer.

  9. Now apply a gausian blur to the mask layerAT ONLY 4 to 6 pixels: this blurs the edges of the mask such that it will run into the to-be-blurred background and avoids obvious lines. Once computed, choose COLOUR>INVERT to now make the image Black on White as the actual mask. Save this and save an xcf or jpeg copy.

  10. In the Layers dialog, select the original image in the drop down box if you have it or paste and anchor from the other original open. Then click the Duplicate Layer buttonDouble-click on the name of the top layer. In the Edit Layer Attributes dialog, rename the new layer “Blurred”.

  11. I (Filters/Blur/Gaussian Blur )). Experiment to find a value that works well for your desired “depth of field”. Generally you won’t want to go too crazy with this or the look will be all wrong.Try 25 for a partial blur and over 40 for quite unsharp.

  12. SAVE A COPY of the WIP at this stage such that you can rework the blur if you feel it is not blurred enough or vice versa

  13. Go back to the Layers dialog and right-click on the “Blurred” layer; select “Add Layer Mask”.NB: At this point the next radio button selection is vital ! In the Add Mask Options dialog make sure White (Full Opacity) is selected. Then go to the black mask and select all and paste onto the blurred layer ONTO IT IN THE DIALOGUE BOX. Anchor it and deselect the eye on the mask itself

  14. You should see that there is a mask marked out in grey checker pattern over the area you want sharp and a nicely blurred background. Work back with CTRL Z if it is not to your burry liking!

  15. Open the original as a new layer. Move the orignal down on the list in the dialogue box so it is under the mask-blurred, and therefore will appear as the layer beneath on the final image. This shouuld now fill the masked area but be written over outside by the nice blurr you have created ! Jobs a gud'n.

  16. (delete the «mask»). Select the top layer, Blurred with mask, and then Choose Layers: Merge down save the image as a jpeg.

TIPS! When practising, reduce the image size and resolution to a web snap shot: this will make all the rendering and saving of your trial and errors a lot faster while you learn, and then you have a web ready series of shots!

TIPS! Be careful with the lower edge in portrait shots. When "cutting" ie outling the area to be the mask, check there is no foreground object to be blurred: short depth of field means it is just a slice into the distance which is in focus.

TIPS! It can be wise to give a margin to the figure for the edge blur: but if say it is a close up of a head with some diminishing depth of field on the person being good, then you can cut to the edge. This will vary with images : for instance, I find those with shadow from flash on one side need more there so that the shadow is softened. Trial and error will show you what works best, but it is difficult to extend a mask once «cut out».

TIPS! In GIMP 2.6 at least, when you have outlined the mask, and chosen to invert to background [CTRL I ] if the paintcan fill does not fill with black totally, then you can select a huge brush size and just go over it all in black: the foreground selected object will not be painted on as if it was "waxed". To fill in the mask itself, reverse with CTRL - I and then use white of course to remove any small specs or detail.

TIPS ! With similar images and a good contrast / edge to the background you do not really have to bother with an underlying black and white "ghost" to guide your fine working of the edges of the mask.

Footnote: Following on from that last tip:: According to GIMP GURU though " The best contrast between items can often be found in the green channel. It’s a good place to start looking, in any case. So the first thing we will do is decompose to individual RGB channels." as follows:

"Right-click in the image and choose (Image/Mode/Decompose). In the Decompose dialog box, choose RGB and click OK, Examine each channel to find which has the best contrast for isolating the subject. In this case the green channel image was the best. Close the other two images that you aren’t going to use. With a little work this green channel image will become our mask."



Too sharp

: too much detail in background to make the people stand out. The father is a little lost because the eye/brain places him more with the sharp sofa in the background

Mask WIP with blurred background. As you can see, the mask is not terribly detailed on the edges, but in this case it is quite sharp into the bodies with only a 3 or 4 pxl blur on the mask edge.

NB I have also been careful to exlcude foreground objects from the people so the foreground is also blurred, and been careful with the table edge and books: a lower edge should be checked for this in head-shoulders shots.


The eye now picks out the girls much quicker as being that to spend time on looking at, and the father is then pulled out more from the background detal.

The more you look at this shot, the more your eye-brain brings out the people from the background it now considers uninteresting!

I have put on an info dot to track any missuse of this photo. Pleas PM me before you copy this image for use.

Final with Crop

I like to crop! Here I could have used GIMP to "clone" out the light cabel/switch into to the beige wall in order to have a really clean image.

Note also: the fine detail on the LHS girls hair is not actually cut to a very fine mask detail: the eye/brain make the detail stand out more from the background now the rest is blurred but if when this is enlarged, the rough work shows in the hair and on a slight halo round the man's head.

Original cropped for comparison

All images (c) 2010 author. All text not quoted from GIMP GURU is original (c)2010 author