Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Fishing the social media seas

I loved this quote that was in the program for a great PRIA seminar I attended today on New Media and PR:

'The good news is, everyone's visible online. The bad news is we're all three inches tall.' Seth Godin, Purple Cow.

It reminds me of a tag line that fellow blogger Tea Brennan once used: 'I went outside once and the graphics were shit.'

Yes, there's no doubt that we're all spending a truck load more time hanging out and communicating online and those conversations are bouncing around out there on the interwebs for EVERYONE to read.

And trawling this vast sea of information are whole fleets of search engines like Google Alert, dipping their lines into the briny and landing fat, fishy hauls of conversation into the inboxes of people worldwide. Us fisherpeople specify what species of information we're after, but just like the 'real world', sometimes you've got to wear the odd clump of seaweed, or pull your hook off an information snag.

* Okay, it's a tenuous analogy, but it's the best I can do over a luke warm coffee and a bag of orange snakes! *

What today's seminar has reinforced is that the term virtual reality is increasingly a misnomer. Today's online world is as real as bricks and mortar and for people working in the communications game it's a case of come on board today, or risk becoming the techno dinosaurs of tomorrow.

Yeah, you're probably saying 'ah, der!', but as someone who has had their toe in the online world since 2005, there is so much I still need to learn... and it changes every day. While we have office IT - slash - techno geeks who champion the online world, in some countries they have PR people who work exclusively within 'teh interwebs' - Digital Influence Teams... go figure! In Australia we're still fighting for the right to access facebook at work.

I also found out this morning that blogging is like ohhhh sooooo yesterday, but hey, I'm an old fashioned sorta guy. Twittering is now the way to go, so expect me to drag myself out of the briny and up into the big blue sky any day soon! And beyond that I'll be Plurking and Plazing on my mobile phone.

Yes indeed, it's time to get with the program or risk legions of smarmy Gen-Y fake tan purveyors snickering at us as we get our Twitters confused with our facebooks.

A big thanks to: Richard Giles from Recommendations Ventures and; Bronwen Clune, CEO of Norg Media, founder of; and Steven Taylor from Creative Nature Communications who has been using the interwebs since the days when Commodore 64s were still being traded on the open market.

One last thing - I know all three of you have got your information long-lines dangling in the briny waiting for any company mentions via Google Alert, so if you do happen to sail past The Perth Files, please be sure to leave me a message.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Gas crisis, what crisis?

Since Carps captured the airwaves last night to advise us to stop burning so much gas, there have already been a few grumblings among those who feel it's their God given right to chew through our natural resources, no matter how finite they might be. To these people, the pipeline explosion may as well have taken place on Uranus for all they care...

Anyway, I'm convinced that those who flaunt the call to turn down the gas are the same people who steadfastly refuse to obey water restrictions and would defend their right to have a green lawn (and a warm house) with sawn-off shotguns, if they could only convince the powers that be that guns are good. Yes, while I'm outside hosing the leaves off my driveway, I demand the right to fire up the Rinnai space heater... and I'll leave all the lights on as well, so ner!

I'm sure that these people are a small minority, but if anyone out there really does feel aggrieved at the thought of having to layer up to beat the chill instead of hitting a switch, they should remember how the gas crisis could be so much worse. This Wikipedia extract gives you some context:

The fire at the plant was not extinguished until two days later. The Longford plant was shut down immediately, and the state of Victoria was left without its primary gas supplier. Within days, the Victorian Energy Network Corporation shut down the state's entire gas supply.

The sudden crisis was devastating to Victoria's economy, crippling industry and the commercial sector (in particular, the hospitality industry which relied on natural gas for cooking).

Natural gas is also widely used residentially in Victoria for hot water and gas heating, and Victorians endured 20 days of cold showers and chilly nights.

Gas supplies to Victoria were resumed on 14 October. Many Victorians were outraged and upset to discover only minor compensation on their next gas bill, with the average compensation figure being only around $10.

Yes, I was living in Melbourne at the time and while we Perthites do cop our early morning chills, imagine living with days on end where the temperature struggles to get beyond 12 degrees at any stage. Then try and imagine how having NO gas would affect you. And when I say no gas, I mean having your gas turned off at the meter and $5,000 fines if you get caught turning them back on.

Having no gas means no hot showers for a start, unless you have an electric hot water system. Oh joy, struggle out of bed at 5am and spend the next 30 minutes boiling the kettle non-stop to get enough hot water for a sponge bath. Those brave enough, or in desperate need of a proper hair wash, simply ran the gauntlet and endured an ice cold shower. Bracing, very bracing.

Of course, those with electric systems found their houses resembling the old Rottnest Island shower building, with people lined up, shower cap in hand.

And then there were those who gave up on bathing... I met quite a few of them on the public transport system. A fragrant bunch.

So, you can't shower, but maybe you can make up for it with a nice cooked breakfast? No, not if you're like many people who have a gas stove and oven. Suddenly every night is Lean Cuisine night. In the evenings you sit cold and slightly stinky in front of the flameless gas heater, chewing miserably on your TV dinner, watching the news for reports on those shameless parasitic scumbags who dare turn their gas back on.

A lot of children were spawned on those dark cold nights, so here's a thought! Rather than procrastinate about turning down the heating, do the wise thing and procreate instead - your country will thank you...

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Friday the 13th

I'm not normally spooked by Friday the 13th, or the number 13 in general - both my wife and sister were born on the 13th and I'm yet to find the number of the beast tatooed on their heads... I have looked though.

However, this Friday the 13th was different, thanks largely to that blonde woman of indeterminate age on TV who reportedly used to be Kerrie Anne Kennerly.

Yes, I was doing the dad at home routine and inbetween mopping up sodden toast crusts and soiled nappies I sat down to check out Mornings with Kerrie-Anne, just to see how the old girl was travelling. When I worked at Channel Nine in Melbourne for a year, I shared an office with a larger than life framed photo of Kezza and a box of muesli once owned by Frankie J Holden, so I look on her as on old friend... how old I'm not exactly sure.

Anyway, after initially being taken aback by the bigger than big hair and ever deepening cleavage, I noted that she'd taken on a Friday the 13th theme - gravestones, plastic skeletons, lava lamps (WTF?) etc. And all her guests were involved with 'spooky stuff', including a white witch with a head of hair that looked like a stage prop... or a well groomed mop.

One of the the statistics they threw up on the show was that on Friday the 13th there is a 60% increase in traffic accidents. Great, I was taking the baby, a three-year-old and my son on a trip half way across Perth later that day and not only was I taking on Australia's worst drivers, I was now 60% more likely to encounter one that was totally wigged-out by superstitious Friday the 13th voodoo shit.

But hey, the weather was good, visibility excellent and the people mover in better working order than most Qantas jets... so off we went.

All went well for the first third of the journey and we were almost at the Leach Highway exit on the freeway when my nuff-nuff radar burst into action. Hello, hello, those boxes on the back of that ute don't look too stable. Hmmm, why is he driving like that. Okay, let's hope that box about to topple onto the road is empty...

Of course it wasn't empty. It was full. It was full of a large piece of steel, commonly refered to as a washing machine. Box hits freeway 10 metres in front of me, I brake slowly but forcefully, washing machine comes flying out of the box and skids across into the centre lane in a shower of sparks. Luckily, no one was in that lane next to me and even luckier still that the freakin' thing didn't head straight back into the people mover - I don't know what would happen if you hit a washing machine at 80 clicks, but it can't be good.

So we continued on our journey and finally got home safely, with nairy a whitegood in sight for the remainder of the trip.

Next year I'll stay at home and do a few loads of washing instead. And if the Miele even looks like trying to go me, I'll give it a swift clip around the soap tray. Thanks Kezza.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Bring back Boston Legal at 9.30!

Going off topic, I just wanted to vent for a moment about Channel Seven's decision to air the particularly lame, run of the mill new crime offering Criminal Minds at 9.30pm on Monday nights.

My beef? It pushes Boston Legal, arguably television's finest offering right now, out to a 10.30pm timeslot which is too 'effing late for this little black duck.

In recent weeks I've enjoyed ending my Monday nights with William Shatner and James Spader as they ponder the week just gone over a cognac and Cuban cigar on the balcony of their Boston condo... it's funny, it's irreverent, it's politically incorrect and it doesn't involve a bunch of scowling crime geeks solving some half arsed crime that no one gives a toss about anyway.

I'm sorry, but I'm so over the CSI-style television genre that I was never on the bandwagon in the first place.

I seem to recall the same fate afflicting The Sopranos and the West Wing... not good enough! It's bad enough when regular shows are pushed back by the likes of So You Think You Can Dance, Sing, Skate, Perform Open Heart Surgery, without this sort of blatant 'up yours' programming.

If you want to have your say, send 'em an email:


I just got this email back from Channel Seven in response to my complaint and it's not good news:

Dear Mr Cooke

Thank you for your email.

We appreciate the time you have taken to contact us, as it is only through viewers such as yourself that we can gauge reactions to our programming.

Unfortunately Boston Legal has not attracted enough viewers for it to remain in the 9.30pm timeslot.


Janine Vidot
Program Department
Channel Seven Perth

So, people... we have a problem. I forsee a day when television will be comprised entirely of reality TV shows and crime dramas... with a sprinkle of Desperate Housewives to keep the Sex in the City brigade happy.

Maybe instead of relying entirely on numbers, potential advertisers should crunch the demographics and target a specific market, ie, today we'll try and sell our product in to 1.5 million people with a brain as opposed to 7 million people who are still trying to work out if it's feasible to microwave your own hand.

FFS, if a great show like Boston Legal can't hold down a 9.30pm timeslot on a Monday night, the future of clever TV is doomed.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Perth as it used to be... and still is

Ahhh, the good old days - all this joint needs is a bit of lawn!

I reckon if this was the scene facing us today, the developers would be licking their lips and falling over themselves to prepare concepts for a waterfront tourism precinct.

Amazingly, apart from the mud flats making way for the lawn, things haven't changed that much. They've spruced Kings Park up a bit and knocked up a bridge to let West Coast supporters across to the other side of the river (bad move), but essentially us West Aussies continue the tradition of frocking up and heading to the big hill overlooking the city to check out the view.

They also had a lot less blue green algie back in the day and I hear you could net a bucket of king prawns the size of a truckie's forearm in a lazy half hour. These days you're more likely to bag the odd blind mullet, but there are still plenty of red herrings to keep things interesting.