Category Archives: Thoughts

While eBay Stumbles Off, I Might Stumble Back… Upon StumbleUpon

Give me a second to get over the self-induced confusion over that title.

Okay, done.

If you didn’t already know, I abandoned StumbleUpon a while back citing a couple of frustrations, including the toolbar. So my ears (fingers?) pricked up a little when I spotted, via Marketing Pilgrim/ReadWriteWeb, that SU has decided to offer a non-toolbar version of it’s service.

Honestly, I never used the “Stumble” feature anyway so this probably won’t change much. What I’m hoping is that this is the first step for StumbleUpon loosing the toolbar completely.

Amongst the recent talk about eBay looking to sell StumbleUpon it has been noted that the number using the service has fallen quite significantly from last year. It’s kinda unsurprising to me. There was plenty more buzz about StumbleUpon twelve months ago, likely prompting more sign-ups to the service, who have since left out of disappointment or frustration.

My opinion (and this is VERY speculative) is that the toolbar is a barrier to adoption. Just like many said it was for Joost, who abondoned their desktop client last month.

With the general shift towards moving applications off the desktop and onto the web, it seems backwards to require the use of a desktop application or add-on of any sort.

We’ll see what happens. For now, I’m going to give StumbleUpon another chance. Especially now I have a friend there!

The Evolution of Orange Juice… Oh and the Internet

It’s funny what can get your brain working. This morning, for me, it was this:

A picture of an orange juice carton next to a glass of orange juice

It’s all about the cap.

Remember when all orange juice cartons were smaller, fatter and you had to cut the corner off? And every time you opened a new one you just knew half the carton would end up on the worktop.

Then we had the little white lid added, with that bit of foil stuff. Though, the juice would still catapult itself out the carton and land everywhere but in the glass.

Now we get the tall slender cartons, like the one above. They poor much easier but opening them is still a hassle. You unscrew, then there’s a weird little plastic hoop that you have to rip out. That’s fine, so long as you’re a body builder. And even then, guess what happens to the juice? That’s right, allergic to glassware.

So now we’ve reached the reason I’m an internet consultant blogging about orange juice. Almost. The carton pictured is special. As you unscrew, the cap removes the inner ‘cap’ so that you can poor as soon as you’ve unscrewed.

Finally! We have an orange juice carton that’s a sinch to open AND doesn’t throw your orange juice all over the hob.

The point? It’s like the internet. Orange juice cartons have EVOLVED. Look at them now compared to a few years ago. Look at the internet now compared to a few years ago!

Plenty of people talk about the ‘growth’ of the internet but I believe it’s evolving. We’re communicating in new and interesting ways, building on existing relationships and creating new ones. We’re building communities and collaborating like never before.

The internet is constantly evolving, solving problems, improving on existing ideas and advancing us all. It might be hard to keep up with, but it’s damn good fun trying!

Ethics and Corporation Tax

One thing that really bugs me is tax avoidance. I used to think it was a great idea until one day, whilst having an inner groan at the constant lack of cash in public services I realised that avoiding tax is, in fact, incredibly unethical and irresponsible. Taxes, whether you like them or not, are there to pay for all those things society needs. They pay for our health service, the roads, street lights and so on.

Just like as individuals we pay income tax, companies pay corporation tax – a tax on profits. Many corporations, including big household names, employ tax avoidance schemes utilising subsidiary companies in tax havens like Luxembourg. These schemes allow them to pay as little tax as possible on the massive profits they earn.

Billions of pounds are essentially being kept out of Government hands and in the pockets of wealthy shareholders, denying society of much needed cash to improve public services. So I was glad to read today that such practices have been outlawed.

Ever the sceptically minded, though, I can’t see it making a huge impact. Corporations spend hundreds of thousands on accountants to build these complex structures designed purely to avoid paying tax simply because the returns are so huge. Put simply, they’ll find another way because the financial benefit of doing so is so great.

But what’s the solution? Then I thought back to the income tax. With individuals, we are charged income tax at 20% (unless you’re lucky enough to be in the higher-rate tax band) with the benefits system helping those who don’t earn as much to get by. Corporations and individuals both earn money and have to use that money to pay their operational (or living) costs. Anything left over is then a bonus. However, we are taxed differently – corporations pay tax on anything left over while individuals pay on everything we earn (let’s ignore the untaxable allowance for simplicity). So why not tax corporations on everything they earn and then kick-back a little bit for every pound they don’t make a profit on?

It’s a nice idea, I think, but whether it will work in practice is something for the accountants and economists to battle out. My first thought is that avoiding that method would just be a case of making your accounts look like less profit was made. Probably not a hard thing to do. Yet, for big companies with lots of shareholders that would probably be a bad thing as the one thing shareholders want most out of their investment is a good profitable company.

I’d love to here thoughts on this idea, especially people who will be more well-versed in accounting than me.

Tagging Alzheimer’s Sufferers

Having a Dad with Pick’s disease my eye was caught this morning by a headline from the BBC, charity supports dementia tagging, which reports the news that the Alzheimer’s society has given its approval to the use of electronic tagging of dementia sufferers.

I knew why instantly without reading the article – my Dad used to wander around himself and with him being a bit of a rambler he was more inclined to do so.

The idea itself sounds to me like a good one. If sufferers walk off it can be hard to track them down. We gave my Dad a cheap mobile phone so that we could call him to find out where he was. However, more often than not he’d forget it or switch it off. Even then, he rarely realised his pocket was ringing and would probably have trouble answering it despite how easy we tried to make it. In that situation a tag would have allowed us to even use a mobile phone to find out where he is and pick up him. I remember one morning, driving around our village looking for him because he’d gone out when he was supposed to be at home waiting to be picked up for his visit to the day centre.

There is another big concern though. The normal dangers of everyday life, such as traffic, are magnified with dementia sufferers. One particular example that comes to mind is the time my Dad stepped out in front of a moving car because he recognised the driver. She had to break suddenly to avoid hitting him. My Dad was completely oblivious to the danger of doing something like that, such was the effect of the disease. A tag would do nothing to allay fears of similar or more disasterous events taking place.

An idea did come to my mind though. A tagging system could work very well in a ‘controlled community’ – a sort of cross between a care home and sheltered housing. With care homes, patients are very restricted in their movements. Using tags could allow patients to wander more within a larger space whilst close enough to supervision to enable the level of care needed. In a such a place, technology such as RFID could be used instead of GPS, tracking movement in and out of individual rooms and proximity to the perimeter of the ‘community’.