Monday, May 28

catching up

Its been great catching up with Myra and Graham, Patrick, Dave and Matt et al while down in chch. After loving the festival last year, I was really looking forward to to heading out with everyone to the Banff Mountain Film Festival - World Tour on Saturday night.

Highlight for me was Patagonia - A travel to the end of the World. A film about two Norwegian mountaineers crossing the South Patagonia ice cap. Borge Ousland and Thomas Ulrich conquered the ice shelf overcoming the harsh conditions with a dry sense of humour, and a single-minded focus on their goal. Really inspiring.

You couldn't get a more different cinematic experience than Pirates of the Caribbean - At World's End. A bunch of us went along to Hoyts on Sunday, which was packed out for the screening, with Patrick and others ready for action in their pirate hats and eye patches.

According to trivia on imdb they started filming without a completed script, which maybe explains some of the reasons it rambled a bit. I fell asleep during 3 hours of confusing plot lines and some really bad acting from Orlando. Once again Johnny Depp was the highlight for me.

Thursday, May 24

interclue launch

Congratulations to Seth who has now launched his new 'killer startup' browser plug-in called Interclue. I've used Interclue and trialled his competitors cooliris and snap but found that Seth had really nailed the whole point of having a preview to links - Interclue was *really* unobtrusive and useful.

As you hover over a link on a webpage, a small icon appears at the end of the link, and if you hover over it the window pops up and feeds you the relevant content of that link - other plug-ins automatically open if you just pass your mouse over the link which I find annoying. Interclue doesn't show snapshots of the page like snap. Instead it provides a useful and informative summary of the content of the link, which then helps users make a decision whether to click through to it or not. In many cases you can just read what you need to from the window. It also allows you to immediately email the link to a friend or post to by clicking on the frame of the window.

I found that after having used it for a week, when it wasn't activated I missed it. During beta Interclue has picked up feedback to consolidate the design and features, and I'm sure its functionality will continue to evolve.

Seth and his team really deserve the reviews they have been getting - all you need to do is use it and you'll see why.

Wednesday, May 23

flight of the conchords

Just watching tv3 tonight to see the entire first episode of Jemaine and Bret's series has been released on the internet a month before its due to be screened on tv in the states. The HBO site even has it set up so you can easily embed part of the episode - cool. how incredible is it that regular (albeit supremely talented) guys from wellington can get their own series on HBO. when it screens next month it's being broadcast in the timeslot previously held by the sopranos...insanely cool. unfortunately the broadband connection at my sister's means that it will probably be screened in the US before I actually ever get to see the whole episode on my computer. On the HBO page it says "After clicking, the video may take several seconds to load"....errrrrrgh. Jemaine and Brett need to work in a gag about the fact that if they ever make it big in New York, New Zealand will hear about it with the establishment of internet2.

There is a page on the HBO site dedicated to the show so you can also go there and see even smaller bite sized pieces.

Tuesday, May 22

learning more about branding and design

Branding and design are essential elements of an effective web 2.0 marketing strategy. I've been to a branding workshop recently as part of a Positively Wellington Business and NZTE series for startups. It's obvious that to compete with all the other startups out there, the design of a new site needs to be instinctive, user friendly, and good to look at. If the branding has the wrong look and feel, it can be hard to retain users...even if you are offering a killer service. It's amazing to see all the different interpretations of what user friendly might mean when you scan services on the net. I think keeping things simple is an important part of it..for me...if members of my family can't use it then its one good way of testing whether the user friendly threshold has been met.

I've really been impressed with Decisive Flow, a Wellington-based web design company. They worked on PlanHQ which is another kiwi-based online business service aimed at SME's and startups like me. Planhq allows users to create financial, marketing and strategic business goals around a "live" business plan so they can then manage and constantly update the variables to measure progress. The business plan can then be shared with anyone, including current and potential investors, and company directors. As a kiwi business if you are capital raising with overseas investors, but want to stay and develop your business in New Zealand, PlanHQ would be an easy way to maintain a good investor relationship from a distance. Being able to travel domestically and globally, access information and manage my New Zealand company from anywhere is all part of the dream for me, so Planhq fits into my web-based approach.

I've also been inspired by one of New Zealand's all time branding success stories - 42below vodka. Their advertising strategy was inspired, and they just stood out from their competitors. While its not a tech company, I learnt a thing or two from their global marketing approach and their attitude towards achieving their goals.

Monday, May 21

heaps going on

After settling ourselves in Wellington and beginning to enjoy new opportunities and the coffee, Glynn and I are now back down in Christchurch for a short while looking after Sam, Lily and Mia - while Brett and Sarah enjoy a much deserved trip of a lifetime to Europe. After a traumatic first attempt Glynn's now changing Sam's nappies like a pro. Unfortunately he's on his way back to San Francisco for another week of meetings and escaping the daily duties. The grandparents are around as well though, so we are all pitching in.

Glynn and I have had a productive time in Wellington so far. I've been picking up some more government consulting work for Fivepeas Limited, and networking with some great people in Wellington for lifebox - silicon welly is a such small town. Glynn's been enjoying meeting the folks at the Sun Head Office, and having fun on the fishing expeditions even though we've really only had success at Castlepoint so far. Our bad run with the fishing has been totally surpassed by the fact he won us a trip for two to Martinborough for a couple of nights at a five star resort! I never win anything. It must be the luck of the irish ..or the 6 bottles of wine he had to buy to be in the draw at a local winetasting we went to at the Boatshed. According to certain irish folk, the luck of the irish means you have good luck one day and then bad luck the next (i guess that could count as the hangover?).

xero IPO

High levels of interest and excitement in the city about the xero IPO. I've been using xero and really like the interface and the simple step processes throughout the application. For me personally the *real* excitement around xero is the future potential uses for the online platform model, its not just "software as a service"... but "software as part of a live platform".... which can provide the user with all sorts integrated and hence convenient, internet-based tools. A very basic example of this is that ASB is already signed up and feeding realtime data into xero for its customers - I intend to ask my bank whether it will do the same for me. Imagine what other payment or administrative services can be linked to your online business accounts using the internet or mobile devices?

Whatever the future holds for xero and its IPO (and I wish them well), for the moment the real benefits of the product for me are:

* The reports are done for me so I limit the time my accountant has to spend on them
* My accountant can view my accounts and reports information from his home in CHCH, without having to send data up and down the country via email
* I can generate and send an invoice with the push of a button - from within xero
* I know that if anything happens I have a backup of my account information elsewhere, that's invaluable to me.
* I don't have to worry that I'm using the latest version - I know that for my monthly fee its constantly being updated and improved, with new features added.

I just don't want to go back to a desktop application.