Avatar beats piracy

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There’s a lot of chatter going on about Cameron’s new movie, Avatar.

Much has been said about the special effects and the filming techniques, but I’d like to focus on the box office results. Yes, it’s on its way to beat Titanic and become the #1 box office hit, ever. In its fourth weekend in cinemas, Titanic grossed about 28M dollas; Avatar grossed 48 million. It’s up to a 1.3 Billion total already, and shows no signs of slowing down.

And all this despite currently being the most downloaded movie on Peer to Peer networks. Oddly enough, the movie industry is not complaining much. Why?

Well, first, because the movie is only any good if you strap some 3D glasses on. Otherwise it’s little different from Star Wars. If you do watch the 3D version, it becomes much more than a movie. It becomes an experience, something you can’t possibly match at home. Not even with a full blown home theatre system, let alone on the measly screen of a laptop.

So all those people downloading the crappy pirate version are in for a disappointment. And then comes the kicker.

Thanks to a brilliant marketing effort that masterfully leveraged the power of social media, anyone who uses Facebook, MySpace or Twitter (and that’s like 400M people) knows that Avatar is all about the 3D. Everyone whose friends use social networks knows that Avatar is all about the 3D. The message spread far and wide.

So all those P2P downloads of the horrible pirate version actually become the Free part of an awesome Freemium model. You watch it on the laptop. It’s crap. But everyone raves about how great it looks on the big screen, especially in 3D. And you look back and wonder “Well, it does have some sweet scenery”. Next thing you know, not only are you taking your sweetheart to see Avatar at the movies, you’re also forking out a few more bucks for the 3D glasses.

Again, a product whose quality is impossible to replicate beats piracy.

So chalk one up for marketing, social media, and James Cameron.
And let’s hope the movie industry as a whole learns something from this.

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Nexus One vs iPhone: i’m too busy for this.

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So, the Google Nexus One “superphone” is here, and even I can’t ignore it.

Information overload is a very real problem. I work for the online advertising industry, and am therefore up to my neck in tech news. Smartphones in particular are a nightmare. Every other day there’s a new state-of-the-art handset which features another megapixel in the camera, or a few more pixels of screen resolution, or maybe voice recognition a cut above the rest, or some marginal advantage like that.

It’s madness, really, and Google’s Android OS just made it all that much worse. If you follow newsfeeds from the likes of Mashable or Engadget, you’ll soon be drowned in news about Android handsets. My method for staying sane is: take notice of the new phone’s core features, then ignore all others news pieces about it.

I did this for the Droid, the Palm Pre, and I’m doing it now for the Nexus One. So here’s the gist:

The Nexus One is probably the most feature-rich smartphone in the market today. It’s fast, has a great camera, smooth web browsing experience, and the Android Market is likely to feed it all the applications you could realistically need.

But I already have a phone that does all I need. It’s the old-ish iPhone 3G. The best thing about my phone is that it’s really, really usable. The next best thing is the App Store, where I can find absolutely anything I could possibly need for my phone. Then there’s the killer: I know there will be just one upgrade a year, around June-July. This is key.

I’m far, far too busy to lose an hour a day reading about the new phone that just came out and has some feature that’s marginally better than yesterday’s king of the hill. FAR too busy. Plus, it gets bothersome.

The iPhone gives me all I need, and I only need to lap up the hype once a year when the new one comes out. Call me lazy, but for me, that’s great.

So, the Nexus One, then.
Get one if you’re already in the market and don’t mind finding your phone is no longer the hottest one around in two weeks time. Otherwise, stick with your current smartphone and use the spare time to do something useful.

Desire rating:
2 stars out of 5

Who says kids don’t read? Certainly not JK Rowling.

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I’m hammering my keyboard, spitting code out at a rather satisfying rate. But the TV is on, and something catches my eye. It’s the Biography channel, featuring a bio of J.K. Rowling. They’re talking about the launch of Harry Potter’s final book. They show as millions of fans across the globe waited in line for the launch, one second after midnight GMT in July 21st 2007. Most are children and teenagers, many dressed at characters from the series. After the launch, they eagerly collect their books, some get them signed, and then scoot off to somewhere quiet where they can finally read the long awaited story.

I see images of fourteen year-olds clad in wizard threads, sitting on the street with their friends, each with a very thick book in hand, their eyes completely lost in the pages. The perfect image of how many many kids took the books and opened them as soon as a chance presented itself, anxious as they were to drink the words in.

When an author sells over 300 million copies of her books and statistics show most of the readers are children, you really have to question the wisdom of stating “children these days don’t read”. They do. They just need books that really catches their interest.

As a marketing professional, I find this extremely interesting. I mean, I’m sure there are plenty of novels out there that match or surpass the quality of the boy wizard’s tale, and could easily appeal to the same audience. But they have no marketing to speak of, sitting all forgotten and alone in bookstore shelves.

Now, I know many governments have programs to boost readership (we do here in Portugal), but their message is usually just “read”.

I remember being a young boy and hating receiving abstract advice. “Read” is not a compelling message. “Read < book name >, people like you find it < comments >.” is much more appealing and actually stands a chance of working. It did for the Harry series.

Governments cannot favour individual publishers or authors, but there are ways they can avoid it and still make their message less abstract and more effective.

They just need to hire actual marketeers.

Should you work from home?

In the olden days, most people were chained to their work stations no matter what their job was. Everyone from factory worker to office clerk was pretty much anchored to his desk or machine. Only people like writers seemed to have any kind of freedom regarding where to work.

For the longest time, it made sense. Perfect sense. Because in order to do your job properly, you needed the tools and materials and orders and assistance that could only be found at the workplace. But then the XX century came along and brought all manner of inventions that changed everything. Over the course of a hundred years, Humanity evolved from horses to space shuttles. And, more importantly for the matter at hand, from mail letters to tweets.

It's not 1995 anymore. I don't need to enumerate the??technologies??that made the telecommute possible, we all know them by heart. The advent and relentless evolution of cell phones, laptops and the Internet gave us all the tools we needed to break free from the chains of the office and work from wherever we please. The last couple of years, especially, have been rife with developments that helped bring these tools to the hands of the masses. We have 3G data coverage pretty much everywhere and netbooks are dirt cheap.

So I can, and sometimes do, stay at home instead of heading out to the office.
I work from a laptop that follows me everywhere, share a Dropbox with my colleagues instead of using the office fileserver, and talk to them using e-mail and skype. I use the same tools to work with people both in the same office and in another country. So it all kind of blends together in a seamless flow of people, tasks and information.

We don't operate in a local economy. We haven't for a while, now. So mastering the art of the telecommute is, I believe, crucial for anyone who hopes to operate on a global scale without the hassle of international travel.??For this reason I'm very much in favour of companies letting their employees work remotely wherever possible.

The thing is, should you make a habit of working remotely if your company lets you?

Because it's not all good. By staying at home you will be working all alone. No amount of emails and skype calls will ever truly replace a good face to face chat with the people you work with. You won't really get to know them and, more importantly, they won't really get to know *you*. There will be no empathy, only yellow smiley faces.??So the guy who works from home all the time is effectively ruining his networking.

Personally, I like to work remotely from time to time. It's nice to avoid rush hour and write emails sitting on a sofa. But I'd never do it every day. I treasure my time at the office, I love dealing with my colleagues in person, and a bit of 9-6 discipline does me good.

So, should you work from home? Yes.
It will teach you important tools and help you develop much needed skills.

Just don't do it every day.

Pedro Gil Candeias
– Working @ home today

Getting more done by accepting less work

As a freelancer, I got into the habit of accepting every job I could get my hands on. I operated in a tough, saturated market, so being very competitive was important and securing every possible contract never filled my schedule.

Nowadays it’s a different story. I work a full time job now, one that requires a lot of research and problem solving. I also work with people in three different time zones. Thus the bulk of my waking hours are taken, and what few are left are needed for personal and family matters. Still, I keep the habit of saying “yes” to most freelance jobs I still get offered.

This has a nasty effect on my life as a whole. I’m constantly under stress, I have too little time for my girlfriend, I never take an hour to exercise, I’ve been postponing non-work related projects for years now, and on top of it all I no longer seem to be able to deliver a freelance project on time.

I recently ran into trouble with a customer over a blown deadline and, looking at the remaining projects, there are more jobs in a similar situation. So I’m risking my reputation as well.

And to make matters worse, because it takes so long to finish a project, the financial and emotional rewards of completing something are few and far between.

So I’m starting 2010 by taking a simple new year’s resolution: finish the projects I have pending before taking on any new ones.

And, even after I do clean my to-do list, I’m going to be very very picky about what jobs I do accept.

After all, it’s about time I started attending those motorcycle driving classes.