Sunday, January 29, 2006

Target : Westie Dog Rainboot - Black

"Cute, waterproof, comfortable - what more could a girl want?" Target : Westie Dog Rainboot - Black A husband to help her bring up Lewey, Dewey and Bobbeta?

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Two decent articles from the BBC - shock and horror and pain

What is going on with the BBC? They're coming out with at least two decent articles a week in the Magazine section of their Online News site. That's slightly more than even I manage! Two non-recent examples [why non-recent? Why do you think? Look up the term "lackadaisical" in your nearest and cheapest medical dictionary] really impressed me, to such an extent that I couldn't even talk about them immediately after reading them, or even a week later. No matter: no time like the present. [Invocation of a popular saying, never mind how self-serving, should always be accepted with a graceful "touché".] The first example of this duo is "Risky Business", a history of prophecies or predictions, depending on which epoch you are living in. It's written by a historian (David Cannadine), which probably explains much of why it's such an enjoyable and informative it, even if its length is disappointingly short. The piece climaxes (with good timing) by answering, or at least attempting to answer, the question "What is the point of even trying to predict the future?" The answer is very convincing:

This government, or any other, has to have a policy on motorways, on pensions and on global warming - all of them ultimately based on little more than educated guesses as to what might happen at some far off date when most of today's politicians will long since have vanished from the scene, and won't have to take responsibility for their decisions.
Very true, sir. How do you propose we proceed then?
The way to answer this is to use something that's called the Turnbull Matrix, named after the civil servant who invented it, to try to establish the balance between the likelihood of something unpleasant happening, and the impact if it did. A nuclear explosion, for instance, is relatively low likelihood (we hope), but very high impact (we fear), and there are many, many other permutations.
Turnbull Matrix? What the hell is that? According to this cursory description, it sounds like a basic implementation of Decision Theory, with the principle of taking actions that maximise expected utility under conditions of uncertainty. A google search, though, turns up only... seven results, the first of which is the BBC article, and the others are connected to someone called Brennan Wilcox. Very bizarre. Apart from this detail, I do recommend you read this incisive work. Have I hyped it up enough yet? The second example of the BBC actually publishing something educational and well-written involves the first example I've ever seen of proper maths on there. There's even a formula. All this just to answer the question "Do you get less wet if you run in the rain?". There's even an eminently understandable (to me, anyway) explanation of how to solve this problem systematically, by approximating in a very clear and justified way, and then, when the answer has been found from that, interpreting it in the light of the assumptions, and thus tweaking it. Brilliant. I'm going to watch out for more publications by the author, Nick Allen, who
is a Master of Science in astrophysics and a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society. An entrepreneur and inventor, he was also co-developer of MouseCage, a disability software Nick continues to teach physics to advanced students at Valentine's High School, Ilford.
Lucky students. Enough already.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

How to dodge stupid regulations, in one easy lesson

Are you an industry man (or some other type of person), tired of having to follow rules put out by technocrats who hide behind the thinnest of claims of democratic legitimacy? Well, why not ignore them, and then adjust your actions just enough to claim you're following them?... You'd be following in the footsteps of the shoulders of giants. Case Study 1: Selling toothpaste So you're involved in the noble art of trying to get people to switch to yet another "best ever" variation of an essential lifestyle product, like toothpaste? Why not say that dentists recommend it? What do you mean, you're not allowed? Who says? Oh, the Advertising Standards Thingymajigy! Who?


8.1.2 Impressions of professional advice and support

The following are not acceptable in advertisements for products or treatments within the remit of Section 8:

(a) presentations of doctors, dentists, veterinary surgeons, pharmaceutical chemists, nurses, midwives etc, which give the impression of professional advice or recommendations

(b) statements giving the impression of professional advice or recommendation by people who are presented, whether directly or by implication, as being qualified to give such advice or recommendation

Well, their English is beautiful and mysterious, so they must be important and all-knowing. Their utmost and paramount desire is to serve the people, all the people, and nothing but the (other) people. God Bless Them All.

But wait, what about the need to increase the profits on toothpastes this quarter? Dentist recommendations are the best, and possibly only way forward. How about...

Case study 1a: ...getting a dentist to recommend the general idea of the new product, cutting in a screenshot of the actual product, and then showing a happy (preferably attractive and female) citizen who claims to be using the product in the screenshot? Colgate thought of that one [give them an MBA!]:

A Colgate Palmolive TV advert for Colgate Sensitive showed a woman talking about her sensitive teeth and explaining that her dentist had suggested she try a sensitive toothpaste. At the same time a Colgate Sensitive toothpaste tube was shown. The woman said she had switched to Colgate Sensitive.

But darn it:

The ASA judged that the advert, made by Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Young & Rubicam, breached the spirit of rules, even though the advert did not depict a dentist nor show a recommendation for a specific product.

"Spirit of the rules"?! What's that when a lawyer's in the room? Not fair.

But wait! (Or continue to if you didn't stop waiting). They said "the advert did not yaka yada yaba". How about...

Case study 1b: ...getting a dentist to recommend the general idea of the new product, cutting in a screenshot of the actual product, and then showing a happy (preferably attractive and female) citizen who claims to be using the product in the screenshot? Except "then" in this case meaning "after four other commercials". GlaxoSmithKline thought of that one [two MBAs all round!]:

The two Sensodyne advertisements were screened in a single break. The first showed a dentist who stated that sensitive teeth were common problem and that patients could treat the problem by changing their toothpaste. The advert ended with a GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare logo. Four commercials later, a second commercial appeared showing a woman talking about her sensitive teeth. The woman visited her dentist and then changed her toothpaste to Sensodyne.

Were the ASA happy now? Of course not...

The ASA judged that the use of a dentist to recommend generic toothpastes for sensitive teeth breached the rules preventing a dentist in an advertisement from giving professional advice and recommending a treatment. It also judged that the combined impression left by the two adverts was a further breach.
GlaxoSmithKline argued that there was no evidence that viewers would link the messages in the two advertisements.
No buts:
The ASA concluded "almost certainly" many viewers would have seen both adverts and "were likely to link the dentist's advice about sensitive toothpaste closely with the promotion of Sensodyne".
Oh well. You almost did it. But wait! The point is that you managed to get your advertisements out there anyway, and even now people are galloping like zombies to upgrade to toothpastes for their sensitive, tender, loving, modern teeth. Good work soldier. [This service was brought to you by someone who has too much time on their giant shoulders.]

Monday, January 02, 2006

ECB: Educational

Hey kids, did you ever wonder why those paper notes with the Queen's head / Lincoln's head / European bridges allow you to buy CDs, even though you actually download music illegally for free? Well now the European Central Bank, which controls your lives using psychokinesis and a flat yield curve, has the answer. It involves a purple monster, by the looks of it. All very teutonic. Those killjoys at the Mises Institute might think it's all nonsense, but then they don't argue their point of view in Estonian, or even Danish. They also don't make their material available exclusively in PDF form (because - oh yes kids! - this stuff will come to a school near you anyway very soon!). No, I didn't view the "eight-minute animated film". I'd rather eat 1.6 cigarettes. If you do it, though, tell me how it goes. Cheers! I should make this into a regular series, but I'm worried you won't like having the same link provided every month or whatever. Spoiltsports [sic].