Recent Endorsements

You've left us really enthused about the whole digital dimension and we're looking forward to developing our plan with your support.
Simon Beardow - Deputy Director, British Council, Vietnam

Monday, 31 December 2012

2013 - The Year Ahead - Lucky For Some?

Here is a snapshot of the mega-trends and predictions for 2013.
  1. Your personal data locker will become increasingly important to you and, if you haven't got one you already, you should probably consider it.
According to Forrester Research the business of managing personal data, which is already worth billions, will grow substantially in the next two years. Taking the US as an example, more than $2 billion is spent each year collecting data from third parties.

A cloud-based data locker has been described by CNN as "part virtual safe and part personal digital assistant.

"Dave Siegel, author of Pull: The Power of the Semantic Web to Transform Your Business, argues these cyber vaults will eventually replace PCs, tablets, iPhones, and Microsoft's (MSFT) Windows and Apple's (AAPL) Macintosh operating systems. Yes, Google (GOOG) Android, too."

      2.  Home Sweet Home:

The Connected Home is a component of the Internet of Things; where devices talk to devices, in many cases without human intervention.

Cloud-based smart home systems allow you to monitor and control your house from your smart phone, tablet, or computer, no matter where in the world you are at the time.  An example of this is Lowe's Iris system.

Iris can be installed directly by the home owner and the basic level of monitoring service is free. This includes text alerts to the home owner when alarms are triggered; remote control of connected devices, thermostats and locks; and access to remote video streaming from cameras in the home via smart phone or computer. Lowe has partnered with AlertMe to  produce this product.

          3. Programmatic buying will get bigger

Programmatic buying allows advertisers to bid, often in real time, on ad space largely based on the value they have assigned to the consumer on the other side of the screen.  It uses a range of technologies to achieve this.  As this New York Times article notes, "major advertisers and many of the world’s largest ad agencies creating private exchanges to automate the buying and selling of ads."

          4. A Sense of Touch and Smell

IBM believes that in the future computer devices will be able to mimic our ability to touch, taste, smell and hear.  Sophisticated algorithms will be able to analyse  why people like certain tastes and the chemical structure of food.

Download a copy
         5. Cyber Security or insecurity?

If you own a cyber security company you could be in the money as many predict that banks and other online transactions sites, who have been seen a surge in cyber attacks, are anticipating that these will get even more sophisticated as time goes by. As a result these entities will increasingly turn cyber security firms to combat these intrusions.

We are still slack about cyber security matters. A recent study found that 35% of all data required data protection in 2010, but despite this, less than 20% of it is actually protected.

Ericka Chickowski, writing for Dark Reading believes that security research firms will turn away from less lucrative vendor contracts in 2013 and instead sell the information they glean about software vulnerabilities on the open market.

"Cyber-mercenaries are becoming more protective of their discoveries as the technology involved becomes more complex and the secrets more valuable".

Now this should be a worry to all as these cyber-mercenaries don't need to reveal who they have sold their research to although some like Vupen are on record as saying that they wouldn't sell their findings to oppressive governments or criminals.

eWEEK has also compiled some 2013 predictions to help organisations prepare to counter increasingly sophisticated hacks and malware.

         6.  The amount of Data will grow and grow.

By 2020 that amount of data on planet earth will be 40 Zettabytes; one Zettabyte is 2 to the 70th power bytes. According the Computer Weekly that equates to 57 times the number of all the grains of sand on all the beaches on earth.  I 'll have to take their word for it as counting grains of sand is simply soporific!  Machine generated data is the main contributor to this increase, rising from the current 11% of all data top 40% by 2020.


 Predictions from other sources.

Juniper Research predicts the following for wireless in the year ahead:

  • Big Data to Become Big Business
  • Smart Glasses & Other Wearables: 2013, the year of ‘announcements’
  • BYOD trend on the rise, as security issues escalate
  • Retail to embrace the in-store mobile strategy
  • Operators to adopt seamless WiFi & LTE connectivity
  • Mobile Becomes the Connectivity Hub
  • The Year of Microsoft
  • The multi-screen, seamless user experience becomes a reality
  • New mobile and tablet form factors to emerge
  • Social Gaming is on the Rise

CIO sees an end to offshore outsourcing. IT robots  and autonomic systems will be taking over.  So you will no longer need to be an engineer to create software or intelligently manage IT infrastructure. An example is Blue Prism; giving companies a software development toolkit and methodology to create their own software robots to automate rules-driven business processes. According to the company there are significant cost savings with its robot full-time equivalents (FTEs) costing a third of offshore FTEs.(video below)



And finally, the digital playing field is levelling out thanks to Cloud computing with developing countries able expand their role in the global economy. The University of California, San Diego's Dean of International Relations and Pacific Studies, Peter F. Cowhey, and Senior Fellow at the Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation, Michael Kleeman, found that Third World countries can now utilise the cloud in the same way developed countries have in the past. This is due to the lower costs, resulting in higher Internet adoption rates.

Emerging market businesses can now access similar storage, compute, and uses application services as the Global 2000 do.

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Saturday, 22 December 2012

Are You Feeling Cyber Secure?

What would you do if your network's defences were breached and your  precious user accounts, financial and customer data were pillaged?

Not only would your intellectual property be jeopardised but the chances are that just one such breach could put you on the road to ruin. Overstated? Not really when you consider how much your business now depends on the Net.

A  National Cyber Security Alliance and Symantec survey conducted in September of 2012 discovered that  77% of 1,015 small businesses (less than 250 employees) thought they were safe from cyber attacks.   In this they were somewhat deluded, as 83% of them had no cybersecurity plan, although their online business operations were increasingly using social media and the Cloud. (see infographic below)

Raphael Ouzan, founder of BillGuard in New York says:

When it comes to cybersecurity protection, the biggest problem that small and medium-sized business owners often fail to address also happens to be the most critical: Awareness.
A lack of awareness by employees is the root cause of most of data leaks and other security incidents, and no matter how secure your data centre may be or how strongly communications are encrypted, the weakest link will always be the human beings interacting with the network."

Symantec offered seven tips that companies could and should adopt to make things more difficult for hackers and cyber-criminals:
  1. Determine what it is that you need to protect.  Undertaking a security audit will pinpoint where you information is currently stored and used.  You can then beef up your defences as required.
  2. Enforce strong password policies.  If you are serious about data protection then make sure your passwords are at least eight characters in length and contain combinations of letters, numbers and symbols. e.g. read!671DC. And do differentiate your passwords; don't use the same one for social media and online financial transactions for example.
  3. Don't wait for a security disaster to occur. Plan in advance with a comprehensive Preparedness Plan which should:
     - provide information on the identification of possible scenarios
     - tell you which are your critical resource that need protection
     - identify what is the appropriate security that needs to be put in place
     - establish the regular routine of archiving of business-critical files using a suitable backup solution
     - timetable the frequent testing you need to ensure your disaster response is satisfactory.
  4. Encrypt highly sensitive information on desktops, laptops, mobiles and removable media to protect your confidential information from unauthorized access.
  5. Educate your staff by providing training and a develop Internet usage and data security guidelines and policies. These should include clear guidelines for the sharing of information with any of the team that work remotely and details what you are prepare to share with your partners.
    Using Wi-Fi connections  in public cafes with phone or tablets can be particularly risky so they need to be made aware of the exact name of their network and login steps.
    Clearly spell out what staff should do if they discover malware or suspect their data has been accessed by unauthorised third parties.  The same applies if they inadvertently leave their laptop or data device on public transport (and yes it does happen!). What course of action should they take? Who in your organisation should they immediately contact?
  6. Makes sure that the security solution you have chosen is modern and up to date. The pick of the anti-virus crop do more than just look for viruses and spam; they scan files regularly for unusual changes in file size, malware programs and suspicious email attachments.
  7. Make it daily practice to update your security solution (anti-virus software).  The best ones quickly respond to new viruses, worms, Trojan horses and other malware with new updates.
All of the above requires investment in time and also financially, but prudent risk management makes the above a necessity.

The founder of Flippa.com, Matt Mickiewicz, explains to the Washington Post's J.D. Harrison:

"Everything we do is online, so cybersecurity, and its inherent association with trust, is a high priority. It’s also a core competency of our team, so we tend to do the bulk of it ourselves. We use tools such as risk matrices, plotting likelihood against impact, to determine how much we invest in this space. Our resources are immediately assigned to anything with high likelihood and high impact."


So Most Expensive is Best?

Buying the most expensive antivirus product around may turn out to be a waste of money. A report, called Assessing the Effectiveness of Anti-Virus Solutions and carried out for he security firm Imperva by the University of Tel Aviv, suggests that poor detection means that free programs offer better value for business.

82 new malware files were tested through the VirusTotal system which checks files against around 40 different antivirus products; the initial detection rate was a big fat zero!

Imperva’s researchers concluded that two free antivirus products, Avast and Emisoft, were the “most optimal” of the ones they reviewed. McAfee also passed muster.

Imperva’s CTO, Amichai Shulman is quoted as saying “We cannot continue to invest billions of dollars into anti-virus solutions that provide the illusion of security, especially when freeware solutions outperform paid subscriptions.”

One product that looks promising is ZeroVulnerabilityLabs which addresses the security challenge from a different angle. You can try out their free program which they claim stops malware from exploiting a wide range of software vulnerabilities, whether they are known ones or not.

This free utility is part of a layered approach (users still need antivirus and other security mechanisms) to fight against the plague of exploit kits which are infecting thousands of users every day.

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Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Not Such A Pretty Picture


It may look like a pleasing pattern but each of these red dots represents a bomb that fell on London during the Blitz (derived from the German term ‘Blitzkrieg’) from October 1940 until mid June in 1941.

The Bomb Sight project is the work of The National Archives in the UK. They scanned original 1940's bomb census maps , geo-referenced the maps and digitally captured the geographical locations of all the falling bombs recorded on the original map.

The data was then been  integrated into 2 different types of applications - an interactive web-mapping application and an Android App with an Augmented Reality view to reveal the locations of the bombs projected into the current urban landscape. So if you are visiting London you can stand on a street holding your phone  and point it in the direction you are interested in. The Bomb Sight App uses your camera and GPS to display all the bombs that fell nearby to where you are.

One can only be grateful that Time Travel has yet to materialise - actually being in the Blitz in real life would have been anything but entertaining!
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Friday, 30 November 2012

In A Buying Mood - Pinterest Vs Facebook

If you are selling something and planning to use social media to do so, does Facebook or Pinterest offer the best chance of delivering what you want?

New research from Bizrate Insights has found that 69% of consumers who have visited Pinterest discovered something they then purchased or wanted to purchase.  This compares to only 40% for Facebook.

Large version
Even more compelling was the finding that 70% of consumers use Pinterest to get inspired about things to buy and 67% use this social media platform to keep track of things they like.

You may use Facebook more to maintain friendships, but Pinterest is clearly out in front when it comes to selling. Both are sites which online consumers use to connect with people who have similar styles and interests. Pinterest though is more often used as a destination for shopping inspiration, tracking, and product discovery.

It also seems that brand building is better on Pinterest than on Facebook.  Bizrate reports that:

"A greater percent (55%) of Pinterest users have engaged with retailers and brands via Pinterest, compared to the percent of Facebook users that engage retailers or brands on Facebook (48%).  But how customers engage differs for each of the two platforms.  Pinterest users are more likely to be “Creators”: adding and sharing retailer/brand related content, while Facebook users are more likely to be “Participators”: interacting with promotional activities developed by retailers and brands."

Large version
The reach of Facebook still blitzes Pinterest but awareness of the latter is trending upwards rapidly.  36% of online consumers had heard of Pinterest in March but by August this figure had risen to 46%.

The reports data from September 2012 showed that 63% of online consumers had a Facebook account and only 15% had a Pinterest account.  Facebook is not sitting twiddling its thumbs when it comes to luring purchasers. They are testing a new feature, "collections", that lets users create wish lists of products by clicking on "want" or "collect" buttons.

PCWorld believes that the want button, if adopted permanently, could drive a lot of traffic to brands on Facebook and encourage impulse purchases.  They could be correct in this assumption and if it does it will have some serious implications for Pinterest.

But Pinterest is on the right growth projectory with a recent ComScore study putting it in the top 50 most-visited Web sites in the US for the first time, with 25 million unique visitors in the month. Ranked at 50th it still has  along way to catch Facebook which is ranked 4th in the same survey.


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Monday, 26 November 2012

Text, Buttons Or Banners - What Works Best?

According to a post by Simon Penson of eConsultancy conversions from a corporate web site are best served by buttons, with the the traditional banners trailing a distant third.
The research was conducted on a casino web site over a period of 12 months and with a sample of approximately 10,000 visitors.

On the basis of these finding it would seem best to avoid placing too much of your advertising budget on web banner advertising.
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Friday, 23 November 2012

On The Subject Of Subjects

If you don't give your email subject  lines serious consideration than your marketing campaign could well be a fizzer.

Recent research from Adestra suggests that subject line length and specific words and phrases have a major impact on your email marketing success or failure.

They took a a random sample of email campaigns, each of which were delivered to more than 5000 recipients, giving a total volume of 932 million emails sent over a six month period. As the average in one industry may not be to another they split the data down into six key industry groups – Publishing,
Events, Ecommerce, Charities, B2B and B2C.

Key Findings:

  • For the e-commerce sector, character and word count results are paradoxical. The choice is clear – shorter subject lines drive clicks, and longer subject lines drive opens
  • Subject lines with 70 characters provide give a significant boost click-throughs
  • For Events the best click through rate comes from subject lines with 15 words/120 characters upwards
  • Publishers should realise that a higher word count delivers more opens and click through rates
  • If you are a Charity running a donation campaign then short subject lines are critical as these drive both opens and response
  • Rather strangely they report that mentioning ‘kittens’ will increase your opens by 41% but if you mention 'children' the opening rate will drop by 28%
  • For B2B's the more words the better with anything over 16 words delivering on both opens and clicks
  • For B2C's a 20 word subject line appears to be clear winner
Parry Malm at Adestra who authored the report says: “Our new subject line research has produced some incredibly interesting stats. It’s only one aspect of your email marketing arsenal, but when approached in the correct way subject line optimisation can prove to be an effective, and quick, tactical winner to help drive response rates.”


Although interestingly these findings seem to be at complete variance to recent research by email provider MailChimp.  Their statistics from their own system released in September suggests that subject line length means absolutely nothing.

Mailchimp's analysis of 12 billion emails shows that as your subject line gets longer, nothing happens
Ian Creek of Econsultancy suggests that one email is never enough. He recommends this campaign schedule:

  • Send the first email explaining the offer in full HTML. 
  • Send a second follow-up email in a plain Outlook style from a named sales contact. 
  • Send a final reminder of the offer (day before the offer ends), again this can be from the sales contact. Simple-not over-designed. 
  • If you’re really cheeky you can even send a final email the day after the offer ends with a ‘special extension’.

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Friday, 16 November 2012

Gangnam Style Dancing from CHARLI-2

It's not all dancing for this five-foot high humanoid robot. robot from Virginia Tech.  The US Navy plans to build a robot that works with human sailors to fight fires aboard ship according to media reports.
CHARLI-2 has a prior claim to fame. It was also the winner of RoboCup 2011, an international soccer competition for robots where it beat a Singapore robot in the final.  Something that could  add a new dimension to the current debate on 'goal line technology' perhaps?

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Advertising Placement In Asia And Elsewhere?

Wanting to take online advertising in Asia or elsewhere?  Not sure if social media or online versions of newspapers are your best choice? This interactive chart may give you some pointers.

Simply highlight one of the demographic or maximum impressions buttons and you can judge which platforms or media you will be able to use to best advantage.


All statistics are taken from Google's AdPlanner.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Baa, Baa, Electric Sheep

Coming as I do from a country that has more sheep than people, the thought of 'electric sheep' generating art is a source of endless fascination!

Scott Draves a.k.a. Spot is a Google Engineer and visual and software artist living in New York City and has a PhD in Computer Science. Draves is the creator of the Electric Sheep, a continually evolving abstract animation.

It is described as a form of artificial life where the software recreates "the biological phenomena of evolution and reproduction though mathematics. The system is made up of man and machine, a cyborg mind with 450,000 participant computers and people all over the Internet".


As a collaborative abstract artwork project Draves' wants to demonstrate that “computers can be that soft and beautiful and have that spark of life".

What makes it particularly novel is that much of the action happens while your computer is in sleep mode.  When these computers "sleep", the Electric Sheep comes on and the computers communicate with each other by the internet to share the work of creating morphing abstract animations known as "sheep".




Electric Sheep is run by thousands of people all over the world, and can be installed on any ordinary PC or Mac. To build further upon the engagement factor of the project, the human participants guide the survival of the fittest by voting for their favorite animations in the flock.

You can also design your own sheep and submit them to the gene pool.  If you would like to view the most popular sheep in the flock you can do so here.

This blend of the organic with the inorganic and mathematics with the visual art is great for those who are up to the coding challenge.  More importantly it blurs the lines between what have traditionally been silo-ed disciplines.

The results are simply "Baaaaaaaaaaaaaautiful".
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Thursday, 1 November 2012

Why Your Brand Needs Facebook

Your Facebook site is the place that users like to interact with your brand, possibly even more so than your corporate web site.

Even though this survey from Lab42 has a small sample of 1,000 compared to the estimated 900 million Facebook users, its finding reinforce the need for a robust and well maintained Facebook page.

87% Like brands on Facebook and only 13% said they did not.  More importantly 82% felt that Facebook was great place to interact with brands and 35% of these folk felt that brands listened more to them on Facebook than elsewhere online.

Incentives remain the biggest motivation for people to follow brands on Facebook. Promotions, discounts and giveaways were the biggest motivation for 55% of respondents.  Printing off a coupon was the top way that people interact with a brand page on Facebook and 77% felt they had saved money by Liking a brand on Facebook.

Too many posts though will turn off your Followers and make them Unlike the brand page.

However the news is not all good as some products have an uphill battle to get Likes.  Adult novelty items, diet and weight loss products all are causes for embarrassment and the reason people are reticent about being associated with a brand that produces these.  Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, Health and Wellness products rank third on the 'Like Embarrassment' scale.

On Pinterest
Gauri Sharma, the CEO of Lab42 says of the survey: "We feel these insights alone will spur brands to re-evaluate and question the effectiveness of marketing tactics directed at their Facebook consumers, as the findings directly challenge the notion that more likes equals more customer loyalty. For example, 46 percent have liked a brand that they have no intention of buying from, and of those, 52 percent liked a brand just to get a free item. Forty-six percent said they like brands even if they can’t afford the brand’s products.

While there’s no definitive answer of how every single brand should interact with their Facebook consumers to maximize the use of time, money and resources, we feel strongly that we’ve only begun to scratch the surface in truly understanding why consumers like specific brands and if their display of ‘loyalty’ on Facebook translates to a higher lifetime value."
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Friday, 26 October 2012

Sobering Thought Of The Week


Could this be the real truth behind Twitter? Or is it simply one for the birds?

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Boom, Boomers

In the words of the immortal Basil Brush - Boom, Boom!

If you can remember the fox puppet then you might just be in the Baby Boomer generation.  If you can't then you are either too young to have see the show or possible too old to remember what you have seen. There are 80 million of them,  born between 1946 and 1964 and they have great spending power

Source: Nielsen
 Recent research  by a team of Nielsen Neurofocus neuroscientists have come up with the conclusion that the older we become, the greater the neural decline. This means that to market to Baby Boomers you need to keep it simple as they will begin to find it more difficult to handle visual or verbal complexity

But there is a flip side.  Baby Boomers have the ability to filter out negative messages and experience negative mentions less; at least that's the theory.

According to the Nielsen unit "the amygdala, an emotional center in the brain, tends to be active in older people only when viewing positive images. Negative images are overlooked unless they’re “immediately relevant.”

Marketers have tended to ignore the group once they migrated from the 18-49 demographic.

Source Nielsen
Nielsen make the point that in five years, 50 percent of the U.S. population will be 50+ and they spend close to 50 percent of all Consumer Packaged Goods dollars. Why is it then that less than 5% of advertising is targeted at this group?

Nielsen in collaboration with BoomAgers gives additional insights into this marketing opportunity.

Consider these points from the report:

  • Between now and 2030, the 18-49 segment is expected to grow +12%, while the 50+ segment will expand +34%.
  • Boomers are more tech savvy and more marketing-friendly than believed
  • Their business is winnable and losable
  • They are a much more sensitive and dynamic cohort than most realize
  • By 2050, there will be 161 million 50+ consumers, +63% compared to 2010
  • Internet users over the age of 50 are driving the growth of social networking as their usage of the social net has nearly doubled to 42% in the past year
  • 53% of Boomers are on Facebook
Boomers drive car sales and according to the Huffington Post. they also buy 73 percent of all hybrid cars. A monthly poll by  AARP media sales  showed that 70 % of women 50 and older felt invisible to fashion and beauty companies.

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Saturday, 13 October 2012

It's Written In The Stars

Fancy a touch of galactic typography? Or perhaps a piece of stellar sign writing, if you will excuse the pun.

Galaxy Zoo has been in existence for the past five years but they have just launched a fourth version of their web site.

Beginning with a data set of a million galaxies imaged by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, Galaxy Zoo has developed since then. They are using crowd sourcing techniques to classify the shapes of galaxies. Galaxy Zoo asked members of the public, the Zooites as they have labelled them, to look through nearly one million galaxies to make a catalogue of their shapes for scientific use. More than 50 million classifications were received by the project during its first year, contributed by more than 150,000 people.

But of course many people are sighting the same galaxy but there is 'method in the madness'.

"This is deliberate; having multiple independent classifications of the same object is important, as it allows us to assess how reliable our results are. For example, for projects where we may only need a few thousand galaxies but want to be sure they're all spirals before using up valuable telescope time on them, there's no problem - we can just use those that 100% of classifiers agree are spiral. For other projects, we may need to look at the properties of hundreds of thousands of galaxies, and can use those that a majority say are spiral."

The real fun start with a new interactive tool professional astronomer Steven Bamford has developed.  Now you can have your own message written in real galaxies using the My Galaxies generator.  There is really only one word to describe it:


Hours of fun are to be had writing one's thoughts in the heavens.  Once written you can click on your galactic creation to get a larger version and save it as a digital file.

Just the thing for weather school holidays; fun and educational at the same time.  And if you wish to expand your science horizons still further take a look at Zooinverse, home to the internet's largest, most popular and most successful citizen science projects.
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Monday, 8 October 2012

When A + is Not A Plus

It would seem that receiving a +1 on Google Plus is no great benefit in raising your profile in Google's search rankings.

As a social metric the number of +1's you receive may be heart warming but doesn't mean that you will be discovered online any better.

Matt Cutts,  the head of Google Web Spam team confirmed in a ‘Power Searching With Google Hangout on Air #2’ that this was the case.  This is not to say that +1's won't become more important in the future but right at the moment Google is more interested in 'authorship'.

"In the short term, we’re still going to have to study and see how good the signal is, so right now, there’s not really a direct effect where if you have a lot of +1s, you’ll rank higher. 

But there are things like, we have an authorship proposal, where you can use nice standards to markup your webpage, and you’ll actually see a picture of the author right there, and it turns out that if you see a picture of the author, sometimes you’ll have higher click through, and people will say, ‘oh, that looks like a trusted resource.’ So there are ways that you can participate and sort of get ready for the longer term trend of getting to know not just that something was said, but who said it and how reputable they were."


So perhaps the main lesson to be learnt is that you need to have Google Authorship enabled on your site. Your online visibility will improve with the number of results your achieve as an author,within the results pages.
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Monday, 17 September 2012

A Way With Words - The Ease Of Self Publishing

Those of us who write are seldom lost for words, or care to admit admit that we are. I suspect most people who write blogs fall into this category.

The question remains however, just what to do with these words once they are written (apart from the aforementioned blogging)? Which publishing platforms can help you take your writing project to the next level and produce something of value that you would be proud to share with friends on the coffee table?

A friend of mine who has just returned from an African adventure, getting up close with elephants, mating lions and wildebeest. He showed me a handsome volume he had produced to share with friends and family. What impressed me most was the quality of production; the platform in question being Blurb.

The 'Blurberati', both the company and a community, passionately believe in the joy of books – reading them, creating and sharing them and of course, selling them. With Blurb you have a two-in-one opportunity. You can feed your desire to self publish and also sell what you produce through their marketing platform.

Blurb's authors earned a million dollars in profits last year. They have shipped more than 6 million printed books (excluding custom and offset orders) to 69 countries since their inception in 2006 so they are clearly on to a winner! I should also note that they have had a million authors over the same time period and better still, if you sell a book through Blurb you keep 100% of the profit.

So I decided to 'bench test' the Blurb platform myself so that this review had more substance and I could hold the finished product in my hand to give a fairer assessment to readers.

The thing that impressed me first up was the functionality that gave me several options to set out my book.

Options
You can build it online, or do as I did and download their Blurb Booksmart software. It's a 45 MB download and they recommend 1 GB or more of memory - 512 MB is the minimum.

If you require further guidance or motivation have a look at Blurb's Bookstore section and see the staff picks and best sellers. The preview option of any choice is excellent providing a full screen preview of all pages before purchase.

Preview before purchase
As a practicing digital artist and wearing my 'other hat' I decided to put Blurb to the test myself. My project was to publish a soft-covered forty to fifty page digital art book to test the quality of image reproduction and the finished product overall.

Blurb's user interface is simplicity itself and you can change template options with ease. Whether you want to use text, pictures or a photo layout there are plenty of professional options to suit.

The easy to use templates with their drag and drop functionality
Having added your pages and content you can then preview the book and re-edit as and when needed. There are themes, background and ornaments.

The review panel has full zoom functionality
Flick through page by page and click the edit button if you wish to make changes

Once all is in order click the publish button and you can view a final preview and then order the book. Is it expensive? The answer is that it is surprisingly reasonable for such production values.

A 20 page softcover book using standard paper costs $US19.95 and there are discounts for volume purchases, so giving a copy to the extended family for Christmas becomes a viable option.

A 40-60 page softcover using Blurb's high-end Proline Pearl photo paper bumps up the price to a realistic $US 43.42.

So now I have the finished product in my hand and I am delighted with the result. Judge it for yourself (below) and I am pleased to record that I have already sold a copy through their bookshop.


Had the first Duke of Wellington (who uttered the immortal words "Publish and be damned!") been living in today's digital world he would no doubt have re-phrased his utterance to "Publishing is so damned Easy". So it is with Blurb.
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