“Motorcycles finally go green” – really?

Wired Autoblog closes the year with a roundup of the half a dozen green bike orientated stories it has already run. No “new” news but OK as an intro to the subject. The article and comments pickup on the difference (for existing bikes) between good fuel economy – tick – and low pollution – uh, not really. As my Aprilia hardly gets 30mpg and 120 miles on a tank I am not even sure on the first point…

The more discussion the better, but I can’t see a lot more R&D money going into it in the next few years unless battery technology really changes.

PS why? – as usual the US comments have their kicks at the liberals and big government, or hit back at the failure of free markets – is every blog post on any topic grist to the mill for this poorly thought out rhetoric? Play nicely, children…


Measure your influence

Are there trustworthy analytics/metrics for measuring “influence”? In the web 2.0 world we count hits on the blog, friends on Facebook, Twitter stats, etc.

According to Twinfluence I have a Twitter rank of #8,862 and:

  • Velocity: 1,020 second-order followers/day
  • Social Capital: 56,171.6 +10.6 Very High
  • Centralization: 55.50% / -0.5 Average – Fragile

To understand this read a “Web Analytics Demystified” blogpost from Eric Peterson here –  in truth it means I am selective who I follow and who I allow to follow me – the figures can be manipulated…

He also talks about the Twitter ratio – mine is less than 1.0, pretty normal:

  • “A ratio of less than 1.0 indicates that you are seeking knowledge (and Twitter Friends), but not getting much Twitter Love in return.
  • A ratio of around 1.0 means you are respected among your peers. Either that or you follow your Mom and she follows you.
  • A ratio of 2.0 or above shows that you are a popular person and people want to hear what you have to say. You might be a thought leader in your community.
  • A ratio 10 or higher indicates that you’re either a Rock Star in your field or you are an elitist and you cannot be bothered by Twitter’s mindless chatter. You like to hear yourself talk. Luckily others like to hear you talk, too. You may be an ass. “

If I start using social media to get my my “numbers” up – on whatever media – is that building a brand or ego bombing your constituency? Peterson says:

“Hey, the two things I spend the most time on in Twitter is trying to find great people to follow and trying to share interesting ideas.”

Same here, although because the UK hasn’t got Twitter into the mainstream yet ( and certainly not non IT folk) I am not surprised that it is less effective in getting conversations going.


To come back to the original question web analytics are good on numbers (and can be gamed), but understanding influence in the wider sense (how to achieve behaviour change) is more than a numbers game (sorry).

Smartest guys in the room

Imagine the scene – you get Dan Kahneman, Richard Thaler, Sendhil Mullainathan in a room in California to deliver a master class on behavourial economics, courtesy of Edge. In the audience you have Jeff Bezos, Nathan Myhrvold, Danny Hillis, Ev Williams, George Dyson and other A listers.

6 sessions, with videos and text, plus Q&A.  As an example  – session 1 – Thaler’s Nudge theory, choice architecture and “libertarian paternalism” are explored – interesting that he was going to call his book “Everything Matters”.  I like the phrase “one click paternalism” as well if not the possible negative outcome. Maybe we can get the opt out choice architecture right on our company car share scheme.

While its not an instant fix – behavioral econ rarely is – its worth the investment in time to get up to speed on the basics.

BTW The use of the Enron film title is just me being ironic…

Cafe racers, cardboard scooters and hybrids

A few images and stories to get my blog back into the biker esoterica:

The Suzuki Crosscage concept bike from 2007 uses hybrid electric hydrogen fuel cell motor and is now a working prototype. Single-sided swing-arm and front fork, superlight and fast enough 100mph speed limited. Just need to perfect the fuel cell technology – nothing on Suzuki’s website to suggest its anywhere near production. (Story from Hell for Leather originally, YouTube video here).

Another YouTube video this time of the NONOBJECT nUCLEUS. Conceptual, yes, insane, yes…

Still no word from the Stonebridge Motor Company or Nick Gale as to when or if their Ace Cafe racer, Little Miss Dynamite, launched in June, will be on sale. With an S&S V twin, plus a featherbed style frame, alloy tank, interesting exhaust plumbing I would be counting out my pools winning  to get an order in…

Click the images for the full picture.

Chris Gilmour, Brit artist based in northern Italy,  uses only cardboard and glue to make his life size sculptures/ models and the artworld loves them.

The backlash begins

Working my way through this years “Pop!Casts” from Pop!Tech I settled down for the Malcolm Gladwell show. The premise of his new book, Outliers, leaves me a little underwhelmed – “so what” comes to mind – and I know that there has been some cultural critics who have argued that we have  seen diminishing returns from Tipping Point to Blink to Outliers.

I haven’t read it yet so will reserve judgement, but as bloggers take plenty of credit for compiling other sources of information and thought surely it would be  a bit wrong to characterise Gladwell as just a pop sociologist, reading the difficult books so you don’t have to?

Watch the video here and you decide.

Tom’s wise words – for free

Thanks to Guy Kawasaki for the heads up on Tom Peters free stuff corner of his website. Amongst the management advice is a “Change This” Manifesto (another favourite site) that I must have missed first time around in 2006  – “111 Ridiculously Obvious Thoughts on Selling” :

13. Lunch with at least one weirdo per month (goal: always on the prowl for interesting new stuff)

30. You can’t do it all – be clear what you are good at, bad at, indifferent at. Hubris sucks. 

47. Know more than the next guy. Homework pays.

76. IT’S ALWAYS YOUR PROBLEM – you sold it to them.

In a recession we also have wise words from Jason Calacanis, who has got a lot of traffic for his take on survival. Interestingly first distributed by mass email on Jasonlist, not via his blog – see the 120% Solution, now finally published on the blog here.

Also from Guy Kawasaki’s blog, discrediting the A list social media meme, but not the “influencers like you and me” idea, talks about the use of  Twitter as a marketing tool:

Forget the “influentials.”You must buy into the theory that products and services reach critical mass because mere mortals spread the word for you. This defies the common wisdom that a handful of “influentials” shape what the rest of us try and what we adopt. In the online world, these influentials include Mike “I can go a week without Twitter” Arrington, Robert Scoble, Seth Godin, and to some extent me.

Reliance on influentials is flawed because the Internet has flattened and democratized information. Influentials don’t have as much special access, special knowledge, and distribution as you might think because of the growth of websites, blogs, and, of course, Twitter.

Social media experts needed?

Well what I need now are some social media marketing businesses to work with on a project in Brighton (lets see if this sentence gets picked up by a potential business partner, by osmosis or Google)…

While doing my research I came across the debate in various blogs on the fate of the self appointed/publicly acclaimed experts as well as the corporate social media specialists and the hired guns (and much speculation whether they will/can survive the recession?)  Examples include Shel Israel’s  post and the highly relevant comments – as Shel says in his open letter to CEOs –

“This is the time to think about the most efficient way to be closest to you customers, to what’s left of your company ecosystem. You need to be among the first to detect the nuances of your market and adjust. You need to think about the most efficient way to keep in the conversation. “

Enough to encourage Hugh MacLeod to produce several (tongue in cheek) Social Media Specialist drawings :

Someone said in one of the blog comments that the only proof of SM expertise is results – agreed, so thats what I am looking for.

Business planning 101

business plan


Sunday afternoon working and while we try to avoid Dilbert’s optimism and buzzwords in our Strategic Plan for next year I have also been reading between the lines of the new Transport for London Business Plan. For what its worth my initial thoughts on the business plan are offered, prepared for the South London Partnership .

Buy Nothing Day 08

From the wonderful disassemblers at Adbusters is this year’s Buy Nothing Day campaign – one week to go – on Saturday 29th November say no to the corporate world. The events proposed include the zombie walk through malls and credit card destruction:

Credit card cut up – Volunteers stand in a shopping mall with a pair of scissors and a sign offering a simple service: to put an end to extortionate interest rates and mounting debt with one considerate cut. Be careful though: in some first-world countries, carrying scissors in public can get you arrested as a “terrorist”.

Three weeks before Christmas seems to be perfect timing for this, but apart from a few liberal pockets of the western world (Berkeley, Greenwich Village, Brighton, Totnes, Freiburg perhaps) I can’t imagine anyone is going to notice – maybe in this credit crunch year it will have more resonance? or will the Chancellors exhortations for us all to spend our way out of recession underline the reality gap between consumerism and (non economic) well being?

While you are on the Adbusters site and taking out a subscription to the magazine (well I did) their view on the financial crisis is well worth reading as well…

The UK site for my “fellow activists” is here – it includes a scratchy FOE video (thanks to Polyp) which seems almost a throwback to the sixties – is it suddenly contemporary, ironic or just naive?:

Who do you trust?

David Cushman, author of the “Power of the Network”, questions the role and usefulness of the focus group in his blog, Faster Future . Although the Scoble example is appropriate in a web/Twitter context it is David’s “Communities of Purpose” proposition, which ties in with some of the new thinking we are pushing in travel behaviour change, that is causing us to review the theories that back our work.

Key criteria for the communities of purpose in the example related in the blog:

  • The community self organized around something they care about.
  • The real community of purpose here, the real creators of value, were the ones who cared enough about the purpose to drop everything in real time, right now.

Some of the blog comments note that the focus group is hardly dead and a collaborative approach to harnessing knowledge and enthusiasm may work better when the promoter is well known.

David has been promoting the idea of self-forming collaborative communities of interest and purpose for some time and has challenged some very established ideas about network behaviours. Some more deep reading is required to see what practical explanations can be pulled from this work, but I thought I would link to it early and analyse later.

Deja Vu

Its all about timing…

Last night I watched the Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young DVD “Deja Vu“, recording their 2006 tour and specifically the anti war protests that divided audiences across the States. The mixed reaction to the song “Let’s Impeach the President” is instructive – surely fans going to a gig by the band that wrote “Ohio” shouldn’t be surprised by 4 old hippies still having liberal views? 

What a difference a week makes – suddenly all the references to Bush, Cheney, Rice, etc. seem so retro.

However the excellent Neil Young blog/website “Living with War Today” is hardly going to cease to function overnight and rightly Neil has said it will stay until the war is over.  How many other 60’s figures are relevant in music, culture and politics 40 years later? His interviews in the film were typical, slightly grumpy, but clear on the messages and commitment. Also watched the “Don’t be Denied” Young documentary on BBC, now off to find my copies of “Tonight’s the Night” and “On the Beach” – forgot how good they were/are.

American Dreams – semiotics and the last word on Obama

And now the hangover, but perhaps first a short walk through the values and meanings of Obama in the context of the “new” American Dream… using cultural theory to analyse and develop brands (or Presidents).

Please have a look at all of the Greg Rowland Semiotics presentation, (don’t be put off by the semiotics tag) but particularly the slides from 38 onwards about Obama – a cool calm intellectual treated to cool calm intellectual analysis;

  • Obama represents a new evolving topography of hope and desire for the American Dream – bringing disparate pieces together into a promising future
  • By choosing Obama the US is electing to look into the mirror that is the reflection of the present, rather than searching for our reflection in the past


  • Obama is the story of a fractured progressive narrative, pointing towards a new paradigm in the expression of the US dream
  • The American dream is at its most powerful during moments of chaos (as we resort to escapism for comfort — fantasy industries,such as entertainment, soar during periods of economic distress)
  • While McCain’s version of the American Dream was a familiar, yet antiquated one of small town America, Obama projected the dream through a fragmented post-modern lens of real and abstract hope

Thanks to Mark Earls for the link

PopTech 2008

Just like TED there are so many opportunities to enjoy the presentations at the big US “ideas” conferences without putting your name on waiting lists and spending thousands of pounds.

Names at this October’s PopTech include Dawkins, Stephen Pinker, Bruce Sterling, Kevin Kelly and one of my favourites, Stewart Brand (of LongNow fame)- watch his predictions for the next 30 years of environmental action and how cities will develop – the video is here.

“3 kinds of environmentalists – Romantics, Scientists and Engineers.”

“Jesus People against Pollution” an example from over 1 million environmental organisations in the world…

“squatters are the dominant builders in the world today” – one billion live in squatter cities, two billion expected – these are the real green cities because of recycle and reuse, ecological footprint small.

And he is pro nuclear power…

also have a look at Christian Nolds bio mapping  presentation – actually watch as many as you can, just choose at random! and start thinking 🙂

PS best geek joke – Bruce Sterling “we need a new word for neologism”

Choice, perception & behaviour

The New York Times adds its voice to the emerging acceptance of behavioural elements in economics and markets generally, in an op-ed by David Brooks.  Lots of good lines-

“”My sense is that this financial crisis is going to amount to a coming-out party for behavioral economists and others who are bringing sophisticated psychology to the realm of public policy. At least these folks have plausible explanations for why so many people could have been so gigantically wrong about the risks they were taking.”
“So perhaps this will be the moment when we alter our view of decision-making. Perhaps this will be the moment when we shift our focus from step three, rational calculation, to step one, perception.”


The writer’s comment that “choice architecture”, as per Richard Thaler’s Nudge theory, will only work in limited cases echoes my own views, but if markets and governments fail to influence the decision making process then what?  back to the individuals non rational decision making again…

And with halloween approaching read how the Vancouver Sun charcaterises current markets as Motivated by Fear, with yet another mainstream introduction to neuroeconomics – also on BBC Radio 4 yesterday –“Money on the Brain”

Somethings happening in this area when the big guys start to pay attention.

Herd Mentality

Mark Earls blogs on his own site and the Marketing Society site, yet again hitting several topical nails on their heads. Read the full blogpost here, but I can’t help myself in picking a choice quote:

“To be honest, copying is much more important than independent thinking to shaping human behaviour and is much more common: as Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahnemann puts it, humans are to independent thought as cats are to swimming. We can do it if we really want to but will avoid it like the plague if we can…”

With the reference to BrettConsult’s favourite behavioural economist how can he go wrong?

In related news my new model for travel behaviour change is getting some attention (virally, of course) and another article beckons. My paper for European Transport Conference has been published and a copy is available here – aet-paper-081006.  As always some feedback would be welcome.

Kickstart returns

From Ruth Kelly’s (farewell) speechtoday at the Labour party conference:

“And because buses are a vital lifeline to many in our communities I am delighted to announce today an extra £25 million to kickstart new bus services, in both urban and rural areas.”

A bit of digging with DfT suggest this will be new money – yes I know that’s rare – but as always open to a nice little competition, especially if pet topics are covered – “DfT will be particularly interested in proposals that demonstrate how local authorities will use the new bus powers for partnership working in the Local Transport Bill”. 

As council bus men fight to keep their existing services running they will be overjoyed to spend their weekends writing complex business case bids for a 1:50 chance in the Kickstart lottery.

Couldn’t we just have the 25m for the shortfall in concessionary fares payments?

Oh and I marked the Kelly commitment to Crossrail down for further reference – as the last recession was used as an excuse to kill off the first Crossrail scheme – we shall see.

“So that is why the Government will stay true to its commitments – on Crossrail, on Birmingham New Street, on Reading and across the country.”

Non Linear Innovation

Turning to innovation to rescue us from the recession is a common theme in my business and many others now. But do we understand how we get from A to B (and onto Z) in innovating?

Roland Harwood, of the always thought provoking NESTA blogs, has come up with the “comedy bow tie” model:

  • Phase A – Lots of potential inputs. New ideas are simply recombinations of old ideas
  • Phase B – Iterate furiously
  • Phase C – Breadth of market applications

    The middle bit, spinning around until you find the solution, seems pretty true to life, but its still ultimately a version of the funnel model, just with a few more product outcomes.

    [Is this a bit geeky?]

    btw good to be back, had a blog summer holiday while sorting out business and life…

    Fuel prices – the HP solution

    It would be way too easy to comment on the fuel price “crisis” as hysterically reported in the UK press this week, but…

    Are we going to see repositioning of car prices, especially for used cars, on the basis of fuel economy or as in previous petrol price panics will we forget the real cost of travel by car pretty quick, accepting the base level cost change. Certainly on nearly life expired cars, which depreciate less than £1000 a year (i.e. my 9 year old Volkswagen, worth £1,500, with 140k on the clocks) the annual fuel bill is the biggest expense – so do I change it to a more fuel efficient car to reduce the annual operating cost?

    Its certainly too early to see an impact on the business of promoting sustainable transport alternatives. 

    As I still pay £30 to replace the ink cartridges on my £35 printer perhaps we could see a new disposable car model develop or is there a flaw in this analogy?

    [PS watching MotoGP from Mugello while blogging this – oh, the irony]

    “Do you want fries with that?” innovation in the service industries

    A new report from NESTA Taking Services Seriously sets out a few ideas on why (some) service industries innovate and most don’t. As we are a service economy (75% of the UK GDP) the concentration on manufacturing R&D has always slightly concerned me – yes we need to develop high value leading edge physical products but where is the future economy going to be built in added value terms?

    The exec summary is pretty clear about why this report is needed now:

    “Policy could have an important role in stimulating innovation in services. However, policymakers have lacked robust evidence showing how these sectors innovate. Drawing on a survey of more than 16,000 firms, this research reveals the high levels of ‘hidden innovation’ in some services sectors, especially in how they develop new business models and exploit technology. But the research also reveals that innovation is confined to a minority of service firms, and that many lack the skilled personnel or intelligence on markets and technology that would enable them to become more innovative.

    Because of their dominance in the economy, improved performance by the UK’s services sectors is necessary if we are to significantly close the productivity gap between the UK and other leading nations. However, if we are to take innovation in services seriously, we must recognise that they innovate differently from advanced manufacturing. We need policies to support increased training and development, and the effective dissemination and exploitation of technology.

    At the risk of sounding like a cheerleader, thank god someone is saying this so we can point to it and internally lobby, cajole and encourage real support for innovation through better processes and sharper thinking.


    Who Killed The Electric Car Movie?

    Although it came out in 2006 I have just seen “Who Killed The Electric Car” on DVD, which sets out to tell the tale of those few strange years when GM, Ford, Honda and Toyota “tried” to comply with the strict pollution rules (Zero Vehicle Emissions Mandate) being enacted by the State of California CARB (pre Arnie in the 1990s). The story may not be well known over here, particularly the EV1, although we did see Ford trying the Think concept in 2001 in Britain, which only lasted a year (now the UK original website has been pulled -http://www.thinkmobility.com/ but the new norwegian version suggests a revival).

    Now its down to the EV1 fan club to keep the memory of the US experiment alive.

     GMs excuse is here – no, not sure I believe it either.

    The sub text, particularly the (Bush) message that technology will be the answer and the backing given to fuel cell vehicles, is even more telling a couple of years later…

    Is it me being paranoid or did the film disappear quickly off the radar because its an esoteric interest or because big advertisers didn’t want it to be seen on TV – I think its not been on terrestial TV in the UK, yet, for example, when a lot of 2006 movies have been – and its hardly minority viewing if docs by Al Gore, Michael Moore & Morgan Spurlock get aired?

    Great voiceover by Martin Sheen, BTW.

    So message to all of the petrolheads out there – that means you Dave – time to watch this movie.

    Wacky invention or future of transport?

    Through Gizmodo amd Motorcycle Mojo found this unicycle/motorcycle hybrid, the Uno, recently shown at the Toronto Bike show. The inventor is a bright 18year old Canadian guy called Ben J. Poss Gulak who put the bike together without any big company R&D funds. It is two wheeled, with both wheels side by side, steered totally by moving your body weight around and gyro sensors, with electric battery power. Underneath the bodywork is extensively rebuilt Yamaha RI frame.

    As a toy and a stunt show special fine but wouldn’t the perceived instability would put off both existing bikers and car drivers – maybe Segway owners would see it as a next step up from their machines? So its niche, but still glad someone has done it (and I would certainly have a go on one if it enters full production).

    So whats the big idea?

    In the NESTA Connect blog there was some thought given to the recent Business Week top innovators list – all the usual suspects with Apple & Google leading the pack. I think the blog is right:

    As always the list is more telling for who it leaves out rather than who it includes – what about companies from sectors such as architecture/construction, financial services, media, brand and PR, financial services and tourism and hospitality?

    Agreed – surely the real innovation is found in the archetypical garage or at least small business and with the exception of Google, with its “20% Time” for all employees, innovation usually gets shuffled into an “R&D department”.

    With the publication of Innovation Nation by the DIUS (yes, I had to remind myself it stands for the Department of Innovation, Universities & Skills) the topic is back in the news. 

    Key to the debate is whether a recession is the best or worst time to develop new products and bring them to market – as an eternal optimist I would say do it now, research resources are inexpensive and necessity, as always, is the mother of invention.

    Getting Lost

    Cheap SatNav

    I have had decent sat nav for 6 months now and today instead used a road atlas to enjoy a retro moment – finding my way around several bike dealers within 100 miles of my house. So what did we learn?

    • there are some interesting back roads in Buckinghamshire, some muddy and infested with tractors
    • with road atlas scales size does matter – no more than 3 miles to one inch
    • as does being up to date – if you buy a 2008 titled atlas it was issued in August 2007 and based only on the roads known to man (and the O/S) some months earlier – although with the lack of investment in new roads you shouldn’t get caught out too often…

    As a geographer and a map anorak but also a gadget fan this fundamental dichotomy causes me sleepless nights 🙂 

    And the holy grail was found north of Aylesbury:

    Aprilia Tuono 2008

    How am I going to get from here to there?

    “Google maps – your public transportation options mock me”

    The well meaning world of internet journey planners – as Ernie Hsiung says Google doesn’t always get it right either. The comments Ernies post generated reflect a US perspective (even with SF having better than average PT options), but I can imagine the same comments here.

    In the UK (and I will go out on a limb here) we have TfL Journey planner which I find pretty good and reliable, the National Rail Planner which is much improved and which I consult almost daily, Traveline varies by region and Transport Direct – sorry, still not good enough.  Google Maps UK only offers you the driving route, so can’t offer a comparison between UK and US versions.

    Now I recognise how hard it is to get complex journey combinations right in the fragmented UK public transport system, but getting credible and sustained mode shift needs information about the product. Other consumer goods seeking greater market share wouldn’t be sold in such  away that potential customers give up before they even get to the bus stop. 


    So where is my rocket car,then?

    I remember reading my uncle’s popular science magazines in the 1960s when I lived in North Dakota and every year there would be a long look forward to the future, always optimistic and full of technology breakthroughs just around the corner. A look back at the November 1968 issue of Mechanix Illustrated, courtesy of the Modern Mechanix blog, gave me a mix of “well, that happened” and “we’re still waiting” moments.

    IT’S 8 a.m., Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2008, and you are headed for a business appointment 300 mi. away. You slide into your sleek, two-passenger air-cushion car, press a sequence of buttons and the national traffic computer notes your destination, figures out the current traffic situation and signals your car to slide out of the garage. Hands free, you sit back and begin to read the morning paper—which is flashed on a flat TV screen over the car’s dashboard. Tapping a button changes the page.

    Well, the predictions about sat nav & computers in the article have been met, with the internet predicted and the wide use of electronic money, for example. A good read, as is the Paleo Future blog, now we need someone to write an article about 40 years from now, I bet it won’t be so optimistic.