Merry Christmas

The coolest Christmas tree I’ve seen, via apartment therapy, is this one:

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Merry Christmas all!

I’ve been tagged

John Grant over at the excellent BrandTarot Blog has tagged me.

Being tagged is the latest blogger meme: Once you are tagged, you need to mention 5 things about yourself that others don’t know. Then you need to tag 5 other people.

So here goes:

1) As much as I try to hide it, I’ve always been a computer nerd. My first ever computer was a Commodore 64, with a cassette tape. My 5 favourite games were Frogger, Q-Bert, and a motorbike game with “Clumsy Colin” the KP Skips potato chip mascot. The 80’s answer to the Tamagotchi, “Little Computer People”, was up there as well.

2) I really wanted to be a rock star. Don’t we all at some point? I played drums in a couple of bands, including Suitcase and Northern Arterial. Heard of them? Of course you haven’t.

3) I had a cupie doll named Sophie up until I was about 5, until my dog, Blackie, chewed her arms and legs off. Every time I see the front cover of Seth Godin’s latest book, it brings a tear to my eye.

4) Even though I’m an Australian male, I don’t particularly like sport. Cricket? Dull. AFL? Not interested. I did go and see the International Darts Championship in the UK earlier this year. Now there’s a sport. Fine, elite athletes if I ever I saw them.

5 ) My fiance, Stacey, and I actually met while playing in the percussion section of our school band. She was playing the glockenspiel, while I was on drums. I was 17 at the time; she was 13. Needless to say, it wasn’t until quite a few years later that we got together.

Now for the 5 of you that I’m tagging. I choose:

Go forth and embarrass yourselves!

Second Life Residents Exceed 2 Million

It’s quite a milestone for the virtual world of Second Life to have signed up over 2 million users this week. Especially since they reached the 1 million mark in September. No one would disagree that things are growing pretty quickly.

Now that doesn’t mean that you’ll find 2 million avatars wandering around Second Life at the one time. That number is closer to 16,000. And many new users probably won’t spend a lot of time in Second Life. The MMO’s creator, Linden Labs, have estimated a 10% retention rate – Only 10% of those signing up will continue to visit Second Life on an ongoing basis.

So the 2 million figure could somewhat misleading – most new avatars (me included) aren’t in Second Life to buy land and/or trousers, but to see for themselves what this much-hyped virtual world is all about. It’s unlikely that anyone’s Grandmother will be a pole-dancing in Second Life just yet.

However, Modern Marketers like you might also be interested to know that Linden Labs have released some graphs and stats about the size of the population and economy in the Second Life (SL). Here are what I thought were the most interesting points:

  • More than 90,000 unique SL residents have bought currency (ie Linden Dollars) on the exchange.
  • The number of ‘Premium’ SL residents – those who pay a fee to receive Linden dollars and the opportunity to buy land – has grown from 5,000 at the start of 2005 to over 36,000 at the end of November 2006.
  • The combined world of Second Life nearly 4.5 times the size of the island of Manhatten Island (which sounds awfully impressive to this Melbournian).
  • Since the Linden currency and the ‘LindeX’ was launched (in October of 2005), more than $15 million dollars worth of Lindens has been bought and sold – with $2.6 million traded in November alone.
  • In November of 2006, residents spent more than 6.4 million hours in-word – that’s more than 10 times the number of user hours in January 2005.

That first bullet point – the one about the 90,000 residents who have bought currency – seems to me like a good indicator of the number of ‘serious’ Second Life residents in existence. Not everyone wants to buy virtual land, but when someone is prepared to exchange real-world dollars for virtual currency, I’d say they are more than ‘dipping their toes’.

2006 has indeed been the tipping point for Second Life, but it will indeed be interesting to see how it all pans out in 2007. I for one will be keeping my eye on this space.

Shock News :: Ben Rowe’s Blog reaches 100 posts!

Well people, here it is, my 100th Blog post. Is that the distant sound of “Whoop-Di-Do” I hear?

This is what my blog looks like via the cool Websites as graphs – an HTML DOM Visualizer Applet :

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Thanks for reading!

Whistle-Stop WiFi Tour of Melbourne

Anyone looking for free wifi in Melbourne? I’ve put together a list of some of the places I’ve found that are worth a visit.

State Library :: 328 Swanston St – Probably your best option for free wifi in the city, the state library (corner of Swanston and Latrobe St) offers endless free wifi without having to buy a coffee every half-hour. The connection is good, although not super-fast.

Mag Nation
:: 88 Elizabeth St – This cool magazine store is worth a visit. Grab yourself a coffee and head upstairs for best results. Bring your own headphones though – the music they play is a little hit and miss.

Horse Bazaar :: 397 Little Lonsdale Street – The Horse Bazaar is another top option. It’s a great little bar with a good connection.

Joe’s Garage :: 366 Brunswick St (Fitzroy) – Your best bet for free wifi in Fitzroy.

Food Inc :: 360 Elizabeth St – Good wifi here – The password to get on was 17DD1BA378 when I visited.

Bungalow 8 :: 389 Brunswick St – Scored low on ambiance and high on bogan count the night I was there, but the connection was good.

There’s also free wifi in both Australia on Collin’s and Melbourne Central’s foodcourt. I’d prefer to nail my leg to the table than hang out in a food court though. Coincidentally, the connection isn’t all that flash either.

If anyone has any other places to add to this list, please let me know via comments.

2006 Wrap-Up :: State of the Blogosphere

As 2006 comes to a close, Technorati tells us that there are 62.5 million blogs out there. Compare this to the beginning of the year, when there were only 27.2 million. That is one whopping big increase in just 12 months. I’m amazed.

Gartner have predicted that blogging will peak in 2007, which may be true. But with such explosive growth over the last 12 months, you’d expect things to slow down a little.

I’d be really interested to know if anyone has information about the size and state of the Australian Blogosphere. Does anyopne have any figures on this?

I’ve been away for a while, but it seems that blogging is nowhere near as prominient here in OZ. I don’t think people here know what a blog is, let alone the benefits to be had from starting a blog. Am I wrong?

Either way, I think 2007 may be a big year for Australian blogging.

(link via Micropersuasion)

‘Look Behind The Label’ :: M&S’s Ethical Marketing Success

You’d be hard-pressed to beat the UK’s Marks & Spencer when it comes to ethical marketing campaigns in 2006.

Earlier this year M&S launched their ‘Look Behing the Label‘ campaign in the store windows of 420 of their stores. The campaign focuses on the ethical ways M&S source and produce their product range. The image below is just one of the many creative executions to support this repositioning strategy.

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I’ve got to say, they seem to have ticked all the boxes, from reducing packaging waste to banning toxic chemicals in their clothes to buying fairtrade. I also like it because:

  • It’s not just sizzle – their website goes into a lot of detail to back their claims. Ethical sourcing seems to be at the core of M&S’s strategy, not just tacked on as a commuications piece.
  • It is backed by independent organisations – The campaign has support from the like of Greenpeace and the RSPCA, giving it further credibility.
  • Rather than spending millions on a full-scale advertising campaign, they’ve focused their efforts on actually improving their range. They’ve done something that’s actually worth talking about.

The campaign has been hailed as a huge success by Marks and Spencer. It is promising to see a big retailer like this take a different stance than the status quo (Low, Very Low or Everyday Low Price) and go with something that’s sustainable instead.