Nov 112008
 

GadgetRepublic.com, a new tech-review site, and sister-site to the excellent technology news site SiliconRepublic.com, launched yesterday and I have to say that it looks very promising.

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Gadget Republic is edited by award winning technology journalist Marie Boran of Siliconrepublic.com, so the standard of the reviews on the site, as you would expect, is very high. They’re well written, insightful and hit that elusive balance between personal opinion and technical expertise perfectly.

This is a great resource for anyone looking to keep abreast of what’s hot and what’s not on the tech-gadget front; if you’re anything like me you’ll be adding Gadget Republic to your feed reader pronto.

Congratulations to Marie and the team at SiliconRepublic.com on a job well done… I look forward to reading many a great review on the site.

Oct 252008
 

Had to write a quick post to announce the launch of a unique new wedding date site for couples in Ireland. I have an interest in wedding sites, mainly because we run our own photo wedding invitation business, and naturally we keep an eye on what’s happening online in the weddings space. (NB. I know our site is in dire need of a facelift – it’s on the To-do list).

Last week saw the launch of an exciting new website on the Irish wedding scene: Weddingdates.ie opened its virtual doors on Friday (24/10), and offers a unique facility that helps engaged couples in Ireland to select their ideal wedding venue.

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Simply enter your preferred wedding date and the county you want to get married in and Weddingdates.ie will return a list of venues in that county with reception availability on your date. It’s simple… and priceless. No more trudging through the golden pages and ringing around laboriously to come up with a shortlist of wedding reception venues who can accommodate you: Weddingdates.ie does it all for you.

This is very different to the swathe of run of the mill “Wedding directory” sites that simply list service providers. This is an indispensible tool for engaged couples.

When you’re planning a wedding anything that can reduce the time, effort and, lets face it, the stress involved is certain to be a huge boon. And that’s exactly what Weddingdates.ie offers.

If you’re getting married, or know someone else who is, why not head on over and take a look. If you’re a hotel manager, and your hotel isn’t featured, you might want to remedy that pronto!

The site is the brainchild of Ciara Crossan, who I had the pleasure of meeting briefly at a SOHO Solo / Cork Open Coffee joint meeting a few months back. Congratulations Ciara on a great concept, a great looking site and something that I’m sure will make life easier for countless Irish couples over the coming months and years.

Oct 072008
 

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Louder Voice knocks the socks off other peer review sites in terms of usability, design and its community-centric features. Another example of an Irish tech-company delivering a product / service that’s truly world class.

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And the newly launched Louder Voice for Business offers similar reviews functionality for your business website… which is excellent news for businesses who “get” the shift towards conversational marketing and online consumer engagement.

What is the Tuesday Push

I figured it was finally time for me to engage with this Tuesday Push malarkey (… I, know, I know… better late than never is probably going to be carved on my tombstone).

According to Damien Mulley, orchestrator of the “push”:

The Tuesday Push is a way for the small but growing tech community in Ireland to make some noise about ourselves by picking a good example of an Irish Tech Company and highlighting their product(s) every second Tuesday.

Louder Voice – reviews the way they were meant to be

The worthy recipient of this week’s “push” is LouderVoice (LV) – a great peer review site that makes reviewing products, services and anything else you can think of intuitive, easy and convenient.

You can post reviews via a variety of media: directly on the LouderVoice website, via SMS (so you don’t even need an internet connection – delighted or otherwise with that restaurant? Post a review while it’s fresh in your mind), through micro-blogging services like Twitter, you can even post reviews to your own blog and LV will pick them up from your RSS feed.

Cross-posting of reviews can work the other way around too (I think, although I haven’t done this yet): you post to LV via the web, SMS, Twitter or wherever, and LV will publish the review to your blog… which is a great way to keep things fresh and varied.

One of the best things about LV is the vibrant community of reviewers who contribute, which means that there’s plenty of conversation on everything from the best value wine to the latest tech gadgets to the most popular TV show and everything in between. It’s a community that’s growing all the time as word spreads and LV gains momentum, and as a consumer the benefits of exchanging information, ideas and opinions is obvious and compelling.

Reviews and your business….

But there’s another aspect to this conversation and interaction that’s often overlooked (and the reason I featured LV, complete with screenshot, as a great example of a review site in the Social Media chapter of “Understanding Digital Marketing”). This is a conversation you can participate in, yes, but as a business it’s also a conversation you can learn from.

Listen to people, find out what they’re talking about, what they like and don’t like. Even if they’re not talking about your product or services directly there’s a wealth of information and intelligence there that can help you to serve your customers better.

Of course, one of the best ways a business can use reviews in order to gauge consumer sentiment is to integrate review functionality into their own website – and if you want to explore the possibilities the all-new LV for business offers a suite of review services that are ideally suited to the purpose.

Anyway – the best way to find out more about LV is to start using it – so off you go and start reviewing – I’m looking forward to reading what you think.

NB. If you want your company to be considered for the Tuesday push you can submit your details online.

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Sep 292008
 

When you’re waiting for a bus it’s almost always the case that nothing will appear for ages and then three will lurch up all at once. In the chaos of hissing air-brakes and diesel fumes you wonder why this happens. But there’s no real explanation for it… it just happens that way. It might be a bit of a cliché – but it’s also an unwritten law of human existence.

For me it’s the same thing with the cinema. I don’t go for absolutely ages, then I end up going to see three films in rapid succession. . Last week it happened again – but this time there was an unusual and quite exciting twist… this time one of the films was for grown ups!

I don’t know about you, but since the children have been old enough to go to the cinema, the only films we tend to go and see are kids films. There’s nothing wrong with that, I suppose: they’re adorable, cute and often highly entertaining. It’s just that sometimes you crave something a little bit darker, more edgy… just plain more grown up. The trio of cinematic diversions that I got to watch this time around delivered on all fronts.

First of all lets talk about the kids’ films: Kung-fu Panda and WALL-E. I loved Kung fu Panda, a tale of how the unlikely hero – a bungling, overweight panda with delusions of Kung-fu grandeur – perseveres and eventually triumphs where the most highly trained and talented Kung-fu acolytes failed.

The animation is great; the voice talents of Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie and Lucy Liu, among others, are excellent and the action packed Kung fu fight scenes, unconstrained by the usual laws of human anatomy, physics or anything else, work particularly well.

The twins were in stitches, and even the little one, who gets bored easily, was transfixed. It’s a really well put together movie.

WALL-E was a completely different kind of film. The human race has left earth to live on giant space-going cruise liners, leaving behind vast mountains of rubbish and an army of robots to clean up the planet. WALL-E (an acronym of Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-class) , by now the only surviving clean-up bot, goes about the daily task of gathering, crushing and stacking our rubbish, picking up useful bits and pieces along the way… including a bit of personality.

Wall-E’s mundane existence is shattered by the arrival of EVE (an acronym of Extra-terrestrial Vegetation Evaluator), a probe from the flagship space-cruise-liner Axiom, whose directive is to scan earth for plant life. What follows is an trans-galactic adventure that whisks WALL-E across space and eventually brings the human race back to Earth.

Quite how Pixar have managed to make a robot “cute and cuddly” I don’t know, but they certainly have with WALL-E. The computer animation is jaw-droppingly effective, and the romance that blossoms between the lonely little clean-up droid and the sleek, sophisticated EVE is adorable. Of course, the environmental backdrop that pervades the film is particularly topical. Lets hope that delivering it in this way can help to get the message across to children and adults alike.

While both of the children’s films were excellent, for me the highlight of this cinematic extravaganza was The Dark Knight. I’m not a huge fan of the earlier bat-man films, but this one is different. The late Heath Ledger is absolutely outstanding as the maniacal Joker, and Christian Bale’s batman is suitably dark, and brooding. It’s fast paced, action packed, dark, edgy and ticks all of the grown-up boxes that the kiddies films miss: all in all it was the perfect conclusion to an excellent trio of films.

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Sep 292008
 

B&Q Performance Power Chipper/ShredderWho knew gardening could be this much fun?

While up in Cork last week I went to BQ Mahon Point to pick up a much-needed loppers. The trees and shrubs around our little patch of West Cork have been much neglected of late… it was time for some serious pruning.

On impulse I decided to pick up the Performance Power Chipper Shredder as well – it was only €121 and I figured composting the pruned branches and recycling the nutrients in the garden made far more sense than carting them by the trailer-load to Clonakilty for disposal.

Shredded branches ready for compostingFor €121 I wasn’t expecting much… but I have to say I’ve been gobsmacked by this compact little machine. It eagerly chomps up branches up to 3.5 cm thick, making short work of all but the thickest branches. Anything too thick to shred and put on the compost goes on the woodpile for firewood… so it’s a real “Win Win”. Zero waste… you’ve  got to love it.

The blades did get a little dull from the heavy-duty stuff I was throwing at it – but a quick rub with a sharpening stone had them operating perfectly again in no time.

What’s amazed me most of all is how it’s got me into the garden. I’m loving it – pruning and shredding away for hours, I don’t even notice the time passing. My wife reckons it’s because it has a plug… that means it’s a gadget… and fundamentally I’m a geek at heart. You know what… I think she’s right!

May 262008
 

Published in The Evening Echo on 26/05/2008

You’ve got to feel a bit sorry for Sir Alan Sugar.

Why feel sorry for a man who’s managed to accumulate a fortune of more than GB£800 million over his chequered career? A man who’s ferried around in a chauffeur-driven Bentley? A man who flies around in his own Lear jet?

Not a lot feel sorry for, you might think; apart, perhaps, from the fact that he supports Tottenham Hotspur…! But then you remember that Sir Alan has signed up with the BBC to do “The Apprentice”, which is now in the middle of its fourth series. And the poor man must be ruing the day he signed on the dotted line.

Sure, the programme has made Alan Sugar a household name, but at what cost… and does someone that successful really need to raise his profile anyway?

Never mind the fact that he comes across as an acerbic, megalomaniacal tyrant; or the fact that he’s forced to jab an accusatory finger at one hapless candidate after another as he delivers his “You’re fired!” catch-phrase every week (apparently it’s written into his contract; a legacy from the original American show format, featuring the equally megalomaniacal but frankly much more ridiculous-looking Donald Trump). No, the real blow must be that he has to actually hire one of these buffoons at the end of the series.

Why on earth would a man who obviously doesn’t need the money, and who doesn’t suffer fools gladly, decide to lumber himself with such a motley assortment of corporate misfits? Worst of all, he’s actually obliged to give one of them a job at the end of it… and based on their performance on the tasks to date you can’t help but wonder at the wisdom of that.

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May 082008
 

Glengarriff Lodge A few weeks ago we spent a wonderful weekend at what has to be one of the most enchanting houses in the whole of West Cork, perhaps the entire country. Nestled on its own little island between a fork in the Glengarriff River, this thatched former hunting lodge of the Earl of Bantry is like something straight out of a childhood fantasy.

Set in three acres of beautifully tended gardens, surrounded by mature trees that blend seamlessly with nearby native woodland, the fairytale house sits gently in this idyllic rural landscape. As we drove over the little wooden bridge onto the island I had to pinch myself to make sure what I was seeing was real. This was Glengarriff Lodge… and it was absolutely breathtaking.

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Mar 242008
 

“Working it” column published in the Career Moves section of The Evening Echo on 24/03/2008

I’ve published this week’s Working It column — a review of the Internet Marketing seminar “Getting Results in Online Marketing” by Praxis Now — to my Digital Marketing blog, because the subject matter fits.

Mar 082008
 

And just when I thought the afternoon couldn’t get any better, Scotland go and beat England at Murrayfield. What a sublime afternoon of rugby.

Not sublime rugby, you understand. It wasn’t pretty, by any stretch of the imagination. It was neither flowing nor exciting, it wasn’t inspiring or innovative — but the result, and the joy on the faces of the Scots crowd as the final whistle sounded said it all.

There’s something about facing that white jersey, and the pompous self-assured arrogance that it seems to represent that galvanises the opposition, particularly those of a Celtic persuasion, to dig deep and raise their game. That’s certainly what happened this afternoon, and the English simply had no answer for Scottish passion, determination and drive.

No tries — but the Scots controlled the ball at the breakdown, ran through the phases, and when the inevitable penalties came the stalwart Chris Paterson was there to hammer the nails into England’s six nations coffin. It will be small consolation to the English camp that Johnny Wilkinson’s became the highest ever scoring player in Rugby Union history during the course of the match. England didn’t just loose, they were resolutely beaten by a spirited Scottish team that simply hadn’t read the form-sheet.

All that’s left is for Ireland to stuff the English next weekend and we’ll have a Celtic hat-trick against the old enemy. Let’s hope Eddie O’Sullivan can do something right for once. Come on Ireland!

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Mar 082008
 

Wales did the business again at Croke Park today — a victory I savoured more than most as a Welshman living in the Emerald Isle.

I love Ireland, and can’t think of anywhere better to live than West Cork — but when the rugby’s on all bet’s are off! I may have an Irish wife, Irish daughters, live and work in Ireland, and root for Ireland when they’re playing anybody else… but when it comes to rugby you can take the Welshman out of Wales but…. well, you know the rest.

Ireland started brightly, but for most of the game there was really only one team  in it. The score line never really reflected the run of play, with the Welsh missing a number of chances that should have put them out of sight by mid-way through the second half, despite being down to 14 men for a full 20 minutes.

It’s back to the drawing board for Ireland, and Eddie O’Sullivan, who really doesn’t seem to have any answers. Maybe it’s time for him to stand aside. Considering this is supposed to be the best Irish side for generations it’s looking pretty desperate.

The triple crown, of course, is a bonus… the big result for Wales was beating the English right at the start of the Six Nations campaign.

You know the drill… as long as we beat the English… cue Stereophonics:

Roll on the French next weekend, and our Grand Slam! Well, would you bet against the boys in red?