Moving on from Ovum

30 03 2012

Today is my last day working at Ovum. After nearly five years with the company, split between London and Melbourne, as an editor and an analyst in two different teams, it’s time for me to move on.

It’s been amazing. I’ve made some lifelong (I hope) friends, learned an incredible amount, and done some things that I would never have thought possible five years ago. Ovum is full of great people with intelligence and integrity, and I wish them all every success.

It’s sad to leave, but the time is right for something new. I will be taking up a role with a large Australian digital media business, which I expect will provide plenty to sink my teeth into. I am looking forward to “doing” rather than “talking about”.

Before I go, I want to thank Lee Hope for hiring me (as an editor) in the first place. At the time I had just landed in London, and I chose Ovum over another job offer that paid slightly more, because I got a great vibe from the team that interviewed me at Ovum. It was the right decision. I grew as an editor, and the nine months I spent in his team provided a great grounding in how this whole analyst thing works. I still feel like an honourary life-member of Team Editorial.

Thanks to Mike Philpott who offered me my first analyst role, in his Consumer team. Mike is an excellent analyst and one of the most supportive and encouraging managers I have ever had. He’s also a great bloke despite his unfortunate devotion to English rugby.

The bulk of my time in London was spent working with Adam Leach and Tony Cripps in the Devices & Platforms team. This was basically the best job ever. Travelling around talking to interesting people and technology companies; writing about smartphones and tablets just as they were really taking off; and generally learning a ridiculous amount from two of the smartest guys in the room, while having a hell of a lot of fun. The fact that much of this learning occurred in the pub doesn’t diminish it in any way! Thanks guys.

And thanks to Adrian Drury, who recruited me into his Media & Broadcast Technology team and allowed me to transfer home to Melbourne. I learned a lot – very fast – from Adrian, and it was a real buzz working together with the local teams to build an Asia-Pac client base virtually from scratch.

Finally, a more general thanks to all my other friends and accomplices (who are too numerous to name but you know who you are) at the company. I wish you all the best, I hope we stay in touch, and I thank you all for sharing your knowledge and good humour with me. I hope we can have a pint or a coffee together, in Melbourne or in London, soon.

Onwards and upwards.

Amazon UK MP3 store is alive

3 12 2008

Amazon has finally launched its MP3 download store in the UK. This is good news, as it means there is another major player in the DRM-free music download market.

There are three key things that consumers deserve when buying music online:

  • DRM-free – DRM destroys the value for the purchaser and encourages illegal downloads.
  • High quality – Amazon’s downloads are VBR files encoded at around 256kbps. I would prefer a FLAC (or at least 320kbps AAC) option, but most peoples’ devices can’t play FLAC, so I can’t see this happening on a mainstream site soon.
  • Price – you should pay substantially less for digital downloads than for CDs. There are no manufacturing costs, and distribution costs are much less than for CDs. Some of this cost-saving should be passed on to consumers, as a compromise for receiving a lower-quality and intangible product.
Infected Mushroom - Vicious Delicious

Infected Mushroom - Vicious Delicious

So how does Amazon’s MP3 store stack up? The top-selling album today is the recent album by Kings of Leon – “Only By The Night”.

Amazon is selling the CD for £8.98, and the MP3 album is £3.00. I think an album for less than the cost of a pint at your local is reasonable, and not a bad way to try out music from bands you’re interested in but not a huge fan of (yet).

“Vicious Delicious” by Infected Mushroom is a less tasty £6.99 though, which doesn’t make a huge amount of sense to me. Perhaps Amazon is using popular albums as loss-leaders, who knows? In any case, £7 for an MP3 version of an album seems too steep for the discerning consumer.

Amazon forces you to install a browser-based application, the “Amazon MP3 Downloader” to manage the download, but at least it works cross-platform so Mac users aren’t left out of the loop. I would prefer if it just sent a link to a .zip or .rar file but you can’t win them all, and I suppose Amazon wants a way to remind you to come back soon!

I’ll try to download some music when I get a chance, and see how it goes. In the meantime, I’m just pleased that another big player is having a crack at Apple’s dominance (I quite like Apple, but competition is good for us little people).

Technology is evil and must be stopped

1 12 2008
Good versus evil online!

Good versus evil online!

I used to love technology, but there’s been so much bad news recently where tech is the culprit that I think it’s time we gave up our mobiles, games consoles and internet connections for good. It’s ruining society!

Well, that’s not actually true, but there have been a few intances this week that have given me food for thought. I’ve written a series of posts discussing this week’s tabloid evidence:

So technology is responsible for murder, moral decay and the destruction of the environment. Let’s discuss.

The Internet is a filthy cesspit of depravity and moral turpitude (and must be stopped)

1 12 2008
The modern world is filthy!

The modern world is filthy!

There’s been a fairly heated debate recently in Aussie internet circles (follow Stilgherrian and efa_oz on Twitter for continued updates) about the merits failings of the Australian Government’s plot to censor the Internet. Thankfully it looks like Senator Conroy’s idiocy is doomed, thanks to the objections of the Greens and Liberals in the Senate (it’s a rare thing indeed for me to be agreeing with the Liberal Party, but there you go). The numerous technical issues with an ISP-level filter will be fatal to its successful implementation. It’s a colossal policy clusterfuck that will waste millions of dollars and irritate millions of people while degrading network speeds and eroding freedom and transparency (and I value my cognitive freedom extremely highly). Put that aside for a minute.

The debate has been interesting in terms of what it shows about perceptions of the Internet among web-illiterate people.

The discussion around whether or not we should have a filter, as opposed to whether we could implement one, shows that people are very afraid and convinced that the Internet is destroying society. But wait a minute, the Internet IS society! Like any society, it has its dark alleys. But it also has its friendly sharing, helpful teachers and caring communities, and demonising it as some sort of festering cesspit of moral deviance is hardly likely to encourage responsible and productive use of such a powerful resource.

It’s almost as if some people still think of the Internet as some abstract metaphysical “cyber” world that exists as some other layer of reality, spreading its oily terror/porn tentacles and corrupting the youth (remember what Socrates was accused of?) – but it’s not like that at all.

The Internet is real people having real conversations with other real people. In fact this is the problem – you can have a conversation with a real person (or many of them at once) far too easily – without the sanitising intermediaries in the traditional media (newspapers, talkback radio etc). The medium may have changed, but people are still dealing with people, and the dangers are similar (although nobody has yet been stabbed in a fight on an Internet forum). The government doesn’t censor other means of personal communication (the Internet is no longer a mass medium, it is a personal medium), why should it censor the Internet? To protect me from harm? Are we really that risk-averse?

Some key points about safety on the net:

  • Just as in real life, parents have to protect their children from dangers.
  • Just as in real life, you don’t have to visit the seedy part of town if you don’t want to.
  • Just as in real life, blocking a freeway doesn’t stop me driving on other roads (it will increase congestion though).
  • Just as in real life, the government has no right to tell me who I can and can’t talk to.
  • Jut as in real life, broken laws should be investigated and punished by the proper law enforcement officials and the legal establishment.

While it’s a truism that there is some dodgy stuff out there on t’Internet, it’s also true that you have to go looking for it. Just like real life! Sure, protect the children, but we’re not all children. Treating the citizens of Australia like kids that have stayed up past their bedtime is arrogant and offensive!

Clive Hamilton has revealed himself as a goose for not understanding what the Internet is and isn’t. He’s also revealed his sneering lack of respect for the opinions and freedoms of his fellow Australians. Think of the children? Clive, that’s shorthand for “shoddy logic”. You don’t have to be an unthinking libertarian to oppose state-sponsored stupidity.

Senator Conroy’s filter plan is supposed to go to live trials in December. Hopefully the inevitable technical failure of the trials, combined with evaporating political support for the plan (even child welfare groups think it’s a dumb idea), consigns this stupidity to the recycled paper bin.

Coming soon…

13 11 2008

the platform is soon to be resurrected!