Note: This is part of a multi-part post about advertising. See “All About Advertising” for the start of the series, and for links to the other parts.

Type 2: “Coca-Cola” advertising

“Coca-Cola” advertising shows the brand, typically in a fairly passive way. The idea is not so much to sell to you right now but to influence your buying decision at a later date/later time. The way that they do that is by creating some brand recognition.

Some really good examples are Coca-Cola, Apple, and McDonalds.

In its best form, this kind of advertising persuades you, for example, that you don’t want a drink, you want Coke; you don’t want a phone, you want an iPhone; you don’t want some food, you want McDonald’s.

Then, when you finally get into the purchasing mode, and actually go out and buy this thing that you want, instead of looking at other options you go straight to this product that you have already decided to buy, and all you’ll really be looking for are variations within the product: do you want an iPhone 5S, or an iPhone 5C, or an iPhone 4S; do you want a black one or a white one, and so on?

Another way it works is that it’s there to create brand awareness for things you might buy infrequently. For example, if you have never flown to Warsaw and may not have heard of Baltic Air but if you see ads for them and then you go and search for flights to to Warsaw then Baltic air would come up you would say, “I don’t know any of these others but I recognise this one I’ll go with them.” That’s the second-best form of this advertising working.

The important thing with this is that it’s not trying to persuade you to buy now, so they’re not looking for click-throughs, they’re looking for displays, i.e. Banner advertising, not links. They don’t really expect you to take any action right now.

Some other examples of this type of advertising are: sports-team sponsorships, business-name signs outside premises, logos on clothing, etc.


Note: This is part of a multi-part post about advertising. See “All About Advertising” for the start of the series, and for links to the other parts.

Type 1: “Yellow Pages” Advertising

This is for customers who are actively looking to buy; maybe not right this second, but they’re in buying mode and are looking at options. In the past, they would have grabbed the Yellow Pages, or looked in the classified ads, or gone to specialist stores; these days, the first stop is usually Google.


Google is seen as a very successful advertising company and, by any economic measure, that is certainly the case. But do they actually do advertising well?

When Google entered the search arena, they didn’t know how they were going to monetise their search results. Eventually, with their acquisition of AdWords, they figured out how to provide relevant ads next to customers’ searches. These were non-intrusive enough for customers who were just doing general web searches but, at the same time, helpful enough for people who where looking for something to “buy.” Advertisers liked that they only paid for ads that were clicked on, and not for each display. The combination of these aspects made everyone happy, and it made Google very rich.

That was 10 years ago. The world has moved on; competitors offer the same benefits to customers and advertisers alike. However, the model hasn’t progressed. Google (and Bing, Yahoo, Baidu, etc.) still specialise in providing links to other sites, rather than satisfying the customer’s wants. But other sites do a much better job: Kayak, for example, tries to provide customers with relevant information for them to actually buy what they’re looking for. There are, in fact, many travel-related sites that do a very good job of providing relevant results complete with: prices, availability, close alternatives, descriptions, photos, customer reviews and, importantly, the opportunity to actually purchase their selection from within the site. See also:,,, etc.

It’s interesting to note that all these examples have their own smartphone apps. Customers are learning that, instead of doing a generalised search on Google, they can go directly to these apps and get the actual results they want and an easy way to purchase their chosen result.

Similar sites exist in all sorts of categories: Amazon for books, DVDs, music, and much more; iTunes for music, TV shows, movies and apps; for cars; and so on.

If a customer is an infrequent buyer, they can go to Google and find out which site(s) provide the information they want, and then get there by a link from Google. If they are a more-frequent buyer, they often learn to go directly to the relevant site(s)/app(s).


I’m not a scientists but I love to try to understand how things work. So I love to read about science, but there’s a lot I don’t understand. I’ll put questions here in the hope that people smarter than me can help me. (Thanks in advance for that!)

Is the universe electrically neutral?

If we think of protons as positive (+1) and electrons as negative (-1),* it’s easy to imagine a universe which is exactly electrically neutral—i.e. for every proton there is one electron, so the charges cancel each other out. It’s also easy to imagine that in such a universe, there is some mechanism that causes this to be so—that, whenever a proton is created, an electron must also be created (and vice versa).

But protons aren’t fundamental particles, as electrons are. Protons are made from quarks, three quarks: two Up quarks ⓤ and one Down quark ⓓ. Each ⓤ carries a charge of +⅔ and each ⓓ has a charge of -⅓.

In order for the universe to be electrically neutral, then, for each electron’s -1 charge, instead of needing just one proton, we need two ⓤ quarks and one ⓓ quark. That’s three types of particles in a precise ratio 1 : 1 : 2 (electron : ⓓ : ⓤ).

There are, of course, other combinations that could add up to zero, but there are many more that don’t.

Unless there is a mechanism that forces these particles to be created in the correct ratio, it would seem unlikely that they would exist in this exact ratio, so the universe would be either net positively charged or net negatively charged. (My guess, and it is only a guess, would be negatively charged.)

Anyone know the answer?



* Just for the sake of simplicity/clarity, I’m ignoring anti-particles. I know they exist, and have the opposite charge as their corresponding particles, but it’s much clearer to write about the particles and let the reader fill in the anti-particles themselves.

I haven’t done enough of this lately; might be time to get myself some paper and pens/paints.


I was recently at Úll—the excellent conference in Ireland—and gave a Lightning Talk, titled Selling Stuff, about how to make money from your app by selling real-world goods.

Here are the slides from the talk.

Selling Stuff.pdf

If video becomes available, I’ll link to it here too.

Guide to investing in stocks

The best advice for investing in stocks that I’ve heard is, “If you don’t know anything about stocks, invest in an index fund.”

If you want to make your own investment decisions, know that you will probably underperform the market.

I read about Warren Buffett and his methods for investing, and managed to distill what I learned down to these simple rules:

1. Only invest in companies and industries you know well.

2. Only follow a small number of companies you could potentially invest in. (This will be a number less than 10; probably 5 or less.)

3. Figure out a “fair price” for those companies.

4. Only buy shares in those companies if you can purchase them for 30% less than the “fair price” you calculated. 

5. Hold on to the shares indefinitely (i.e. for the long term)

That’s it.

But, seriously, you will probably underperform the market, so choose an index fund instead!


I’m not a scientists but I love to try to understand how things work. So I love to read about science, but there’s a lot I don’t understand. I’ll put questions here in the hope that people smarter than me can help me. (Thanks in advance for that!)

Where is a charged particle’s charge equal to 1?*

Consider a particle such as a an electron. It has a charge of -1. We know that the value of the charge diminishes proportionally to the square of the distance from the particle, so where is this charge equal to 1? Is it at the centre of the particle? Or at its surface? Or somewhere else?

A similar question arises for protons. Protons are different, even though they have a charge of +1. They’re made up of three quarks; two with a charge of +⅔ and one with a charge of -⅓. These quarks move about within the boundaries of the proton, so the distribution of the charges will constantly vary. Overall, a proton can be considered to have a charge of +1 but is there any point in it that is actually equal to +1. If there is, where is it?

* You can vary this value for particles that have different charges, such as quarks.

The Result Might Surprise You!

Let’s start with some definitions:


This one’s easy: science is really just our “best explanation” for the world around us. According to Wikipedia, the word science comes from Latin scientia, meaning “knowledge”.

Since the 17th century, the best accepted way to get that “best explanation” is by using the “scientific method”—a body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge. To be termed scientific, a method of inquiry must be based on empirical and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of reasoning.


This is not so easy. Lots of very diverse things are considered art: paintings, drawings, sculpture, music, theatre, film, dance, photography, and so on. Even elements of nature, such as a sunrise or a butterfly’s wing, can be considered works of art. We need a definition that covers all these things, but helps us to decide if something controversial is, or is not, art.

I don’t think the definition in the Oxford English Dictionary,

The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power

really helps us here. So, I’ve come up with my own definition:

Art is anything—anything at all—that makes us view something from a new perspective.

This is a very broad definition, I admit. But it does help explain why, for example, Michelangelo’s David is a work of art but the €10 knock-offs that you buy in every tourist shop in Florence are not: David was new perspective on the biblical story; the knock-offs are not.


If we accept these definitions, something surprising happens: every scientific discovery—from the discovery of atoms, to the germ theory of disease, to Newton’s Laws of Motion, to Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, to Darwin’s Theory of Evolution—all these discoveries change our perception of the world, how it works, and our place in it. So all scientific discoveries are a work of art!

But not all art is science. So we can see that science is just a subset of art!


If so, does that mean this blog post is a work of art too?

The original iPod debuted with the tag line, “All your music in your pocket.” And since that time, many people have put all their existing music onto their computers, and into iPods or other MP3 players, and now on their phones. They’ve created playlists and sorted out their favourites from the also-rans and the outright duds. Now, they can carry the songs they like — and just the songs they like — with them wherever they go.

This is great; it’s what I do too. I don’t want to listen to ads, so I don’t listen to commercial radio — I just listen to music on my iPhone, both at home and in my car.

However, the downside is that don’t get exposed to any new music. If it’s not already on my iPhone, I never hear it. I want to discover new music by being exposed to it. And, if I hear new songs that I like, I’ll buy them.

At the moment, my only exposure to new music is through TV ads (if I haven’t hit the Mute button), through friends, or in random places like shopping malls or doctors’ offices where there is background music playing.

This isn’t a good thing. It happens infrequently, and it limits my exposure to fairly bland, don’t-offend-anyone “mainstream” music. Instead, I want to be able to listen to “random” new music that suits my tastes, uninterrupted by ads. It would be good if I could easily identify any music I like and either buy it then or save the details for later, so I could buy it when more convenient.

All the technology exists to do this.

Sites like Pandora and Spotify use my existing music library to create playlists of streaming music that they think will suit my tastes, but they’re not available everywhere, and not all music is available. Apparently, this is a licensing problem.

Seriously, in the 21st century, the record companies need to learn that, just as radio provided them with free advertising of new artists/songs and allowed people to hear new music in the 20th century, we need a way for people to hear new music for free so we can discover music we like, so we can then buy it.

What would be the business model? I would think the record companies need to think that providing songs to Spotify-type services is advertising their products. They should actually be paying these services to feature their songs, but at the moment they are charging these services to “use” their songs. That’s nice money, if you can get it. It’s like the brands that can get people to pay a premium for clothing that features their logo — especially if they’re not a clothing company, like, for example, football teams. This approach, though, may kill the goose that is laying their golden eggs: the services themselves. [Disclosure: I don’t have any financial interest, either directly or indirectly, in any of these services, nor do I have any other connection to any of them or the people involved in them.]

For these services to continue, they need a business model too. They could follow commercial radio’s lead and use advertising as their revenue stream. I think, though, that in these days of ad-blockers, that kind of business is much more limited than it was for radio.

Or they could follow the pay-TV model, and charge a monthly/annual subscription fee. Again, this is feasible, but probably limits the uptake of the service, and it would only take one other service to offer free access (through, for example, an ad-funded model), to severely reduce the attractiveness of this option for consumers.

 I’m not sure what the answer is, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t look like what we’ve got now.


This was my second WWDC, and I had a much different experience from last year. Last year I didn’t know anyone there, while this year I had the chance to catch up with dozens of people I’ve met in the last 12 months, and to meet lots of new people.


I saw a few people Appsterdammers would know: Saul Mora, Kendal Gelner, Dave Wiskus, Rob Elkin, Kyle Kinkade, and Lassi from Sanoma (thanks for taxi from airport).

I bumped into Daniel Jalkut on the street, and met Wil Shipley at one of the parties… if you want to meet everyone who is everyone, hang out with Saul Mora — he knows everyone, and everyone seems to know him!

It’s kind of weird meeting new people by their real name — often I recognised their Twitter handle but not their name! But it’s really cool meeting people in real life that I’d been following on Twitter for ages.


I’d like to thank Rob Elkin and Kyle Kinkade for their tremendous work in setting up Appsterdam’s two alternative embassies in San Francisco. Feedback from the 100s of people who attended was great; we’ll definitely have a special WWDC embassy again in 2013! I think we definitely showed that it is feasible to offer alternative events for people during WWDC; not just for people who missed out on tickets, but also for those that got tickets. We’re also setting up a permanent embassy there, thanks to Jana Boruta and Martin Rosas.

What it feels like

Someone (I forget who) pointed out that WWDC is a lot like Christmas for nerds:

  • First you have the anticipation; the buildup
  • Then friends and relatives descend on town
  • Then the opening keynote is like Santa coming and dropping off presents
  • Then there’s opening those presents and playing with them (downloading the new SDKs, seeing the new Macbook Pro’s etc)
  • Then there’s all the parties, the drinking, eating too much, the hangovers (just like the real thing!)
  • And there’s more presents — people give you things while you’re standing in line, or at the parties

My schwag haul: at least half a dozen t-shirts, the WWDC jacket, stickers, badges/pins, couple of iPhone cases, couple of pairs of gloves that work with touch screens (my favourite).

A well-run show

WWDC is overall very well run: well-rehearsed, polished speakers. The presentations by engineers are almost as good as Steve’s famous keynotes. They have obviously practised and polished their presentations, and been coached (in a good way). These engineers do better presentations than most CEOs, politicians and conference speakers (i.e. people whose job description includes making presentations)!

Most conferences have some time set aside to mingle in an informal way. WWDC’s Thursday evening Beer Bash is way, way better than most of these mingle-type functions. Neon Trees at this year’s BB were good! (It is weird, though, to be watching a band surrounded by about 5000 men and maybe 100 or so women. Maybe that’s par for the course in San Francisco, but to me it felt strange!)

No-one was dressed up in business suits — not the executives, the presenters, the security people, the attendees; nobody — but their behaviour was more professional. So much for accusations that Apple values looks over function. They seem to concentrate on knowing what’s important and getting that right.

Sessions are good, the labs are better, and meeting up with friends (old and new) is best.

Things they could do better:

Obviously, better notice of when it is going to be on would be good. (Maybe pre-announce when tickets will go on sale to avoid the surprise and people missing out simply because they were asleep.)

And lining up for everything, all the time, sucks.