Michael Cleland

www.michaelcleland.com.au

Michael Cleland

January 19, 2013
by Michael Cleland
2 Comments

Good BBQ copy? That’s well done

So I was assigned the task of listing our old BBQ on gumtree.com.au as “free to good home”. This was an opportunity to put my 1970s K-Tel copywriting skills to the test …

Gas BBQ free to good home

Be your very own backyard Masterchef® with this deluxe 4 burner gas BBQ.

Features 2 burners heating a hotplate (for onions, eggs, or let your imagination run wild) with 2 additional burners firing the griller.

Never before seen in a BBQ in this price point, the Sure-Start™ piezo electric ignition works to light your BBQ first time, every time!

In all its glory: deluxe 4 burner gas BBQ

In all its glory: deluxe 4 burner gas BBQ

Once you’ve completed the preparation of your gastronomic delights, protect your BBQ investment with its very own solid steel rain protector. That’s right, it’s included at no extra cost!

It doesn’t get better than the built in fat collector – the Fat-0-Matic™. Excess fat drips off your food and, through the wonder of gravity, is fed straight down to the Fat-0-Matic™ where it can be disposed of, fed to pets or just leave it there to add to your fat collection.

Amaze your friends with all the culinary delights you’ll be able to serve – right off the BBQ! Sausages, burgers, chicken fillets, capsicum, ice cream, pasta, soufflé … the list of foods is endless, only limited by your imagination!

Finely crafted controls, including the revolutionary Sure-Start™ piezo electric ignition

Finely crafted controls, including the revolutionary Sure-Start™ piezo electric ignition

If your budget does not allow for outdoor furniture – fear not! This BBQ includes two mini-tables solidly built right into either side! That’s right, re-allocate your funds from purchasing an outdoor table, as this BBQ’s got places for two diners. Imagine the romance as you and your partner watch the food cooking to perfection, right before your very eyes, then settle in to share your delicious meal, with only a very hot BBQ and approximately one metre’s distance separating you. It doesn’t get any better than this!

Packing up has never been easier. Once the BBQ has sufficiently cooled down, just disconnect the gas and wheel the whole BBQ away. It can be wheeled in your garage, living room, boat or caravan. At the end of your function, guests will ask, “Where’s your BBQ?” and you can say, “I wheeled it away.” WOW!

Note that this limited Gumtree offer is restricted to the first lucky customer who contacts us via the details listed in this posting. Collection will be from Mitcham and you’ll understand when we inform you that the gas bottle cannot be included in this offer.

Due to a number of prior commitments at gourmet functions during January, this étonnant cuisine extérieure will not be available for collection until February.

So, let’s recap. You get:

  • A four burner BBQ
  • A hot plate
  • A griller plate
  • The Sure-Start™ piezo electric ignition
  • The Fat-0-Matic™ fat collector
  • The solid steel rain protector
  • Two side mini tables
  • Gas bottle hose
  • Generous 4 wheel self transporter

Not included are

  • Gas bottle
  • Warranty
  • “No questions asked” money back guarantee
  • User manual
  • Lifetime supply of food

OKAY, OKAY, I got carried away with a little K-Tel style copy. It’s a free BBQ that you’ll have to supply the gas bottle for. And that’s it!

Masterchef® is a registered trademark of Shine Television.

The result?

Sold! Over 350 page views in 24 hours and over a dozen offers to re-house our BBQ. A couple of the highlight replies were:

“Not interested in BBQ but love the advert.”

“I loved your ad!! So much fun to read on gumtree – nice to see someone with a sense of humour :)”

Next up as free to good home? A 1990s TV set.

TV free to good home: Panasonic 68cm 4:3 stereo dream screen

Insurance Line television commercial image is simulated, but indiciative of the kind of stuff you'll be able to watch on daytime television

Insurance Line television commercial image is simulated, but indiciative of the kind of stuff you’ll be able to watch on daytime television

Retro gem. Classic lines. Analogue TV reception for purists. Cutting edge technology of its time, the architects of this Panasonic set sweated the details.

Hand polished glass generous 68cm picture tube, coated with phosphate hand selected by skilled Naurian artisans and finished off in a beautiful 4:3 aspect ratio.

Ergonomically designed fully infrared remote control snuggly fits your hand and means you can change channels from the comfort of your armchair

Ergonomically designed fully infrared remote control snuggly fits your hand and means you can change channels from the comfort of your armchair

Features much sought after stereo sound system, utilising twin 7cm full range 4Ω speakers. Impress your friends by activating the surround sound button to have a fully simulated surround sound stereo experience. It will sound just like you’re in the concert hall!

Ergonomically designed fully infrared remote control snuggly fits your hand and means you can change channels from the comfort of your armchair, with actual buttons. No multitouch, no swiping, no pinching, no double tapping – these bad boy buttons, with their specially engineered chicklet buttons, give you full tactile feedback. Wow!

You thought it couldn’t get better than this, but Panasonic have done it again! Combined with a compatible Panasonic VHS video recorder (not included) and you can control both the television and the VCR with the one remote. Smart thinking, Panasonic!

The artistic shot of the IR remote

The artistic shot of the IR remote

You want more? Connect it to a digital set top box and get a dazzling 15 digital channels, including high definition, all rendered beatifully on this standard definition display. The Japanese colour is so true to life, you’ll feel like you could reach right through the screen.

Finally, connectivity? You got it! Hook up your Commodore 64, Amiga 500, VHS-C camcorder or even Sega Master System using its 3 RCA AV connectors on the rear. Now that’s clever!

Features 240v plug, but can be hooked up to a generator (not included) for when you need to go bush and get away from it all.

Don’t miss out on this piece of television history – act now!

* Insurance Line television commercial image is simulated, but indicative of the kind of stuff you’ll be able to watch on daytime television

And?

Nearly 150 page views over the life of the ad. Let’s face it, old tellies are hard to shift. I had one firm offer until a relative made a claim on it. My personal favourite  reply said:

“Your ad was an intricate web of explanation and interesting facts. My knowledge of Panasonic TVs is greatly improved.”

May 27, 2012
by Michael Cleland
2 Comments

Cuba – Viva Cuba Libre!

Cuba. Why Cuba?

In 2003 in New York, I went to a photographic exhibition near Times Square. I still remember many of the photographs vividly, but one in particular was a large photograph of a city streetscape. Old American cars parked in the street, African American looking people, but not dressed in 1950s era clothes (which would have matched the era of the cars). It looked like a snapshot from another era, but the photograph was too large and its resolution, its detail, too fine.

It had to be a recent photograph, but it looked like it was American Graffiti meeting the depression era photoessays of Dorothea Lange.

A closer look at the caption revealed it all. Havana Street, 2001.

With an inappropriate reference to 30 Rock (which didn’t even exist then) I thought of a quote Liz Lemon has said: “I want to go to there”.

We travelled to Cuba in December 2006, via Los Angeles, via Mexico. If there’s a place that has not been touched by commercialism, in particular American brands, Cuba is it.

Even though Cuba is within 100 miles of the Florida Keys, the trade embargo imposed since 1960 has helped to freeza Cuba in time.

The upside: Cuba has been able to hold onto its culture. The sounds of Mambo, Rumba and Salsa actually come from people’s houses as you walk down the street – it’s not just put on for show for tourists.

There are no Coke signs, no McDonalds, no Starbucks – nothing American – at least, nothing American since the 1950s. Cuba is like a car yard time warp. Old Dodges, Chevies and Fords are keep alive – you won’t find a 2003 Ford Focus or a ’96 Jeep Cherokee on Cuban roads, because you just can’t get them. The mix of cars is topped up with Russian Ladas that were available here before the Soviet Union collapsed and financial support from the Kremlin disappeared.

Americans were not legally allowed to travel as tourists to Cuba in 2006. This will slowly change – Cuban Americans are slowly being permitted to travel there now, and eventually all Americans will be able to return. But in 2006, in two weeks of travel throughout the country, we met just two Americans – one of which had gained Australian citizenship.

Americans illegally travelling to Cuba had to fly there not directly from the US, but stop via a country such as Mexico or Canada.

The downside of the embago: things are just hard to get. People live a basic life compared to the modern word. No iPhones, XBoxes or plasma TVs here. With an average monthly wage of about US$20, gadgets are out of the question. Internet access? If you’re a Cuban, forget it. Even if you could, the going rate for an hour’s access was about a week’s wage. I know where I’d be using my money if in that position: not on the internet.

The Cuban government heavily subsidies the basics: food, medical care and such. But other things, such as pencils, clothes and even soap are classed as luxuries. If you ever travel to Cuba (which you must) take spare t-shirts, socks, pens and soap. People ask you for it – they don’t hassle you – but if you can make someone’s life a bit easier, you’ve made a connection that is much more important than buying a junky souvenir.

The embargo has been used by the Casto government as a convenient excuse for everything that isn’t right about Cuba. In any western city where you’d find advertising (billboards, signs, street art) you’ll instead find Cuban government slogans:

Patriotism or death.
Long Live Fidel!
Socialism or Death!
Long Live the Revolution! 

Faces of the heros of the revolution – Che Guevara, Fidel Casto and Raúl Castro – are everywhere. Che seems to be loved. Fidel is the father you’ve known all your life, and you’re not too sure how you feel about him.

The Castros have held power in Cuba for over 50 years – that’s at least 3 generations of families. Think about that for a moment.

There did seem to be something like a Centre for the Revolution in every town, and every so often in larger cities. There’s nothing like a little taste of East German informing on your neighbour. The government is the only sanctioned source of news. No BBC, no CNN, not even garbage like Fox News.

The economy is crippled by the embargo. While things are reportedly reforming under Fidel’s brother, Raúl, the government controls everything. When we were there in 2006, privately run restaurants could only seat very small numbers of people (I recall it was less than 20) so as not to compete with government run outlets. To me it was hard to tell what was government run, but I guess it was, well, everything.

It did leave me feeling though that if you can’t get it, you don’t want it — and you’re probably much happier without it. Consumerism is a dangerous drug we’re all addicted to if we like it or not.

But oh, the taste of rum, the smell of cigars, the rhythm of the music. Ooooo, it was intoxicating in its own way. Granted we had access to the best food, the best drinks, clubs, bars and restaurants that were available – and not within reach of locals. But Cubans love music, they love to dance, and Cuba will only ever be the place to have a mint soaked, rum filled mojitos.

If you have the opportunity, get to Cuba. Get there before McDonalds, Hersheys and Proctor & Gamble get there. Get there before Cuba changes too much.

Viva Cuba Libre!

Photos from Cuba – click the thumbnails for larger images.

My favourite photo from Cuba. This woman was standing in her doorway. I said "Hola!" as I walked by and continued on. I had to go back and walked up her steps to take her portrait. I then told her "Usted es muy Cubano" ("You are very Cuban") That's about the best compliment I could pay her in my limited Spanish.
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My favourite photo from Cuba. This woman was standing in her doorway. I said "Hola!" as I walked by and continued on. I had to go back and walked up her steps to take her portrait. I then told her "Usted es muy Cubano" ("You are very Cuban") That's about the best compliment I could pay her in my limited Spanish.
Out for a walk with Old Faithful
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Out for a walk with Old Faithful
 
Out for a walk with Old Faithful
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Out for a walk with Old Faithful
Our man in Havana
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Our man in Havana
 
Woman in the local food market
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Woman in the local food market
Traders in a food market
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Traders in a food market
 
A true example of Cuban resourcefulness, pedal powered runs this knife sharpener
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A true example of Cuban resourcefulness, pedal powered runs this knife sharpener
Barber shop, Baracoa
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Barber shop, Baracoa
 
No cable TV in these wires
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No cable TV in these wires
A couple of gentleman about town
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A couple of gentleman about town
 
Hmmm ... melons!
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Hmmm ... melons!
Taking a catnap
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Taking a catnap
 
The hat maker. This man knew how to pose for portraits
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The hat maker. This man knew how to pose for portraits
School children, in the national school uniform, play it up for the camera. They loved seeing the photos of themselves played back on the camera's display
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School children, in the national school uniform, play it up for the camera. They loved seeing the photos of themselves played back on the camera's display
 
Cuba has some of the best highways in the Caribbean, thanks largely to Soviet era funding
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Cuba has some of the best highways in the Caribbean, thanks largely to Soviet era funding
"Hola!" I call ...
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"Hola!" I call ...
 
.. and a friendly wave I get back!
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.. and a friendly wave I get back!
A retired military man at the biggest event of the year - celebrating Fidel Castro's 80th birthday and the 50th anniversary of the landing of the Granma boat which carried the Castros and other revolutionaries. Piazza De La Revolution - Havana
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A retired military man at the biggest event of the year - celebrating Fidel Castro's 80th birthday and the 50th anniversary of the landing of the Granma boat which carried the Castros and other revolutionaries. Piazza De La Revolution - Havana
 
Cinema in Santiago De Cuba
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Cinema in Santiago De Cuba
Show of might. Missile launchers at the celebration of Fidel Castro's 80th birthday and the 50th anniversary of the landing of the Granma boat which carried the Castros and other revolutionaries. Piazza De La Revolution - Havana
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Show of might. Missile launchers at the celebration of Fidel Castro's 80th birthday and the 50th anniversary of the landing of the Granma boat which carried the Castros and other revolutionaries. Piazza De La Revolution - Havana
 
Kitchen at our homestay in Santiago De Cuba. Appliances like the old refrigerator have to be maintained, as replacements are simply hard to come by
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Kitchen at our homestay in Santiago De Cuba. Appliances like the old refrigerator have to be maintained, as replacements are simply hard to come by
Basics like fruit and vegetables are available to Cubans at heavily subsidised pricing
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Basics like fruit and vegetables are available to Cubans at heavily subsidised pricing
 
The head of the house peels food for our meal in the Santiago De Cuba homestay
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The head of the house peels food for our meal in the Santiago De Cuba homestay
 
Great care is made to keep cars like this one going. The Cuban town of Trinidad is a World Heritage listed site.
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Great care is made to keep cars like this one going. The Cuban town of Trinidad is a World Heritage listed site.
Great care is made to keep cars like this one going. The Cuban town of Trinidad is a World Heritage listed site.
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Great care is made to keep cars like this one going. The Cuban town of Trinidad is a World Heritage listed site.
 
"Patriotism or Death!" Slogans like this one in Havana are everywhere in Cuba.
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"Patriotism or Death!" Slogans like this one in Havana are everywhere in Cuba.
"El Asesino" Cuban government poster facing the United States Interests Section (located in the Embassy of Switzerland) in Havana. The United States therefore does not strictly speaking have an embassy in Cuba.
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"El Asesino" Cuban government poster facing the United States Interests Section (located in the Embassy of Switzerland) in Havana. The United States therefore does not strictly speaking have an embassy in Cuba.
 
"Mi español es perfecto!" I proudly announced to these shopkeepers at Coppelia. I don't think they believed me, but it was fun!
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"Mi español es perfecto!" I proudly announced to these shopkeepers at Coppelia. I don't think they believed me, but it was fun!
Coppelia is an ice-cream parlour in Havana that is very very popular
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Coppelia is an ice-cream parlour in Havana that is very very popular
 
The Changing of the Guard was a very impressive spectacle to witness
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The Changing of the Guard was a very impressive spectacle to witness
The Changing of the Guard was a very impressive spectacle to witness
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The Changing of the Guard was a very impressive spectacle to witness
 
Grandfather and grandson at our homestay in Santiago De Cuba
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Grandfather and grandson at our homestay in Santiago De Cuba
Great care is made to keep cars like this one going. The Cuban town of Trinidad is a World Heritage listed site.
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Great care is made to keep cars like this one going. The Cuban town of Trinidad is a World Heritage listed site.
 
Government offices at Piazza De La Revolution in Havana, featuring the iconic image of Che Guevara
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Government offices at Piazza De La Revolution in Havana, featuring the iconic image of Che Guevara
Cubans have had to be resourceful, so every effort is made to keep old cars on the road
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Cubans have had to be resourceful, so every effort is made to keep old cars on the road
 
Cubas love, love, LOVE baseball!
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Cubas love, love, LOVE baseball!
Cubans have had to be resourceful, so every effort is made to keep old cars on the road
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Cubans have had to be resourceful, so every effort is made to keep old cars on the road
 
Children in Baracoa
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Children in Baracoa
Slogans like this adorn walls in towns throughout Cuba
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Slogans like this adorn walls in towns throughout Cuba
 
With no mirrors at a street vendor's stall, the best way to see how a hat looked was to do a self portrait on the camera and look back at it on the preview screen
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With no mirrors at a street vendor's stall, the best way to see how a hat looked was to do a self portrait on the camera and look back at it on the preview screen
With no mirrors at a street vendor's stall, the best way to see how a hat looked was to do a self portrait on the camera and look back at it on the preview screen
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With no mirrors at a street vendor's stall, the best way to see how a hat looked was to do a self portrait on the camera and look back at it on the preview screen
 
With no mirrors at a street vendor's stall, the best way to see how a hat looked was to do a self portrait on the camera and look back at it on the preview screen
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With no mirrors at a street vendor's stall, the best way to see how a hat looked was to do a self portrait on the camera and look back at it on the preview screen
Havana streetscape
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Havana streetscape
 
With the cost and limited availability of fuel, the back of any large truck serves well as transport between towns
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With the cost and limited availability of fuel, the back of any large truck serves well as transport between towns
With the cost and limited availability of fuel, the back of any large truck serves well as transport between towns
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With the cost and limited availability of fuel, the back of any large truck serves well as transport between towns
 



April 20, 2012
by Michael Cleland
0 comments

Malcolm Turnbull: why build a house when setting up a tent is cheaper and faster?

On Malcolm Turnbull’s blog this morning, entitled  Conroy: coalition alternative “quicker and will cost less” Turnbull writes:

Senator Stephen Conroy this morning conceded the Labor Government’s $50 billion version of the National Broadband Network will cost more and take longer than the approach proposed by the Coalition. Speaking on ABC Radio Senator Conroy stated: “It would be quicker and will cost less to build a fibre-to-the-node network.  That is just an unambiguous fact.”

What a non-story, Malcolm … with a misleading headline too.

For the ill-informed, they will think your headline infers “quicker” as in a faster data throughput, when you really mean that construction time would be faster.

And of course the coalition’s network would be cheaper, because it would be a vastly inferior piece of infrastructure.

As Tony Windsor said when he chose to back the Gillard government, “You do it once, you do it right and you do it with fibre.”

I feel sorry for you Malcolm that you are hamstrung by bad coalition policy. From the $40 million you made from the sale of ISP Ozemail, you must know that the NBN is the right choice for Australia – a piece of infrastructure that will serve Australia for decades to come. It is a pity that Tony Abbott lacks that sort of vision.

Reading the comments on Turnbull’s post produced and some tweets some great responses:

@nealon Next up @TurnbullMalcolm explains why a tarpaulin is better than a tiled roof as it’s “quicker and will cost less” #NBN

It would have been quicker and cheaper to buy a barge to transport cars across Sydney harbour, instead of building the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

It’s quicker and cheaper to lean a piece of corrugated iron against a tree than to build a house. But I know what I’d rather live in.

It’s quicker and cheaper to have dirt roads than asphalt.

Why build a house when setting up a tent is faster and cheaper?

May 9, 2011
by Michael Cleland
0 comments

Why you shouldn’t develop an iPhone app but get your responsive design website going instead

Since I wrote this post in 2011, I’ve updated this post to reflect responsive design to blend desktop and mobile websites into one.

Have you got Managers, Directors or even politicians and people “that love their iPhone so much” at work who are mad keen on you getting an app developed?

Well here’s my view of why you should reconsider … or persuade others to look at other options.

I’m not a fan of apps when a mobile website — accessible by all types of mobile devices — will do the job.

I read an article from Recruitment Directory on why you should build a mobile friendly website instead of building just an app for iPhones.

The summary is:

  • Websites work on any device (iPhone, Android, Windows Mobile, Nokia, Blackberry, Palm)
  • The long-term best bet is to go with standards compliant HTML, whereas platforms can disappear (think Palm’s webOS, Nokia’s Symbian, possibly BlackBerry, even the previous Windows Mobile – version 6.5)
  • If your mobile website, such as m.casey.vic.gov.au, pulls content directly from your standard website (which Casey’s, the website I developed, does), then you only have to update the content once and it appears on both websites.
  • In order to use an App version, you must download it – it becomes “yet another app” on your device
  • A mobile website is just a bookmark / favourite in your browser. Most mobile devices can place a website bookmark on their home screen, effectively the same as an app’s icon
  • Websites can be updated much easier than an app
  • Google can find the website and promote it to the world. An app cannot be found or indexed by Google
  • So much cheaper to develop a website than an app
  • No need to get it approved by Apple
  • Not just developing for iPhones, which, while they are popular now, the smartphone market is becoming more diverse. That is, not everyone is buying iPhones
  • Building iPhone apps tie you into using “yet another vendor” to maintain your content

Now I should mention that this applies to apps for any device – iPhone, iPad, Android, Nokia, Windows Mobile etc..

Even location based services can be done through websites – see theFederal Government website m.toiletmap.gov.au which can pick up your phone’s GPS location to find a public toilet nearby.

Apps should only be developed if they take advantage of a specific function that can’t be done through your browser yet — about the only thing I can think of is something that might use the camera to take a photo and send it somewhere. But even then, posting it to Twitter / Twitpic or just emailing the photo would do the job. In fact, upcoming standards for HTML5 will let you hook into a mobile’s camera to take photos.

What I did at Casey and what you should do

Develop a mobile version of your well thought out, standards compliant responsive design website. I developed a mobile version of Casey’s website at m.casey.vic.gov.au – the entire desktop website is available through it.

But the difference is the front page – it has the “most likely to be used on mobiles” things on the front page — contact details, news, emergencies, lost pets etc..

I incorporated a browser sniffer on Casey’s website — this detects if you’re on a mobile device and if you’ve gone to the standard website at www.casey.vic.gov.au it will automatically redirect you to the mobile website at m.casey.vic.gov.au.

What about responsive design?

Since I originally wrote this post in 2011, responsive design has gained momentum and some great stuff is being done out there. Websites that use responsive design will shrink (or expand) to fit the screen size of your device, be it 1920 × 1080 screen, through to 10 inch tablet or mobile phone screen.

The trick is to ensure that all of the elements in your page (ie., full screen photos etc.) aren’t pushed through to a tiny 4 inch mobile screen.

Developers should use a combination of “web smarts” to only push small elements through to your device. That is, images that have been scaled down to display at the right size — both in dimensions and file size — for your device’s screen size.

The same care should apply to Javascript and CSS – if you have a bunch of fancy scripts that are designed for a desktop or widescreen experience, there’s no point forcing a mobile phone to download these files if it is never going to use them. They’ll just slow down your page loading time, as well as unnecessarily strain the little brain of your little device.

Back in 2011, I was very wary of responsive design because I don’t think a lot of developers had sharpened their website publishing tools to cater for it, so huge images and unneeded stylesheets and scripts were being pushed down to mobiles (remember that mobiles were a lot slower way back in 2011). If developers didn’t do responsive design properly, there was no way that web publishers, with little or no HTML experience, were going have the slightest clue what responsive design was about.

Now in 2013, as I’m updating this post, responsive design doing a much better job and will improve more in time. I’m now fully a fan or responsive design, if it’s done properly.

Some links for light reading

The use of mobiles to access the web is growing fast and will continue to do so. Here’s a list of links I’ve compiled that make for interesting reading.

Ask your website developer / vendor about a mobile website. It takes just a little bit of work, but it is worth it.

So, in summary, it’s a “no” to apps from me! That is, unless there’s an actual need.

What do you think?

March 21, 2011
by Michael Cleland
2 Comments

The Great Australian Film (funding distaster)

Jim Schembri wrote about three recent Australian films that have failed at the box officeMy favourite Australian dud film of all time is The Wannabes.

I remember when I saw this Nick Giannopoulos film. I was so angry when I saw that film, I emailed Film Victoria at the time with “do not finance” plea to any further Nick Giannopoulos projects. Funnily enough, they did not reply to my email.

That film should never have made it past a draft script and was a total waste of taxpayers’ money. The same could be said for a lot of Australian films.

I have friends that work in the industry and they need to work, but funding bodies should be a lot pickier with what makes it to production.

So much of it comes down to script. If the script is bad, the final product will be bad.

I know that funding bodies are obligated to take risks to get the great Australian story out there and to keep the industry working, but please, please, PLEASE don’t base films on rubbish scripts!

Here’s my review of this motion picture triumph on IMDb. And just for good measure, I resourced and wrote the “Reaction” section for this film’s entry on Wikipedia.

February 25, 2011
by Michael Cleland
0 comments

The Oz: NBN bashing again

I can’t believe The Australian’s criticism of the NBN. It’s a national infrastructure project that will have a lifetime of many decades and will be upgradeable to speeds many times faster than is currently available.  

At its heart, fibre is basically a pipe to transmit data at the speed of light.

If it costs $40 billion and lasts 30 to 40 years (remember that the copper network has lasted for decades) then its cost might be about $1 billion a year. I know this is an extremely simplistic calculation and ignores maintenance costs etc.. But on that basis, it is extremely cost effective for what it will offer.

Mobile internet usage will continue to grow, but there will always be a scarcity of radio spectrum. Think of the capacity problems that AT&T iPhone users have had with slow internet access and phone drop outs many cities like New York. The more smartphone users on your wireless network, the more this will be a capacity problem eg., Vodafone’s recent network problems.

Fibre and wireless are complimentary technologies. Each will have its purpose.

I can’t believe through ignorance the number of people who think mobile data is the robust and exclusive solution for our future data needs.

February 22, 2011
by Michael Cleland
0 comments

Why smear, when you can wash?

This morning The Age had a travel piece on Japanese toilets, and it reminded me of my first time in Japan …

I just loooove the Toto Washlets (they happen to be the premium brand of toilets in Japan). So much so, that we’re renovating and the main bathroom is going to have one installed.

The best tag line for them is from a Toto USA YouTube clip that states, “Why smear, when you can wash.”

Once you’ve tried it, you’ll never go back!

February 19, 2011
by Michael Cleland
0 comments

The Australian family car to go electric?

I’ve just been reading about plans for an electric version of the Commodore, in conjunction with Bosch, Futuris and Better Place
I think this is a great idea and here’s why:
  1. Electricity can come from renewable resources. While most electricity in Victoria is generated by coal at the moment, more will come from solar and wind in the future. Better Place say they are only sourcing power from renewable sources.
  2. Once you’ve solved the power source issue mentioned above, it doesn’t matter what size car you run 100% electric. If the battery is being charged by the sun or wind, then it is essentially free, and isn’t burning fuel, so the size of the car is less important. That is, you don’t have to have a small car. I’ve been a fan of electric cars for a while, but only picked up on this point recently, and it makes sense. So, people who want a big car can still have one as an electric car.
  3.  The amount of energy required to generate hydrogen is apparently about the same or near to the amount of energy you can create from burning hydrogen itself. So, even if it burns off as water, currently you still have to use a lot of energy to generate the hydrogen in the first place.
I can’t wait for electric cars to take off. It all makes sense to me and with enough re-charging infrastructure in place, the switch for most drivers will be an easy transition in both economic and convenience terms.

February 10, 2011
by Michael Cleland
0 comments

$36bn price for NBN slammed – well I’m slamming back

This morning, The Age published an article slamming the cost of the NBN project.

Well, I’m slamming them back!

What a stupid, stupid report. I’m glad that The Age described the outfit as the right-leaning Economist Intelligence Unit.

Of course things will cost more here. It’s called density of population.

And what if we didn’t push ahead with the NBN? We’d be stuck on Tony Abbott’s narrow minded pathway to a slipshod NBN substitute and pulling funding out of our foreign aid programs.

Another reason why I’m find Abbott frustrating, because he is only looking at it for his political gain, instead of seeing the benefits to the nation.

January 14, 2011
by Michael Cleland
0 comments

Social media example: Queensland Floods

I’ve been watching the handling of the Queensland / Brisbane floods from a social media perspective in the last couple of days.

If you’re not sure about the value of Twitter and Facebook for disaster recovery – think again.

Around January 12, 2011, when news of the impending floods was publicised, the Brisbane City Council (BCC) website was overloaded / offline for quite a few days.

One of their solutions was to use their Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Facebook is virtually never down – Twitter has its moments – but both give you a great way to communicate with people using a channel they are using a lot on their smartphones (Android, iPhone, Blackberry) as well as work and home PCs.

Brisbane City Council had Tracey (Comms staff, I’ll guess) who was on Facebook and Twitter from 6am to midnight — this seemed to be her only function — she was answering comments every few minutes. Her “voice” was very conversational (ie., not “Council speak”).

As more and more people came to the BCC Facebook page, their wall was filling up. (They allow people to post on their wall, whereas at this point many councils do not). As a result, she would repost the same or similar information regularly, so that the important stuff was always “bubbling to the top”.

They also have a “Notes” tab on their Facebook page, where they would publishing more official style media releases. Tracey would post comments every so often on their wall to tell people to click the Notes tab for official information.

Facebook users would “Like” the BCC Facebook page too (This means that people are essentially subscribing to the BBC’s Facebook posts. People then don’t have to return to the BCC’s Facebook page. As soon as you “Like” something on Facebook, any new posts from it / them will show up in your own news feed).

For Twitter, they (ie., Tracey) were doing similar stuff. Tweeting new info as it came to hand “Thanks everyone, we don’t need volunteers to fill sand bags anymore”. Tracey would tweet links to flood maps on the official BCC website (which they switched to a lower bandwidth “just text and no pretty pictures” version to help prevent it overloading).

Finally, they the BCC Twitter feed would retweet important information from Qld Police, Energex (electricity shutdown notifications) and anything else they felt would be of interest to their followers.

(Followers are like subscribers to your twitter messages. Retweeting is forwarding messages from a 3rd party’s twitter account so that your followers get that info, without having to subscribe to 3rd parties).

Sooooo, this is something that I hope you reflect on. A lot of people will never visit a Council website, they’ll never think to subscribe to an SMS notification service. But chances are they – or friends of theirs – will find you on Twitter or Facebook — and that’s when you’ll have the capability to contact a whole new audience in a time of crisis.

I’ve added some PDFs from BCC’s Facebook and Twitter page from earlier in the week. The first page or two are screenshots, the following pages are an extract of the stream of messages flying back and forth.

Finally, Qld Premier Anna Bligh has been doing some great tweets at twitter.com/TheQldPremier Some must be from her Comms people, but many are obviously personally from her. She’s been using Twitter from her Blackberry to post news, lighter comments and uplifting photographs.

All worth a good look.

I really felt motivated to let you know my thoughts on this. I hope you’ve got either a new point of view from it or it confirms what you’ve been thinking already.