Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Why I’m Against Tag Management Solutions

Tag management solutions for those of us who are fortunate enough not to work in online marketing are sold to us as bits of software that enable us to make changes to our websites, particularly around tracking or adding plug ins for behind the scenes stuff. They do this by adding their code to your site, and you make the changes in their software rather than involving your IT department. Which historically has always been portrayed as a colossal ball ache.

For example if you're a web analyst like me, and some marketing time vampire wants to know what percentage of a page has been viewed. It’s not something we're currently tracking so I'd have to add it in the back end of the web analytics package, then make sure the code on the website was updated to marry the two bits of data together so it works in the shiny front end.

Typically I'd now have to involve IT or Web Development and get them to go into the website code, add it, test it and make it live. Some companies are larger than others and some have much more stringent policies on what goes live when. If your web team does releases in sprints, sometimes your small line of code can take a month or more to be added in. Nightmare right?

Which is the scare story a lot of TMS (Tag Management Solution) companies tell you to make you piss your collective marketing pants and buy their product. So that you don’t have to involve IT / Web Development and get on with your jobs. However in the last few months of working agency side with a TMS I can say that in my opinion they are a waste of time and another road block when things go wrong.

There have been more than a few instances here where something has gone horribly wrong and they've denied any responsibility for the problem, stating unequivocally that their tool was at fault and I’ve had to spend my time digging through change logs to prove it was. For example, I did some digging and noticed that the traffic coming in via organic search was less than 10 visitors a day. Which struck me as supremely odd when most companies I’ve worked at organic search traffic was at least 50% or higher. I reached out and was fobbed off, then I looked at the historical data and saw that search died the same day that the TMS was made live. Coincidence? Nope. Turns out that the TMS wasn’t firing any tags on a visitors first visit, thus losing all referral information.

Another instance was after they fixed that problem they changed the way the TMS works, this has since caused a number of tags to stop working, they are denying it’s them, the USA web development team have made no changes, the change log shows that the TMS changed the way it works on the exact date this custom data died and here I am waiting for them to come back to me writing a blog about how much I fucking hate Tag Management Solutions!

The best solution in my opinion is for businesses to encourage a much better working relationship between web development, IT and marketing. It’s 2014, it’s not 1974. Anyone who works in marketing will probably have been bombarded with presentations of marrying up their offline and online presences, synergising and other irritating corporate bullshit bingo buzzwords, (and if they haven’t been bombarded they’re probably the ones bombarding) but it’s becoming more and more apparent that the best way to do this is to actually do it!

Don’t buy some shitty solution that adds days and days to a potential resolution when it could be resolved by walking over to your trusty web developer chum and getting him to check the code. I think it's very necessary to define an internal process that allows your website to have smaller additions done outside of lengthy development cycles. And I’m sure that phrase has made more than one of my web developer friends testicles rise into their chests!

Monday, 8 September 2014

We all knew this was coming.

I’m sure a lot of some people have been wondering when I'd chime in about the Ice Bucket Challenge, so let's get it over and done with.

I run the risk of coming across like I think everyone is a moron for doing the Ice Bucket challenge. This isn’t true in any way. If people want to do it, that’s great. Charity as a concept is a good thing. My issue is the people that do these things like the Ice Bucket Challenge or the upcoming Movember and don't raise any money but do them just because everyone else is doing them and then play the 'awareness' card.

Doug Stanhope says something very funny about awareness in his Beer Hall Putsch show (I order you to watch it on Netflix)

Raising awareness is another form of doing nothing, raising awareness is me standing next to a drainage ditch where a guy just hit a goat with his moped on the highway and now they're in the ditch laying in the muck with compound fractures and the dude’s got a bone sticking through his leg and the fucking goats got a bone sticking through his fur, and they're laying there in agony, and I’m raising awareness by standing above them shouting down an empty highway “LOOK, LOOK, EEEW, LOOK EEEW!” and they're going “help” and I’m going “no, look I’m raising awareness

3min 52Seconds in.

I couldn't agree more, additionally Lance Storm posted a very interesting insight into this latest internet fad which I will yoink:

“The first flaw is that a lot of people taking up this challenge are just doing creative videos of themselves dumping water on their heads as a vanity project to get attention and pat themselves on the back for all the good they are doing, despite not donating a single penny. The excuse or denial here is “Well at least we are creating awareness, look at the national donations, they are way up”. Way to pass the buck. I’m sure your individual video was the one that made the difference. For those who did in fact donate or are pacified with the “I’ve created awareness” we then have the second flaw.

What is the ALSA doing with all of this money? The truth is the vast majority of the money you are donating is not going towards research and finding a cure for ALS. The numbers are disputed somewhat. I’ve heard people claim as low as 7% is going towards research and the ALSA claims that number is closer to 27%. Lets for the sake of convenience and benefit of the doubt, use 25%. Three quarters of the money you donate to help find a cure isn’t going where you want it to. Most of it is going towards “Awareness and Education”, which could be translated to be read “Advertising and Promotions” to ensure more money gets donated so they can again put only one quarter of it towards what they are claiming it’s for in their promotion and advertising. It is a deceitful cycle that keeps a lot of people employed earning great livings while delivering very little of the money donated to the cause they are promoting. To this we offer ourselves the excuse, “Well 25% is better than nothing, that is still a lot of money, and someone has to run these charities” To this I offer you the popular concept of cutting out the middle man. Why are we donating to these Charity groups that only deliver a small percentage of our donations to the research groups? Why not donate directly to the people that are actually doing the work, the people trying to discover treatments and cures?

This is the third and final flaw. The reason we don’t donate directly is because then we would discover that the portion of our donation that isn’t going towards salaries and advertising, that 25% that we think is actually doing good, is going into the pockets of Big Pharma. Yes the pharmaceutical companies are getting your money. You are giving your money to some of the biggest, richest, most profitable companies in the world. You are helping cover the cost of their research and development programs to allow them to make higher profits. You are not financing new research, this is research they are already doing. This is how they make their money after all. They create new drugs to treat diseases, and when they find a new treatment they patent it and sell it back to you at a huge profit.

Think about that for a minute. Millions upon millions of dollars are being GIVEN to a company to help find a cure or treatment of a disease and if they find a cure/treatment, the people you GAVE that money to will then patent that cure and sell it back to you at a huge profit. Wait…What…profit? I thought we donated to Charity, a non-profit organization. Oh right that’s another reason why we don’t donate directly to the people doing the research if we did they wouldn't be able to claim it as a non-profit or a charity, and they are creating these drugs with the sole intention of making profits, hundreds or millions of dollars in profits. Yes your good intentioned donations, or at least the part that isn’t going towards salaries and advertising, that huge 25% of it, is going towards increasing the profit margins of some of the richest most profitable companies in the world.

Doesn't that make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.”

People doing these things blindly without question just because everyone else is doing it bothers me. I don't want to downplay the importance of the Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (this is what ALS stands for by the way and I'll bet most don't know that) The cause is important as are most causes to the people doing them but blindly following just bothers me.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

My Take On The Celebrity Nude Photo Hacks

All over the news this week has been the revelation that some 100 or so female celebrities have had their private iCloud accounts hacked and nude photos leaked. There are a few things bothering me about this one so I'll try convey these in some logical order.

1) Celebrity Apologies
Some of the actresses involved have apologised for the photos in question even existing. I find this really backwards. It’s 2014, it’s not 1890 and we're not in Victorian England although the way the media goes on you'd think we were right in the middle of a glorious puritan utopia where no one ever does anything even remotely sexual and everyones pure Christian wholesome values are purer than the driven white snow. Bullshit. If anyone wants to share with their partner / casual sexual acquaintance / anyone they damn well choose a nude photo of themselves they are quite within their right to. For these celebrities to apologise for being naked I find abhorrent. Whilst I don't want to trivialise rape in any fashion, you don't see rape victims apologising for not putting up a better fight.

2) iCloud / Any online data hosting
If you can't 100% guarantee that some sweaty bedroom troll isn’t able to hack your services and plunder nude photos, credit card details or any other private personal information then you really shouldn't be in business and you're just as much to blame as aforementioned bedroom troll for the loss of peoples privacy.

3) Don't take any nude photos today.
A blog I follow and usually agree with posted this image:

To quote Dan Aykroyd; "Graham, you ignorant slut."

I take massive exception to this image. Why the hell shouldn't I take nude photos if I want to? If I want to send my partner a cheeky arse shot to remind him just how amazing it is why shouldn't I? Just because Apple / Insert Cloud provider name can't get their shit together or because some sad loser hacked a system? There is nothing wrong with expressing our sexuality or being sexual beings and shit like that image really don't help matters. I could go into the whole anti-rape nail polish but it's before 11am and I'm under caffeinated, the jist of it is would he like to produce a cut out and keep "Don't get raped today" card too?

4) Hackers
Isn't it kind of fucked up that you'd rather spend hundreds, maybe thousands of hours learning and refining your skills to hack into these massive companies so that you can steal nude photos? Whereas if you'd used that same amount of effort you could have become well read, developed social skills, hell even learned an instrument so that you can serenade your sweetheart (even a solid 3 who can sing / play guitar is bumped up to an 8) or learned enough about the human condition that you could have landed yourself someone rather lovely? But instead you've flushed that time and energy into something so sad and pathetic? Take a good long look in the mirror and ponder just how much of your life you have wasted.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

My New Phobia

In the past I’ve had a huge phobia of London. It’s dirty, smelly and far too overcrowded by humans. The layout makes next to no sense and to be frank the whole city needs razing to the ground and rebuilding in a more logical grid like fashion, much like New York. It just makes sense.

Bane Kitty should destroy London.

Me: Can you direct me to the thing?

New York: Sure it’s 3 blocks down, 2 blocks right.


London: Sure, it’s about half a mile down the road, then take a left at McDonalds, and follow that alley to the end but veer left when it forks. When you get to the roundabout take the third exit and go for another half mile. If you reach the Queen’s Head Pub you've gone too far.

What the what?

I digress.

Since working in Soho for most of this year I’ve mostly eradicated most of my phobia of London. I won’t get on a tube carriage that’s bursting at the seems with the collective offal of humanity. But I’ll get on ones that I wouldn't have before. Progress! However in the place of one phobia a new one must rise! Celebrities!

I've seen around on my travels:

Layton Williams who plays Stephen Carmichael on BBC3's Bad Education

Andrew Scott who plays Moriarty on Sherlock

King of the Gays, Stephen Fry

and today Arthur Darvill who played Rory Williams in Doctor Who

All seemed perfectly nice and approachable, I'm sure they wouldn't have stabbed me in the face with a corkscrew if I'd have asked them for an autograph, yet my reaction isn't to politely ask if they'd mind posing for a selfie, or signing my tits; my instinct is to haul ass.

I wonder if it's a case of my mind thinking "treat people how you want to be treated" so I don't bother them? But then again if I were famous would I feel shitty if people weren't asking for my autograph of a picture.

Who knows?!

Thursday, 14 August 2014


I've been thinking of writing a piece about suicide for a while, travelling to London for work now I have been delayed more than a few times by someone who has decided Ealing Broadway is a nice place to be trisected and my sympathy for it was non-existent. This entry is thankfully quite different from the one I was going to write a couple of weeks ago.

With the loss of Robin Williams I've been thinking a lot more about suicide, don’t get your hopes up I'm not planning on offing myself. But typically my view on suicide has in reflection, been remarkably narrow minded to put it gently. My view was that it is an incredibly cowardly, selfish and stupid act. A permanent problem to a temporary solution and if people want to end their lives they should just get on with it and stop bringing people down. Even as I write this I cringe at just how cold and nasty I come across. Even in “Joey Nova” character it’s a little much to stomach.

A lot of my views towards suicide stem from growing up around someone who made more than one attempt on their own life and it generated a lot of anger within me. It was invariably me who had to make the 999 call and explain that again, they’d necked a bunch of pills and whiskey. No child should grow around this, and I have written previously about elements I've grown up and I'm not wanting to open up any old wounds with this post but in the wake of Robin Williams’ suicide, and reading tributes paid and articles around his mental health and what he was going through I realised I’d never really given any time to thinking of the flip side, the other person’s feelings. What makes someone feel so awful, so trapped and helpless that not existing any more is the best option?

I'm not going to claim to now be the most sensitive person in the world, nor an expert on suicide but I will say that my view has changed and I've realised it’s not as black and white as I’d painted it in my head. I suppose viewing it like that in such simplistic terms as a teenager made it easier to deal with at the time but it’s not a mature way to view the ever complicating circumstances of life as I grow up.

The truth is that we all have our demons, I'm definitely not exempt as I can think of a couple of occasions I've come very close to killing myself. In January 2010 I was driving to work and for a while I’d felt desperately low. I was in a job I hated, I’d lost someone I loved dearly and didn't know how to cope. I was driving along the M4 to work, crying and found myself veering toward the large concrete support under a bridge with a view to ploughing my car into it, I changed my mind at the last minute but to this day I still get a little shocked how close I came.

It seems obvious now to me, but I’d not even taken the time to match up my own experience of coming close to suicide with those of the attempts made by a family member, or even the people who decide that death by train is the best way to go. I'd never sat those things together and attempted to put myself in their shoes.

We will never know what’s truly going on in someone else’s head. We’ll never fully understand their pain and suffering or why they decide to opt out of living. But what we can do is try be a little more sympathetic and understanding, and if nothing else that is one thing I've learned this week.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Where I Shower

I'm a big advocate of the shower principle. That being the best moments of brilliance come to you when you’re not focussed on the task in hand, and being rather brilliant if I do say so myself I do spend some time when at work not doing work things. I'm not slacking off, I'm just waiting for that diamond bullet of brilliance to come strike me in the centre of my forehead.

So here a couple of random places where I sometimes go to take my mind off of the task in hand, in no particular order.

1) io9.com
I like io9.com because it has a great mix of TV and movie information / spoilers, science and technology articles and more. I feel when I'm reading things on io9.com I’m possibly learning something, versus spending 10 minutes on buzzfeed.com and actually feeling the life draining from you after you’ve finished your 5th personality quiz to find out which flavour of tampon you are.

2) Iwastesomuchtime.com
Funny pictures, anecdotes memes and such. The odd bit of utter bullshit masked as fact which I invariably end up checking on:

3) HoaxSlayer.com
Did you know not everything on the internet is true? The amount of bollocks that I see shared on a daily basis on Facebook / Twitter where people just blindly believe is true is astounding. A quick search on Hoax Slayer or Snopes.com before sharing will make you look much less stupid.

4) The Adventure of Ollie Adkins (Instagram)
International man of mystery Ollie Adkins travels the world taking some of the most beautiful pictures I've ever seen. As someone who had previously never really seen the point of travelling I have had my mind thoroughly changed by the beauty Ollie manages to capture. I've badgered Ollie to start a travel blog and as yet he hasn't so maybe this could be a nudge for him to pair those lovely photos with some words. The mystery with Ollie for me remain:  how in the blue hell does he afford to go to all these lovely places?!

5) DenofGeek.com
A great place to find information on upcoming nerdy TV shows and films.

So that's a random 5, any suggestions?

Friday, 1 August 2014

Joey Nova: First Class

Last week I had an absolute nightmare with travel last week. Apparently in 2014 lightning striking a signal box can bring the country to its knees, and after 3.5 hours trapped at Paddington I thought to myself “fuck it, next week I'm buying a first class ticket”. Seeing the 3 or 4 empty carriages every morning whilst I am forced to stand pressed up against some land manatee with B.O. was just not going to cut the mustard this week and I felt I should compare first class with standard class, for science reasons of course.


The cost of a first class week ticket between Reading and Paddington is double, with underground comes to  £249.30. Ouch, and they don’t even buy you a GHB laced drink first, or ask you if this rag smells like chloroform.

I have to say it makes your day a lot less stressful knowing you’re going to be able to sit down comfortably on any train you step on. The thought of greasing myself up so that I can board a packed commuter train after work on a Friday isn't high on my bucket list, so there is an immediate plus. A second benefit that I didn't realise is that there is a complimentary refreshments trolley which I didn't realise was complimentary until later in the week. Apparently the correct response to “would you like anything from the trolley” isn't “yes, can you fill this sack”.

However my absolute favourite thing about travelling first class is this:

Now I don’t wear a suit for my job, I look good don’t get me wrong. I mean I look really good. Hey, everyone! Come and see how good I look! But I don’t wear a suit. So when I first embark on the train in my jeans and t-shirt or shorts and t-shirt the first thing I notice is the other first class passengers peering over the top of their Financial Times or Daily Mail and looking like they've discovered a skid mark on a hotel towel.

You can almost hear them thinking “he doesn't belong in here with us”, “will someone come and move this person”, “UNCLEAN”, “VAGABOND” and so forth. Then comes the ticket inspector, and you can feel the electricity in the air as the other first class passengers lower their papers and are almost giddy with joy as the ticket inspector draws ever closer to me. You can hear them salivating as they expect me to be ushered out and have to do the walk of shame past them back into steerage from whence I came.

Then comes the money shot. The almost palpable disappointment as I produce my first class ticket. They watch with intent as the ticket inspector reviews it, looking for any sign of forgery or error. He finds none and their collective hopes and dreams of seeing me ejected are snuffed out. You can almost taste it. I certainly feel like I've eaten well afterwards; and that dear reader is my absolute favourite thing about travelling first class. Trolling first class passengers.

As my week of first class travel comes to a close I can say that whilst it was nice to be able to sit down and feel like a person while travelling, it isn't worth the nearly £250 price tag. I am still adamant that there should be no first class carriage, its unnecessary and the empty space available is shocking. Reduce it to one carriage if you have to have one and open up the space for the rest of the battery commuters.