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September 9th, 2013

Technology PR travels: Around the technology world in 80 days – Day #13: Greece

Technology PR travels: Around the technology world in 80 days – Day #13: Greece

Plenty of cheap flights were ready and willing to hop us over to Athens, Greece – the birthplace of democracy as well as pretty much any scientific discipline you’d care to discuss (and we could definitely spend some time doing just that over a cracking moussaka and a bottle or two of Xinomavro…)

Image courtesy of: http://upload.wikimedia.org

Image courtesy of: http://upload.wikimedia.org

A history lesson in Greek innovation really would take some time, but for starters we could certainly attribute the development of gears, screws, mills, metal casting, automatic doors, plumbing, steam power, alarm clocks, and even the Antikythera analogue computer.

The technological prowess of the Ancient Greeks is well known and appreciated – but sadly so is the current economic and industrial malaise of modern Greece. Latest reports from the European Central Bank claim that Greece may need a third bailout – bringing the total level of support to €250 billion since the country’s financial meltdown.

But green shoots of technology now seem to be forcing themselves through all that financial rubble – a necessary but inspiring trend that journalist Alexander Besant attributes to “desperation and 60% youth unemployment”. It’s a small but encouraging movement that could once again transform Greece from a low-tech economy largely reliant on tourism and agriculture, to a renewed hub of creativity and innovation. In the meantime, why not read TechCrunch’s take on the potential rebirth, follow the Microsoft Innovation Center Greece, or check out promising start-ups, such as Bugsense and Pinnatta?

Next time, a voyage to Turkey!

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Posted in London, Technology, Technology PR, Technology PR Blog | Comments Off

 

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September 5th, 2013

Technology PR travels: Around the technology world in 80 days – Day #12: Bulgaria

Technology PR travels: Around the technology world in 80 days – Day #12: Bulgaria

Photo courtesy of: http://www.cosmostoursandcruises.co.uk

Photo courtesy of: http://www.cosmostoursandcruises.co.uk

Just a bat’s flit from Bucharest (well, an overnight train) is Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria. This ancient city overshadowed by Mount Vitosha is the 15th largest in the EU, with a booming population of more than 1.2 million citizens.

Unsurprisingly Sofia is the business heart of Bulgaria. Following nearly a century of technological advances (Bulgaria was the sixth country in the world with a man in space, and invented the digital watch!) the country experienced a decade of decline in the 1990s, but is now experiencing somewhat of a renaissance in cutting edge technology (it has a national nanotechnology R&D centre, scientists on the ISS, a joint lunar mission with India in the pipeline, and the highest density of certified IT specialists in Europe).

In January 2009, the government approved a 10-year plan for funding scientific development in ‘innovative potential sciences’ (biotechnology, healthcare technology, alternative energy sources, nanotechnology and communications), ‘sustainable development sciences’ and ‘scientific studies for the support of industry’. Scientists from Sofia University and the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (BAS) operate the most powerful supercomputer in Eastern Europe, an IBM Blue Gene/P, which resides at the State Agency of Information Technology. BAS scientists also have access to a mothballed electrostatic accelerator, research reactor and neutron generator.

Today Sofia is a major outsourcing location for some of the biggest technology companies in the world, including Apple, HP, IBM, SAP and Siemens. But it is also ‘outsourcing’ expertise of its own – CERN now employs more than 90 Bulgarian scientists with 30 participating in Large Hadron Collider experiments, and maintains a permanent Antarctic research base on Alexander Island!

Next stop? The wonders of Greece!

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Posted in PR Practices, Technology, Technology Copywriting, Technology PR, Technology PR Blog | Comments Off

 

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July 19th, 2013

Technology PR travels: Around the technology world in 80 days – Day #10: Budapest, Hungary

Technology PR travels: Around the technology world in 80 days – Day #10: Budapest, Hungary

Photo courtesy of: http://www.budapest.com/

Photo courtesy of: http://www.budapest.com/

Determined to travel to Budapest by Blimp, we visited Bad Vöslau airfield south of Vienna, and sweet-talked some balloonists into taking us across the Hungarian border in some style.

Landing near Lake Velence, we quickly cobbled together our collective knowledge of Hungarian technology. Our list largely consisted of inventors and their creations: Ányos Jedlik’s electric motor; Leo Szilard’s nuclear reactor; Edward Teller’s hydrogen bomb; József Petzvál binoculars; plus of course László Bíró’s pen and Ernő Rubik’s cube.

But no Hungarian has ever had quite the impact on technological progress as John von Neumann; mathematician, polymath and, crucially, the inventor of the Von Neumann Architecture of computing. His paper ‘First Draft of a Report on the EDVAC’ described an electronic computer comprising processor, logic, memory, storage, and I/O. His ideas inspired the first computer laboratories in Cambridge University, Harvard and Princeton, leading to early ground-breaking programmable computers such as the Colossus and ENIAC, and ultimately practical business machines like the LEO.

Today Hungary still nurtures a number of notable innovators and high-tech companies. Perhaps most famously, Budapest law student and computer scientist Gyula Feher teamed up with two of his best American customers to found UStream and launch a string of succesful internet video streaming brands. His firm now employs 100 people in Budapest and a further 75 in the US and beyond, servicing 60 million users a month. Hungary also as its own thriving social networking platform called iWiW with 2.6 million registered users, and numerous other successful tech companies, including: WinDirect, VirusBuster, Synergon IT, and Puli Space Technologies (which plans to build a spacecraft by 2014 and inspire a new generation of technologists and scientists while getting there!)

Goulash for dinner, then a Twighlight flit to Romania!

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Posted in Technology, Technology Copywriting, Technology PR, Technology PR Blog | Comments Off

 

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July 15th, 2013

Technology PR travels: Around the technology world in 80 days – Day #8: Slovenia and Croatia

Technology PR travels: Around the technology world in 80 days – Day #8: Slovenia and Croatia

 

Photo courtesy of: www.slovenia.info

Photo courtesy of: www.slovenia.info

An overnight train from Rome to Trieste leaves us with just a short bus hop across the border to Slovenia, and on to the capital of Ljubljana. This beautiful city of bridges, parks and squares has endured a difficult few years during the recent economic slump, with austerity taking its familiar toll on business growth and development. But there is now a renewed sense of optimism in the air, and even talk of Ljubljana as a future technology hub for this crossroads in Central Europe.

Attractively high salaries for web and mobile OS developers have spurred a surge in interest in technology careers among Ljubljana’s student population. Longstanding software developers like ComTrade have now become the model for modern Slovenian business – court outsourcing contracts from the rest of Europe while the local economy continues to recover. Road and rail links, especially those with neighbouring Italy, Croatia, Austria and Hungary, plus regular cheap flight connections with Europe’s larger capitals, are not only boosting Slovenia’s outsourcing opportunities, but encouraging a burgeoning start-up community specializing in web technologies, telecommunications, online marketing and of course software development.

Late in the day, it takes us just an hour and a half to drive the 85 miles from Ljubljana to Zagreb in Croatia – once home to Eduard Progovecki, Jospi Vucetic, and Nikola Tesla. We arrive amid mass firework-lit celebrations to mark the country’s induction as the 28th member of the European Union (EU). Although many citizens remain understandably wary of the move amid more economic turmoil, it’s certainly going to make life easier for fledgling businesses working to expand by trading across borders.

Technology entrepreneurs, start-ups and small businesses now hope their government will listen to their pleas for reduced regulation and bureaucracy – until recently it was illegal for any business to be named in any language other than Croatian – and afford their enterprises every chance to grow and be successful.

Next stop? Ohhhhhhhhhhhh Vienna!

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Posted in PR, Technology, Technology Copywriting, Technology PR, Technology PR Blog | Comments Off

 

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June 27th, 2013

Around the technology world in 80 days: Day #6: Geneva, Switzerland

Around the technology world in 80 days: Day #6: Geneva, Switzerland

C CERN 2008

C CERN 2008

From Walldorf it’s a short road trip through Strasbourg and Basel to Geneva. We know that the twelve universities of Switzerland are all extremely high-tech (particularly the Federal Institutes of Technology in Zurich and Lausanne). We also know that Swiss smarts were behind new theories in calculus, rational numbers, atomic theory, LSD, thermochemistry, superconductivity, DNA and even, Velcro. But on this tech trek there is only one place we’re headed for the moment we cross the border and smell the Toblerone – it’s CERN or bust.

CERN is the European Organization for Nuclear Research. Established in 1954 it is an international organization based on the outskirts of Geneva, and home to some of the smartest thinkers from 20 European member states. The laboratory itself is home to 2,400 full-time employees, 1,500 part-time employees, and host to 10,000 visiting scientists and engineer representing 608 universities and research facilities from 113 nationalities. CERN is the heart of European science and technology, the belly button of boffins, the garrison of geek.

The World Wide Web as we know it was born right here at CERN. Initially called project ENQUIRE, Tim Berners-Lee and Robert Cailliau built upon the concept of hypertext to create an entirely new collaborative research environment. The first web page went online in 1991, and today more than two and a half billion people around the globe can surf, tweet, like and watch as many cats playing the piano as they desire. But as phenomenal as the web is, the biggest tech tourist trap at CERN today is undeniably the Large Hadron Collider. Up to 175 meters underground, with a circumference of 27 kilometres, and a computer grid connecting 140 datacentres in 35 countries, the LHC particle accelerator is quite simply one of the greatest technology facilities and scientific milestones in the history of mankind. We have a picnic of holey cheese and gaze in wonder.

The hills are alive with the sound of bosons – next stop, Italy!

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Posted in Technology | 2 Comments »

 

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September 19th, 2012

What have you started?

What have you started?

Last week over coffee and an insistent inbox, I suddenly became part of two cheering crowds receiving exciting news about our recently funded Kickstarter projects.

In the first crowd I was shown post-production photos of the gleaming Defender Bike Lights rolling off the factory lines at Gotham Bicycle Defense Industries, an innovative cycling parts firm that I helped to fund at the turn of the year. And in another, far larger (and more heavily sequinned) crowd, I received my investor’s extended digital download and artwork for the latest album from Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra. It was a big day for my personal investment portfolio!

Which got me thinking. What do readers of Prompt’s blog know about Kickstarter? What do you think about the whole concept of crowd-funding? What projects have you funded to date, successfully or otherwise? Perhaps you even have live Kickstarter projects of your own?

Of course Kickstarter is just the largest and best-known of a relatively new breed of online crowd funding platforms breathing new life into creative projects that need help to gain traction and become realities. It’s been around for over three years now, encouraging people with creative ideas to present their ideas to the global public in the hope of attracting guaranteed financial backing, usually in return for products, services, merchandise or just good karma. There’s no guarantee projects will come to fruition, but as of 22 August Kickstarter had launched 68,224 projects with a success rate of 44 percent.

A core value of the crowd-sourcing concept, is that backers like me must use our judgement in supporting projects that we believe in. I helped fund Gotham after hearing @HazelButters talk enthusiastically about the drive of founders Slava and Brad and reading their story. As a keen cyclist, I didn’t want just branded merch though, I wanted one of the first theft-proof lights they planned to build. So I stumped up the necessary dollars and waited, receiving regular updates on production progress. Gotham needed $18,000 dollars to start building; it received $84,000. The light should be on my doormat at the end of this month.

On a totally different scale, funding Amanda Palmer’s latest album was no risk at all. This alternative musician’s online adventures to replace old school record label and management support with the emotional and financial backing of an international mob of fans connected through her Twitter, Blog, Newsletter and now Kickstarter, have been widely reported. Everybody knew the onetime Dresden Doll would easily get the $100,000 she needed for new album ‘Theatre is Evil’. In the end she secured $1.2 million, the album has been despatched, and the band are now embarking on a world tour – (some of @PromptBoston were also lucky enough to get tickets for her closing night at Boston’s Paradise Rock Club in November).

But what do you think about Kickstarter, and crowd sourcing in general? Is it a good thing? Is it a welcome, innovative new stream of funding, or is it replacing traditional funding mechanisms with a model that provides very little quality control or guarantee of success? We’d love to hear about your own experiences, and of course any projects of your own you’re seeking backing for.

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Posted in Boston, Communications consultancy opinion, Innovation, London, Technology, Twitter | Comments Off

 

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September 7th, 2012

Prompt tip: Tell it like it is

Prompt tip: Tell it like it is

 Great business communications must always combine engaging content with transparency and clarity. Never be tempted to muddy your marketing messages with vague values if you genuinely have something of real significance to shout about. Somebody important might miss your point.

It can be very frustrating to see businesses consistently producing written materials that could give customers, prospects, partners and media contacts the impression that they are being deliberately ambiguous about the benefits of their products and services. This is especially true if those businesses actually do have exciting success stories to tell, with impressive customer testimonials and measurable results they could be sharing.

So where possible, always be specific, and tell your story as openly and directly as possible. Potential clients and editors of industry press titles will never appreciate what you do unless you tell them clearly, quickly and relevantly. For example, which of these statements do you find most compelling? ‘We develop industrial workflow solutions that accelerate sales pipelines while delivering a significant return on investment’ or ‘We make mobile software applications that have already helped UK manufacturers such as Acme get their products to market twice as quickly while typically reducing costs by 75%’?

Teams of experienced copywriters, PR professionals and marketing consultants like the ones working here at Prompt will help you tailor your messaging so that it is as effective as possible. Just give us a shout and tell us what you need, and we’ll get straight to work.  But in the meantime, here are some quick and dirty tips for that next PowerPoint slide or customer email:

- Never use catch-all terms like solution, service or offering, if you can just as easily say spreadsheet, helpline or smartphone

- Only use generalisations like leading, significant or considerable if there is no way of using specifics such as second largest, £6 million or 45%

- Practice explaining what your business is and what it does in just one sentence that an average executive would understand, rather than a techy

- If you can name customers and shout about the business benefits they’ve had thanks to you, then always do. If you can get them to say it, well that’s even better

- Read all your communications objectively out loud, or ask a friend for honest critical feedback before going public

- Never be afraid to ask for help

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Posted in Communications consultancy opinion, Copywriting, PR Practices | Comments Off

 

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June 12th, 2012

Euro 2012: office or offside?

Euro 2012: office or offside?

How well do work and football mix at your office?

We’re talking football here, not currency. Futbol, fußball, voetbal, fodbold, fotball, pêl-droed, tiki-taka – soccer.

Wherever you live and whatever you call The Beautiful Game, it can’t have passed you by that Euro 2012 kicked off last Friday – UEFA’s European Championship tournament. We mentioned it once or twice in our most recent newsletter, just in case you’d overlooked it.

The England team opened its campaign yesterday with a workmanlike 1-1 draw with well-fancied France. But due to the match’s location in Ukraine, most of the talk before the match revolved around how office-bound England fans would get to a pub in time for the 5pm BST kick-off.

Thanks to ever improving television online streaming services, coupled with far faster average broadband speeds in the UK and worldwide than even the last championship just four years ago, services like ITV Player, BBC iPlayer and TVCatchup are really coming into their own for al desko sports fans. But how are bosses reacting to it all?

Digital Spy posted a poll yesterday to discover how many of us were catching the France game on our PCs, smartphones and tablets rather than traditional telly or radio, and pointed out that a third of British workers will be staying late in the office at least once this week to watch a game, rather than miss out during a commute. An unprecedented number of offices are even buying new TVs to cope with the demand.

The only other option is to throw a sicky, or – perhaps more advisable – convince your employer to let you off early enough to give you time to get to the bar/sofa. Fans in Malta are certainly choosing the home early option whenever possible, while according to the local press, more than half of Cornish businesses are letting staff out to take in early games.

The good news is that following yesterday’s game, England now has two 7:45pm BST matches against Ukraine and Sweden to secure a place in the next round. But if the team is lucky enough to progress to the latter stages of the tournament and hit 5pm kick-offs once again, bosses and workers are surely just going to have to down tools that little bit earlier – and get the beers in.

What are your plans for mixing the Euros with work? Let us know!


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June 6th, 2012

Ray Douglas Bradbury (1920-2012)

Ray Douglas Bradbury (1920-2012)

Ray Bradbury, 1920-2012

Much-loved science fiction and fantasy author Ray Bradbury has died, aged 91.

Bradbury’s daughter confirmed her father’s death to the Associated Press on Wednesday morning.

Ray Bradbury, who was born in 1920 in Waukegan, Illinois, wrote more than 27 books and many hundreds of short stories, but is perhaps best known for Fahrenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles and Something Wicked This Way Comes.

In 2000, Bradbury memorably told the New York Times Magazine: “When I was born in 1920, the auto was only 20 years old. Radio didn’t exist. TV didn’t exist. I was born at just the right time to write about all of these things.”


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May 18th, 2012

Are you sitting comfortably? Here's 'The Story of Send'

Are you sitting comfortably? Here's 'The Story of Send'

'The Story of Send' tells us that Google is so hot, its employees have to wear shorts

Google and its products split opinions and loyalties. But whether you’re a big fan and avid user, or have reservations about some of the corporation’s policies, you surely have to be impressed with its technologies from time to time? Perhaps it’s just hard to connect the tiny start-up that gave us its first no-frills search engine back in the late 90s, with the huge behemoth powering the cloud of services we see today?

When Google went public in 1998, it did so under the mission statement: “to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”. Which I guess is part of the reason that it’s still devoting effort to producing superbly executed branding and marketing projects like ‘The Story of Send’, which you’ll now find waiting to be clicked under Google Search.

The Story of Send is an animated tour of the journey of an email through Google infrastructure. It was developed and designed by Google Green, and unashamedly promotes Google’s data centre security and energy conservation credentials. Along the way you can stop off to look at galleries or watch videos that show you how Google’s data centres operate, what steps are taken on the server floor to protect data, and why some Google employees have to go to work wearing shorts.

Google says the project was an effort to show people how the journey of an email really works, because although it’s something that takes just seconds, it’s also something that has to work smoothly billions of times a day. Now, I’m assuming you probably knew that already, and also have a fair idea of the basic journey your messages have to take from your desktop to their destinations. But that’s no reason not to spend a few minutes watching The Story of Send. It’s great.

If you’ve ever worked with writers and illustrators to try and develop a simple, fun way of conveying dry, complex concepts, you’ll know that what ultimately looks simple, can prove quite a challenging task. This story though is slick, interesting and fun, and well worth the effort. The only thing I’m still trying to work out is, how do the plesiosaurs and vampires help..?


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March 21st, 2012

Zoom, just one look and then my heart went boom

Zoom, just one look and then my heart went boom

ChronoZoom 2.0 Beta - now ready to fly

Every now and then, despite its constant evolution and relentless rate of innovation, the online world still manages to throw up a very special creation, so hugely impressive that it deserves its own moment in the internet spotlight. When I began exploring ChronoZoom this week, it reminded me of the very first time I found my dad on the Mosaic browser, tracked down my home on Google Earth or waved Starmap iOS at a passing asteroid. If the first thing technology does is make you grin like an idiot, it’s already a winner.

ChronoZoom is a visual timeline of life, the universe and everything, that sits in a browser and lets you flit in and out of thousands of billions of years of history. You can stop off to witness the birth of the Milky Way, the forming of glaciers, the repercussions of the industrial revolution, or an application launched last week. It’s simply stunning – your mouse wheel or pinch fingers will never have worked so hard.

The idea originated with University of California Berkeley student Roland Saekow. Its development was driven by his mentor Berkeley geologist Walter Alvarez. The zoom technology comes from Microsoft Research Connections.

When Saekow delivered his paper ‘ChronoZoom’ in Alvarez’ cutting-edge ‘Big History’ class back in 2009, students stood and applauded. Alvarez then built a software prototype of the model and demonstrated it at Microsoft Live Labs in 2010. Live Labs researchers were sufficiently intrigued by the concept to help to develop it further using some zoom-able timeline technology they were working on called Deep Zoom. This version convinced Microsoft research to commit 25 researchers to the project, resulting in the first versions of the ChronoZoom 2.0 beta we can play with today.

ChronoZoom is an unfinished project. The chances are that it will always remain an unfinished project – how could it not? But there is enough to see right now to realise the potential it offers – from insightful papers to embedded high definition multimedia presentations, scattered across time. Following in the footsteps of those early classes in ‘Big History’, today’s students will now find it far easier to grasp the concepts of vast timescales, using intuitively manipulated visualisations capable of bringing life, to life. The ChronoZoom Project will help historians, geologists, mathematicians, astronomers, palaeontologist, volcanologists, archaeologists and any profession with the imagination to exploit this fascinating resource.

But perhaps most importantly, it will help people like you and I to visualise and grasp the sheer extent of our universe’s timeline, from the domination of energy to that little idea we scribbled down over lunch. The rest, as they say, is quite literally history.


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February 26th, 2012

The Sun. On Sunday.

The Sun. On Sunday.

The Sun on Sunday hits the news stands.

A new newspaper?

Or the Monday-Saturday Sun, just on a Sunday?

What do you think? And did you read it?

Please let us know.


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Posted in Media | 1 Comment »