Everyone loves a good sneer. Yes you do, be honest. But most of us keep our best sneering for home and like-minded friends. T.V. pundits do it in full view of the public, on screen and in print. And their favourite object of derision is trash T.V. Pap for the masses, they say. Rots your brain. Made for idiots, fools and couch potatoes. What they never admit is that it can be entertaining.
Much as I love a jaunt through the history of Rome, a documentary on the lost tribes of the Orinoco or Brian Cox musing on astrophysics, there are times when all I want from the box is coloured pictures in front of my eyes and no strain on the brain. I like to be able to sit back and drool. Maybe sip a little wine. Maybe grin. Trash television is perfect for this. And, if you keep your eyes and ears open, you might even learn about the human condition. I call it research.
I live the life of a Trappist, at the computer, playing with my imaginary friends – it’s called writing. The few people I meet are family and friends. But a writer needs more. Where would I meet mad, young ones aching to make it as Models? On America’s Next Top Model of course. Or deluded teens who want to be Pop Stars? X-Factor. Or people being rude about their host’s food and taste in décor? Come Dine with Me. Or a T.V. newsreader, spangled in sequins, failing to learn how to Tango? Strictly Come Dancing. Or spoiled Daddy’s girls spending outrageous amounts on a party. My Sweet Sixteen. And as for Big Brother it’s an encyclopaedia of naivety, madness, bitchiness, lechery, cliques, betrayals, crushes, insecurity, over-confidence and backstabbing.
Trash T.V often has a competitive element and competition affects people in so many different ways. It lets you see how people present themselves. And what happens when the mask slips. And the gap between what they say and what their body language says. And the gap between what they say and what they actually do. For a writer that’s endlessly fascinating.
The idea for Burning Bright came to me from reality T.V. While flicking through channels I caught sight of a wedding planner on RTE. He was perma-tanned, medallioned, white-suited and tossing his luxuriant locks while arranging the transport of elephants for an Irish country wedding. What? Elephants! For a wedding in Ireland! And with that, Kirsty Kerrigan sashayed into my mind with her motto “Because I’m worth it” and her aching desire to be the Paris Hilton of Ireland and her insistence that that I write a novel about her. And I did.
Thank you trash Television.
Catherine Brophy is a writer, story-teller and broadcaster. She writes film, T.V. and radio scripts and she also writes short stories. Her previous novels are The Liberation of Margaret Mc Cabe and Dark Paradise. She lives a blameless life in Ireland but escapes whenever she can. She’s been rescued by a circus troupe in Serbia, had breakfast with a Zambian chief, ate camel stew in the Sahara, and was kicked by a horse on the Mexican plain.
I think it started with seeing something pop up on Google Reader. I’m old school and still love my RSS feeds. There was a new post Marketing on the Internet Made Simple from Colm Brophy. Huh? I definitely didn’t write that. My next realisation was that my site had been hacked. I got in touch with the wonderful people at A Small Orange who host this site. After talking to their support people I realised that it wasn’t a security breach but rather my own negligence; letting the domain expire.
I had been planning on moving it away from GoDaddy and thought that I could just let it expire then pick it up with the new service. Who would want an obscure domain for a very uncommon name. It turns out a few people. What I didn’t realise at the time was that GoDaddy auction off expiring domain names. While the domain URL may not be terribly valuable in itself, the accumulated search rank and trustworthiness that came over the years of posting original content was valuable. So someone bought it for that and started posting their own content and linking to sites they wanted to boost.
In the meantime I was scratching my head wondering what I can do about this. Essentially with domains, possession is nine tenths of the law. I happened to come across a post on Hacker News where the subject of domain squatting came up. I got in touch with a helpful guy called Ewan who had some insights and experience with the business of domain squatting (while my case wasn’t exactly squatting there are a lot of parallels). He had a few bits of advice, one was to set up a drop-catch (a service which automatically purchases the domain if it becomes available). He also advised on how to get in touch and approach them with an offer to buy.
I held out hope that the domain would lapse after a year when they realised that it wasn’t a very valuable domain in itself - I had at this stage removed all links from my social media pages sending traffic to the site. So I gritted my teeth and waited it out, and was pretty surprised to get a notification email telling me that the domain had been renewed. At this point it was time to go to plan B and make an offer.
This was tricky since there was no email address shown anywhere around the site, and a WHOIS search turned up nothing more than an anonymous service which hides the identity of the owner. So a hopeful email to firstname.lastname@example.org was sent with the subject title “Want to buy colmbrophy.com for $100″ as Ewan had advised.
It was a lot of money for a domain particularly since Ewan had said they’d probably come back asking for much more and you could settle for $200. If I had never owned the domain I would have just written it off and started a fresh domain, but it was associated with me and I really didn’t want people thinking I had written the content that was hosted on the site. As someone who derives their income in no small part from working in digital and online these this have added value. And if your name is Colm Brophy, then it’s a pretty great domain that ranks 1 on Google, which is nice for the vain.
The reply to my email came quickly from a Dino Goncalves:
I wouldnt take less then $1000 for it…
Its a seasoned domain, and I have put zero work into it..
Luckily Ewan had prepared me for such a high price, I responded:
OK, I understand.
I don’t think it’s worth anything like $1000, given how uncommon a name it is and any traffic you get was probably from my old links to the domain from my websites and social media.
I wouldn’t pay any more than $200. So if you’d be interested for that price any time in the future let me know.
I think it was only at this point that he realised I was the former owner:
So this use to be your domain?
So we chatted a bit:
Yes I had it for a long time, but I let it expire in order to switch hosting providers from GoDaddy to someone else - stupid thing to do wasn’t it?
Didn’t expect someone to have a drop-catch set up. Or anyone to care enough to want to buy it.
He actually seemed like a decent guy, and I finally understood the value of the domain had nothing to do with the traffic:
Sorry to hear that…It seriously happens every day..
There are people that do that as a business…NOT me, I use them domains to feed other domains, for link juice…To move other sites up the Google index..
Its a great domain… BUT..tell you what, because its your name..
and and you wont be able to get a dot com… Ill let it go to you..and only you..the original owner for $500
However I was in no way prepared to pay so much so I stuck tight:
Ah OK, that makes sense. I figured it shouldn’t get enough traffic by itself to make it worthwhile to buy or renew.
As I said I don’t think it’s worth more than $200. I thought that was a more than generous offer for a domain that’s the name of maybe 5 people in the world, but I don’t know how much it’s worth to you providing link juice.
I’ve my own company site which I’m planning on updating. So I’ll focus on putting content on there instead. But I thought it was worth asking if you were interested in selling my old domain on the off chance you were before I put in the effort.
He came down again sending me an image of a Google search for Colm Brophy with my site at the top:
If I were Colm Brophy… It would be worth every penny…
Especially doing what you do…You are also into design..so
Do you want prospects to click on some other Colm Brophy,
or THE one and only Colm Brophy according to Google?
Because its a dot com… it rules anything else you place on the Internet.
I can buy other domains… Just want to make sure you see the value in your name.
$400 and its yours..
Let me know..
I decided to give it one last try at $250 (about £165):
Hope you’re well.
$400 is just way too much money for me to spend on something like this. I just don’t have that kind of cash for a domain. I don’t make any money from it so it’s not an expense I can justify, it’s just vanity.
I thought I’d try one last offer, of $250. I’d absolutely love it if you could come down to that price. If not best of luck, maybe I’ll get it back when you’ve used up all its Google juice and it’s worthless.
Man you drive a hard bargain…
But… I know I would want that if it were my name..
so…because its friday..TGIF..
I guess…You have a deal…
Where is your current account..Godaddy?
All sorted. Right? Well not really cause I have to give a complete stranger money and he has to give over a domain. I got back in touch with Ewan and did some Googling on the topic. Both suggested some escrow services which handle domains. I suggested this to Dino, but he wanted to do the method tried and tested by Hollywood films for decades: Half before, half after.
We talked on skype for a bit and he set up a screen share and showed me he had all the details ready to transfer the domain. Then I transferred half. Then he transferred the domain showing me live as it happened. And I transferred the second half. All went smoothly. Phew.
Perhaps I was gullible and too trusting in this process. Certainly someone sufficiently devious, deceptive and careful might have tricked me out of at least half the money. But I may have been able to do something to get the money back through PayPal and really they had to put in quite a bit of work for that $125 with emails, skype calls etc.
Regardless it was an interesting experience. I definitely learned my lesson about letting a domain expire naturally.
Just saw that the lightning talk I gave at DEFUSE Dublin towards the end of last year is up on youtube.
Thanks to Ben.
On the 17th March, I left my job at EMC Consulting (formerly Conchango). On the 19th of March, with my fledgling company Orangered I started doing some work for Profero. My first project was to work on a pitch for ASOS, a company I’ve admired for sometime who are known for doing interesting things in the online retail space in particular with regards to fashion.
Apparently ASOS were doing some sort of marketplace site which would allow their customers to sell to one another. Well after a successful pitch and 6 months building the site (with one of the best teams of people I’ve worked with), it’s live.
I’m delighted with what’s been achieved in such a short space of time. It’s a pretty rare thing for me to get to the end of a project like this and feel so happy with the results rather than lamenting what might have been. That is a credit too the developers, for caring about the design and user experience as much as the code, and to the client, ASOS. Throughout the company, but most particularly the product owners have a keen eye for what works, a drive for quality in everything, but also another trait which is so important with any product owner - they know where to give and take, when to insist on a feature and when to sacrifice one.
Marketplace is not finished, I’m not sure if it ever will be. Its is not a site that will be left to lie fallow over the next year. Instead ASOS have learned a little from agile start ups and launched early, prepared to make mistakes but learn from them. To trust their brand is strong enough to hold their course should any stormy waves buffet the good ship Marketplace - rather than wrap it in cotton wool.
I can’t wait.
Seth Priebatsch: The game layer on top of the world
Design with intent - how to influence behaviour
downloadable design with intent toolkit
Learning from game design: 11 gambits for influencing user behaviour
Some other random but interesting articles:
SCVNGR’s Secret Game Mechanics Playdeck:
HOW TO: Use Game Mechanics to Power Your Business
I’m going to be speaking at a couple of events in dublin over the next week.
On Friday I’m talking at the Dublin Web Summit in the Developer, Designer & Mobile stream. My talk is on at 12.15 on the topic of “Game design lessons for interaction design”, I’m also sitting on a panel discussion at 12.24 with Josh Williams from Gowalla and my old friend Paul Campbell.
Both promise to be great events so if you’re about for one or both say “hi”.
Here’s a scenario.
I need to pay for an event ticket with paypal. I have a paypal account - great I’ll use that.
I enter email and password.
No funds in my account to pay.
I’ll log into my account to add funds. Adding funds takes 5-7 days, that’s not going to work.
Oh well I see there’s an option to pay with a debit card. Fill in details. Continue… Can’t use an email associated with a paypal account.
Try again with different email… Can’t use a debit card associated with a paypal account.
Use credit card. It works. great.
Check email - that’ll be my confirmation right?
Wrong. That’ll be the email telling me I’ve no got limited access to my paypal account cause they think it’s been hacked. Wonderful.
No point to this. Just a rant.
Here’s a data visualisation I put together to see what I could do with some of the recently released government data.
Must credit David McCandless, whose blog Information is Beautiful has provided the inspiration and heavily influenced the look and feel of this design. If you find this interesting his work will blow your mind. I’ll try to be more original in future efforts. Also the Guardian Datablog is an excellent source of both data, ideas, and visualisations.
The data for this is also available.
Just to warn you, this is a twitter post. Even worse, it’s a twitter is great because… post. So you’ve been warned okay.
A couple of times recently I’ve commented on a book I’ve been reading on twitter and mentioned the author in my post. Both times the author has promptly replied in a very genuine way. Twitter enables that sort of instant gratification dialog with someone who you wouldn’t normally get a chance to interact with. It succeeds because there is no obligation or onus on the recipient of an @ message to respond.
The first time this happened was with Gary Vaynerchuk (@garyvee) when I commented that I was a bit disappointed with his book that it didn’t really cater for the more knowledgeable audience and was a bit basic for me. His response and his disappointment that I hadn’t enjoyed it was really heartfelt.
The second time this happened was just yesterday when I received a reply from Tom Chatfield (@tomchatfield). I’d just received his book, Fun Inc.; Why games are the 21st century’s most serious business. I mentioned that I hoped the book goes beyond the usual games are important anecdotes, facts and figures that are generally rolled out on this topic. His reply was simple and to the point. “you and me both”.
I don’t think this sort of dialog would have been possible in the past without significant investment of time and effort on both sides.
I’ve taken the Liberty of making a few adjustments to the FIFA Fair Play logo.