Winter Ahead, Watch out for Elk

elkPicked up the Helsinki Times, the weekly English language newspaper here in Finland. Front page headline screams, Shorter Autumn Days Increase Risk of Elk Collisions followed by 600 words on the dangers of driving when the elk are out and about as the days grow shorter.

Riveting sections such as “Tips on avoiding collisions” and a detailed inquiry into the number of elk collisions and how there has been a slight reduction Year-on-Year poured over as if it was a key economic indicator, “Last year more than 500 deer were hit in low-speed areas with limits of 40-60 kilometers per hour,”

Armed with that useful information I turn to the next of of the two front page stories of the week. Car-Free Day Revs up for Action.

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Location, Location, Location

Great article in Ad Age about the significance of location-aware phones made the rounds yesterday. It’s not about the ‘text a Starbucks coupon when you walk by” type use case, it’s about engagement and brand utility.

“Everybody’s got a website, but nobody has a mobile experience right now,” he said. “Next year, probably the end of next year, if you pull your phone out and you’re in the Hilton hotel and it doesn’t tell you information about the Hilton, either your phone is broken or the Hilton’s broken. If you, as a business, own a location, you’ve got an interesting shot at reaching your customer.”

and

The promise lies in the realization that mobile isn’t just an ad play but an extension of the services and products businesses already offer. And location is one of the most important contextual clues a mobile phone can provide. “Mobile marketing will move beyond promotions and advertising,” said Kenneth Parks, senior VP-managing director at Digitas in Stanford, Conn. “It’ll be about mobile services that might be marketing but they’ll feel like services.”

and my favorite, from Dennis Crowley of Foursquare,

“There’s no such thing as information overload but filter failure,” said Mr. Crowley. “Location is one of those big filters we’ve been missing in a lot of stuff.”

Effective filters are topic near and dear to my heart and location is gearing up to be one of the best vectors we have to making this social/mobile web thing work.

Opera’s Next Movement

operaOpera has a cryptic splash page on its site announcing something wonderful in the near future for mobile browsers. What will it be?  Intomobile says that hints can be found in the source (I couldn’t find anything). What will it be?

If you want to read more substantive thoughts on the future of mobile browsing, check out Russell’s latest posts (one) and (two).

UPDATE: It’s here in Beta now! Here are all the deets…

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Finnish Ingenuity

We had some house guests over last night who shared some observations about the Finnish people and their incredible spirit and creativity, especially when their backs are up against the wall.

World War II was a time of extreme struggle for the Finns who found them up against the full wrath of Stalin’s Army. Out-numbered and out-gunned, the Finnish people were left with their wits, here are a couple of highlights:

Winter War – In 1940, the Finns faced a full-scale invasion of their homeland. As the Russian Army advanced on Finland in the winter of 1940, they ran into sub-zero temperatures and long nights of darkness. Using this to their advantage, small squads of Finnish troops would infiltrate enemy lines between larger divisions and set up machine gun lines pointing outward, towards each division. After short bursts to the left and right, the guerrilla squads would retreat and leave the two, recently alerted adjacent divisions to open fire upon each other thinking they were firing on the enemy when in fact they were firing upon the neighboring division.

The Bombing of Helsinki – In February of 1944, Stalin ordered bombers to flatten the city in order to break the spirit of the Finnish people. In preparation for the bombing which they knew was coming, the civil defense forces laid out a grid of signal fires out on the frozen bay and surrounding islands which roughly matched the layout of Helsinki at night. When the bombers flew towards the city, the civilians doused the lights and the bombers, thinking the lights they saw out on the bay were the city, dropped a majority of their bombs harmlessly into the water, sparing most of the city.

Don’t mess with the Finns, they’ll mess with you.

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Texting for Tickets

Tokyo Bus Fare Box

Richard MacManus is posting a three part series on SmartCards from around the world on ReadWriteWeb.

London’s Oyster Card (10 million in circulation)

Tokyo’s Suica Card (28 million in circulation)

Hong Kong’s Octopus Card (19 million in circulation)

While each of these metropolitan pass cards have made life easier for those that use them, as you can see from the photo above (taken while getting on a Tokyo city bus), the card is really just another form of currency that needs to be carried around.

Hesinki’s public transit also has an RFID-based metro card. The Personal Travel Card (1.1 million in circulation) can be purchased for up to six months worth of unfettered travel on any of the region’s buses, trains, trams, subways, or ferries.

Of course, this is Finland so you can also SMS for a single fare. Just text “A1” to the HKL number and you’ll get a message back that you can show the conductor and is good for an hour. Somehow (I guess by reading your cell ID?) the message reads your location and the fare is good for your region. Fares go up late at night so if you’re texting for a ticket late at night, the fare goes up automatically. All charges go automatically onto your phone bill.

It would be nice if there wasn’t a premium (2 euros for a 1.65 euro fare) on SMS tickets. It might almost be worth it. The 6 month pre-paid pass that I bought is most certainly a waste because I don’t use it every day.