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Pandemic cliches impossible to mask

Ben Woodhead (MIS Australia) | May 4, 2009
I might not speak Mandarin, but recent history clearly shows that the Chinese word for crisis is also the Chinese word for video-conferencing.

Since the global financial crisis hit it's become impossible to talk to business execs for more than 5 minutes without hearing the hoary old cliche that the Chinese words for crisis and opportunity are the same.

All of these people are wrong.

Recent history clearly shows that the Chinese word for crisis is also the Chinese word for video-conferencing. Unlike Australias Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, I don't speak Mandarin, so how is it that I know this? Why, my inbox tells me so.

My inbox has told me this many times over the years - September 11, SARS, $US150-a-barrel oil, and more - so it must be true. If you don't believe me, I received the latest confirmation this week.

"Avoid the Swine Virus by Injecting Video Conferencing Units," the subject line to an April 29 press release proclaimed.

"With the swine virus scare, economic slowdown, increased costs and concern over carbon footprints, companies need to take seriously the idea of implementing a video conferencing device," the spruiker handily suggested.

This spruiker shall remain nameless because I'd really like to call time out on press releases that assert the latest natural disaster, fuel price hike or deadly pandemic is a sure sign it's time to install video-conferencing equipment.

No doubt if the Egyptians had had access to video-conferencing they could have kept the Israelites at bay.

Look, the death and disease pitch hasn't worked for video-conferencing before in the 10 years or so years these releases have done the rounds, so a bit of the old swine flu probably isn't going to tip anyone over the edge now. That being the case, enough with this sales line, ok?

Needless to say, that press release wasn't the only swine flu related pitch I received this week. Another even more ludicrous example came from online lottery ticket seller and software distributor Manaccom, which told me: "Demand for swine flu masks swamps online retailer". Huzzah!

"A Milton-based online First Aid retailer ( has this week seen record sales as demand for Swine Flu risk reduction kits escalate and warns stocks are already in short supply," representatives of Manaccom wrote.

"We've never seen anything like this before; we'll have to upgrade our servers if this keeps up," Manaccom's division manager, James Mackay exclaimed.

By-the-by, that statement that reminds me of an editor I once had, who while touring the destruction of lower Manhattan after the September 11 attacks lamented the ranks of fallen computer servers littering the streets. I guess what they say about people in the IT industry have poor social skills is true.

Anyhoo, Mr Mackay goes on to inform us that the Swine Flu risk reduction kits contain masks, hand sanitizer and gloves and cost just $64 - bargain! - so I guess we'd better get in quick. Not.


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