Flippin’ Girls

September 24, 2007

In the words of Paris Hilton: “This is hot.”

New York based 3iying, who I wrote about last year, has unleashed over 150 videos of girls critiquing adverts. And they are addictive to watch. This is not girls bitchin’, but smart ladies explaining why sales media is making them depressed – this is what they call a ‘Flip’; they are explaining what they want. And if the industry cant make what they want – they will come and help you do it.

How smart is this? Very. No CMO, Creative Director, Head of Planning/Consumer Insights/Media Planning can afford to ignore these videos. These are not focus groups findings, this is personal, direct, honest pleas from the people formally known as consumers. And before your say “Erm, isn’t this just Girl Power?” go and watch the videos. All of them. These are ‘Social Functions as Media Commerce’ – not a padded Lyrica stage show.

The girls have a new site up and running too: www.3iying.tv

There are the videos, Flickr stream of the girls with their insights – yes insights – not comments. And there is even a Youtube group for other girls to record ‘n’ upload their ‘Flips’. MySpace is covered. I expect the Facebook group to follow…

I’ve been talking to 3iying founder, Heidi Dangelmaier, since I first wrote about 3iying – I’ve seen how the 3iying ideology has formed over the past 18 months, met some of the girls, see previews of these videos and talked at length about the voice of ‘girl’. This has been about using design to find the problems, not create solutions. This work has been born from conversations not planning. This work is not a prescription but social surgery. This work is about making media work.

Not only is there the passion and belief that there is something fundamentally important in this work – raising an awareness of what makes the marketing the crass media creation that dominates mainstream culture – 3iying is enabling the audience to craft their commentary about why so much ‘product media’ leaves us all so vacuous – this makes this agency CULTURALLY RELEVANT.

3iying is not another PR/Marketing/Design agency – it’s an opportunity to make life better – for everyone.

Just like Anamoly and Antidote, 3iying is the ‘agency’ model that is beginning to phoenix – they’re brave, independent and considerate. But most importantly – they are doin’ it. Now.

links for 2007-09-21

September 21, 2007

links for 2007-09-20

September 20, 2007

links for 2007-09-05

September 5, 2007

Twitter launched Twitter Blocks this week. And it’s sponsored by Motorola. And I think this is great.

twitter-blocks2.jpg

Twitter is a platform of massive potential because it’s unfolding in ways that makes no sense. TwitterVision is a spectacle, but it’s not a daily use. Blocks is the same. But over time both will become morphed, tweaked, revised and invigorated with the contemporary users.

And that’s the power of the platform. Think about the mobile phone – we presume it’s a natural evolution of the landline. It isn’t. It’s a very different media channel. The video phone, or Skype, is the natural evolution of the landline. Mobile is also confused by it’s portability and ability to geo-locate the user. That’s true, but the demand is under whelming. The mobile phone is an interruptive technology with the baggage of the land line culture. It’s a less of a ideal of a phone, more an ‘ideal’ of selling airtime. Then SMS arrived and then the brick came alive.

And this is why Twitter is brilliant. It may have some of the IRC mentality, but the resistance of it’s messaging peers (Pownce and Jaiku) to incorporate their features demonstrates the value is in the affordance that anyone but the crew behind Twitter require. Development at Twitter is about scaling – just like the telecom industry. It’s polar to Apple and the fetishistic iPhone (which is really an ultra portable Mac with a lease to AT&T – which seems to becoming to an end – which Apple don’t need to worry about – in fact it’s in their favour – and they know it.)

There has been some good thinking about how to diversify the affordance of a Tweet. Chris Messina has been trying to the the #channel or #group thinking up and running. I’m not convinced, but there is something in the thinking that the strings of texts we send to Twitter do contain more than we say. It’s the Object Oriented thinking within media (video, audio, images, text) that I’ve been privately obsessing about for the past couple of years. If anything, the tweets need to be compressed more, not littered with signposts.

twitter-blocks1.jpg

So Twitter Blocks. Being able to visualise (and inspire better visualisation) of the fabric of the one liners is something you can only do by being close to the Twitter developers and Motorola have bought their way in. Using one of the best engineering teams to work on the visualisation, Stamen, and pushed out the project within a month. Now that’s shifting code, getting it out there and watch the playing, comments and ad revenue arrive without months of planning, metrics, management or committees.

I’d like to think there is something inherent in Blocks that is of interest to Motorola, if anything, Connecting People seems like a Nokia type of project. Maybe they we’re offered the idea first. But what excites me is brands willing to pay for play – engaging their staff and their thinking with existing platforms that people use. Twitter is open for any commercial operation to play with – and with all the conversations about dialogue you see via marketing blogs, press and conferences, it’s not hard to think that it wont be long before we see Brand Interfacing of Social Media (BISMs). This is not about portals, maybe it’s closer to branded utility, but what it really could mean is funding of social services that civic administrators cant grasp.

This isn’t any great revelation. Think Tesco and Computers for Schools. I think it was Richard Huntington on a podcast with Paul Coleman (Or Russell Davies) that the discussion turned towards, “Tesco’s should sort out the quality of their ready meals before they worried about the local schools IT department”, but with Twitter, the focus of concern hasn’t been shifted by the introduction of brand funded development on top of a public platform.

And should I object that Motorola is profiting from my Tweets? Well, Blocks wont make me switch to Motorola from my current supplier. Nor will I check out any of their phones because of this effort. But what does stick is that they within my vision, they are playing with the same tools as me, and they are not getting in the way – in fact they are helping me see connections in my postings (albeit minor) that I wouldn’t have spotted before. Should I concern myself about ‘permission marketing’? Nope, I went to them, they didn’t knock on my door – BUT, the lead through from Twitter’s pages doesn’t show the sponsor until the reveal – that is the Blocks interface page.

The ROI model is bound to be the click-through to the sponsors website. The advert is managed by DoubleClick, so the metrics are running alongside other client banner placements. These measurables are massive red herrings compared to the fact that the Sponsors name becomes associated to something that frequents my life.

I’ve been asked a lot (I mean A LOT) about the ROI on “Where are the Joneses?” so it’s no wonder that I find Blocks seductive as a commercially sponsored ‘art’ project that’s built on ‘social’ services. I’d like to know who indicated the project (Twitter, Motorola or Stamen) because there is kudos up for grabs, because that’s where the ROI model would be borne from. Who is getting the most attention from Blocks? Probably Stamen, just like BabyCow have from the “Where are the Joneses?” – which is how it should be.

Producers that make the stuff that we enjoy need the kudos’ because without them, the ideas would never leap from the page. And if Brands want the best talent, it’s not just the payola, but the kudos that attracts and retains quality producers.

But, there is something really missing from Blocks and that is the source code. Tom Carden, a developer on the Blocks is a developer with OpenGL and Processing knowledge. Blocks would have been stunning if Processing rather than Flash had been chosen; with the source code released and the data calls exposed, you would have seen a community of hacks build upon this work – richening it and so, taking Twitter into new ideas. If Motorola are sitting on the code for no reason, then that’s a shame…

The Twitter Wiki seems to be low on contribution to spawning out the platform. Chris Messina does nibble away at it, but the focus is on the mashup, not the value added; that is the extention use of the platform or at least the evolution of messaging. Something marketing should be fixated by.

Would the grass root community within the Twitter wiki be outraged if planners, creatives and technologists within agencies and brands started requesting features and interface suggestions? I doubt it. And there’s only one way to find out.

So never stop playing. Never stop learning. And never fear the future.

Further recommended reading:-

Stamen’s Mike Migurski’s notes on Blocks and ‘Uselessness’.

Tom Carden’s responses to the criticisms of Blocks

links for 2007-09-04

September 4, 2007

links for 2007-09-03

September 3, 2007

links for 2007-08-27

August 27, 2007

The Joneses ‘family’ is growing within it’s audience.

links for 2007-07-23

July 23, 2007

Crazy

June 24, 2007

Sheer brilliant productions are inspired, inspired by the brilliance of technique and collaboration, in turn creating insight into design. When Danger Mouse and Cee-Lo Green collaborated as Gnarls Barkley and released Crazy in 2006 we all stopped to listen and watch the video directed by Robert Hales.

Watch the original here, as Youtube/Gnarls and Co. have stopped embedded sharing for this video.

Laughing Squid posted Randy George of The Ether and Aether Experiment cover of Crazy, highlighting the mastery of the Theremin – an instrument with complete hands off approach to performing music. Here, watch in awe.

The Gnarls Barkley collaboration, the ‘touchlessness’ of Randy’s performance and the many many inspired productions based upon Crazy show the real values in design, production and distribution – that being the ability to learn and build upon what inspires and challenges you.

When I was playing around with Flitter (in the same way as Karsten and Tim had. Do check out their uber mashup screensaver Fotzam) , I was interested in the video synthesis possibilities that were built upon RSS based services.

I wondered if I could take the Flitter experiment and reference the ‘culture of Crazy‘ – so this is what I did: –

First, Googled for the lyrics of Crazy. Not so hard. [Link]

Copied the lyrics into a Google spreadsheet and generated an RSS feed from that. [Link]

Used Feedburner to stablise the RSS feed [Link]

Added the new stable RSS to a cloned Flitter application on Yahoo!Pipes so that I could call Flickr images relating to the lyrics from Crazy. [Link]

Took the Yahoo!Pipes output RSS feed to the VVVV Flitter application and hacked it so that I could get the mirror image/Rorschach effect. Mixed in the elements of this crazy patch to get a sense of space.

Record 5 minutes of live RSS video mixing straight out of VVVV and then using the Microsoft Movie Maker, mixed in the Randy George cover by using DownloadHelper Firefox extension to aquire the Youtube video and then ripping the audio using FLV Extract.

And this is what you get.

No where in the same league as any of the above productions, athough it’s seductive to watch the endlessness of the locally running VVVV client. The client app grabs fresh images in batches of 50 just like Twittervision grabs tweets.

Now, I know using the lyrics and ripping the audio is technically ‘fair use’ as what I’m trying to demonstrate is the possibilities of design, production and distribution that can be achieved through web services by using media that itself is based upon free access. Through association, it’s Semantic Broadcasting. But, as described in the whole process of making my version of Crazy, it’s not straight forward nor is it generally accepted to build upon peoples work. I’m just exploring the possibilities of design, production and distribution. Is that so crazy?

From the ever correct Wikipedia:-

The song’s lyrics, written by Cee-Lo, were inspired by a conversation he and Danger Mouse had in the studio with the instrumental playing on repeat: Danger Mouse was “caught up in thinking that people have to believe you’re crazy to think you’re an artist. After the conversation, Cee-Lo recorded the vocals for the song in just one take.” [Link]

That’s real time improvisation over a foundation of production delivering authentic media. Sweet.

If anyone wants the VVVV patch, leave a message below.

Update: You can grab the patch from here. [Link] . Enjoy.

Where are the Joneses?

June 17, 2007

wherearethejoneses.png

Quietly on Thursday the first audience participation sitcom to use an open licence went live. It’s called “Where are the Joneses?

The synopsis is that Dawn (left) has found out that she is the child of sperm donor and she now has the list of the other 27 siblings who are scattered across Europe. After contacting her new found brother Ian (Right) they begin the search with Jonti, the director filming their journey.

The basis to the project is that it’s a marketing experiment for the Ford Motor Company. Together we have been developing the project for 6 months. Seeing this live is undoubtedly my proudest moment as it’s the form of communication that I left Channel 4 TV to pursue.

The experiment is to embrace the value of networks by using an architecture of audience participation to generate semantic broadcasting. As the actors and their roving production team of 3 explore Europe, they will be posting approx 5 minutes of video daily along with various tweets, image and text posts.

To do this several significant changes to the traditional method of media manufacturing had to occur. First, the use licence had to be correct so that any participation could be freely shared with collaborating communities – so we applied Creative Commons BY-SA 3.0. (For those who follow the Creative Commons project, I bet you’re a little surprised to find Ford being the first global brand to use the licence on a commercial media project. Personally, I’m delighted.)

Second, the project had to be built upon existing web(2.0) services so that we could take the project to an audience rather than drag people into the project. Youtube is being used for video delivery, Flickr for photos, WordPress for the Blog (where the comedy is ‘played out’) and wikidot (where the audience can collaborate with each other, the actors and their production team). Dapper, Yahoo!Pipes, Facebook, various Google Apps, Twitter etc etc are also used to manage data flow and generate material for the actors to work from. If you like, it’s a UGC authentic media comedy based upon RSS feeds generating free open media.

Such factors begins to blur the answer to ‘what is content?’ We invited BabyCow to work with us on this because of their ability to produce the highest quality comedy and evolve characters. Their team is headed up by Henry Normal (Steve Coogan’s writer and business partner) and Ali MacPhail (Who was the exec producer on productions such as Nighty Night and The Mighty Boosh). They have helped significantly in demonstrating that media can be produced for both entertainment and marketing, outside the normal broadcasting channels and platforms.

By working with a classic TV production company to create marketing that is based upon the audiences input is the opportunity to give the audience the entertainment they ask for. We are encouraging the audience to take part in the project in any way they wish to. Write scripts, design characters, recommend locations across Europe and if you want to, you can be in the production as a character – you may wish to become a Jones yourself. You can also take the media and ideas and use them for you own benifit.

I will post more about this remarkable project over the next few week as we watch it mutate. For now, I really want to praise my employer Imagination and the inhouse team for getting their head around this production, Rob Myers for the original conversation back in Nov 2005 and the continuous remarkable insights into new forms of media production, Loca Records for the music (licenced under BY-SA too) and of course Claire and Richard from Ford of Europe who championed The Joneses from day zero. In my book they are currently the most pioneering clients in marketing today.

I’ll leave you with the first episode of the project. (Don’t forget to subscribe to the RSS feed off the blog). I hope you enjoy the forthcoming 12 weeks of this project – lets see if it goes further than that.

London, June 16/17 2007
Right, I’m attending with
Bob and Keith, though I’ll be arriving late on Saturday as Interesting2007 is happening during the day. Armed with a laptop and copy of VVVV, I’m looking to do some audio and visual synthesis at Hackday based upon web API calls.


Judging by the size of the venue this is going to messy. Fun, but messy.

It’s a shame these 2 events are overlapping in time. Both are encouraging the media meddling mentality. Interesting2007 is encouraging/challenging the emotions of engagement, whilst Hackday is exploring the techniques of engagement.

myspace = ghetto
facebook = mall (shopping centre)
blogs = suburbia
facebook = bikesheds
digg = bus stop
google = neighbours fence
twitter = down the pub
linkedin = clubhouse
delicious = Garden allotment
secondlife = Anywhere, whilst drunk
WoW = Scifi Rugby
youtube = hairdressers
Bebo = village hall on a friday night
skype = telephone
AIM = water cooler

internet = salad bar

Really, where is disruption in our lives with online services? Where is the innovation? Where is the remarkable?

That’s the problem with pluralism and convergence. Exponential shifts are harder to see when network values modulate each other, defining each others identity.

As code and interaction increase each others ubiquity, you begin to develop perceptions of engagement; this maybe physical, mental or social.

As software negotiates with interaction, metaphor language assists in lowering access to entry. Inversely, how do social normals inform software development? This constant invariance, the basis to asymmetrical communications, is under the command of user experience and user interface ‘architects’. Both design by committee and design by author has been replaced by design by beta. But, the role of mediator (nee editor) holds the responsibility of social Velcro.

If we’re encouraged to rewire the web, we will fall prey to simulacra. Optimising for happiness is not a technology solution, nor is it editorial. Working with the flaws in communication, engagement and interaction makes life richer.

So consider changing some of your habits and watch how the software adapts.

links for 2007-05-09

May 9, 2007

  • RSS The Main RSS

  • RSS Clippings

  • Fresh on Flickr

  • For the machines…

  • RSS Wordie!

  • Marketing Blogs - Blog Catalog Blog Directory