January 4, 2008
If you haven’t watch ‘2 girls and a cup’, then don’t.
If you have, you know you wish you hadn’t.
There’s a whole series of video responses to that video and they show something really good. Media lubricates conversation; it produces a shared moment. We love to spectate another persons response to the unpalatable because a truth reveals itself in the moment of realisation. And these are rare moments.
We used have the water cooler moment when TV was great. Now there is Facebook trying to make every moment a water cooler moment. But it doesn’t. The noise to value ratio is far far too low to retain attention. And why didn’t the applications retain interest? Because they lack depth of affordance due to the paltry information that all users supply about themselves. FB came out of closed beta status far too early to ensure longevity.
Media, episodes, any motion graphics need not be series based now that TV has lost a temporal audience. Timeshifting has broken the habit of watching without intent. Media producers have lost the confidence to make a point; instead aesthetics (post production) is the cliff hanger than destroys the reason for a narrative.
Allegory fell out of art when the minimalists explored formalism; audiences, mass audiences, still stare at Carl Andres ‘Equivalent VIII‘ with horror, in so much that they fail to realise that meaning is something that has been so tightly spun as a moral.
Equally, audiences appreciation of mastery, comes of concern to any media producer. From film to software, what has come of the mastery of manufacturing?
I watched American Gangster the other evening – a production of the highest values as one would expect from Ridley Scott, but the story? Based upon the ‘true strory’ of Frank Lucas, we follow 2 narratives obviously needing to collide. The tale of the honest, but domestically troubled detective and the tale of Lucas, his rise in wealth, capture and ultimately grass on every bent copper in the NYC drugs divisions.
Both come out heroes and the moral vanishes into a plume of heroin smoke.
The first weekend’s box office takings were around $46m. Lucas was reported making $1m a day from ‘Blue Magic’ back in 1970. The profits from moral-less activities go undetected when the lure of aesthetics is promised but without the gloss an audience demand meaning.
Why is this so?
I think it’s because we don’t know the ‘form of truth’, because the values of truth are always migrating away from experience. No one can handle the truth because we want the truth to belong to a notion of ‘Other‘, located across the way in a greener field.
Religion has used the notion of truth to gain a following; centering belief structures within folk allegories. Unfortunately, this power has been duplicated in mass communications. Truth and Sex are equivalents when stripped of any aesthetics – and so our psychological drugs need dressing to bring acceptability to our morals.
Like ‘Blue Magic’, we rate purity higher than a hybrid cocktail. Just like in the movie, Lucas bitches about one of his dealers cutting his ‘pure’ brand with impurities, comparing it to Trademark infringement. You can catch part of the scene at the end of Jay-Z’s inspired track..
You may have spotted the Hirst spin painting behind da man. It’s of no surprise – Hirst’s life’s work celebrates this connection between man’s beliefs and ultimate reality. His aestheticisation of aesthetics, making the palatable digestible; when parodied, it becomes a numbing truth.
I still cant find the answer to why the gloss of aesthetics is so needed; why do we as creatures of such diverse communications require stimulants? As creatures of activity, they make even less sense. Perhaps we cant consume, use or value without pedagogical fears. What could be worse than that?
January 3, 2008
The problems with social networks is that it’s full of young people – and young people don’t die frequently – not like old people.
You see, networks are only strong when they rely on the ability to collapse between nodes. The Internet works this way – it’s always looking to optimise when failure in the system occurs. That’s what ARPANET required. The public internet took this resilience as a good thing. It’s good for uptime, but not good, for human meaning.
Frail Nets are the key to sustainability. Look at the human species – we continue to exist and evolve (slowly) because of the lifespan that the DNA has clocked us for. Evolution, and thus, social relations would be impossible if we all lived for 200 years – our societal habits would not require the cramming of knowledge – time would appear differently – frequency would be lower for communication needs.
I was pulled into a non-work conversation about establishing a Social Network for retired executives – you know, money and time rich, lonely, and devoid of the powers when they had an office. The plan was more a subscription service than a free social network (I pointed out this flaw, especially after being asked to invest in the idea – with cash, mind you!) but I didn’t receive a great piece of insight.
When you retired, say 55, you lose your daily contact with people – colleagues, dining friends, commuters etc. This is psychologically breaking, especially if you have maintained DEO status for many years.
What someone of this this stature, and probably, anyone of this age, retired, needs is a minimum of 16 ‘friends’. These people should be your regular contact with the world at large, your source of deep personal emotion – people you can confide in.
But at this age, natural death, looms. Your 16 will not be here forever, thus you get a rotation, a refresh of your 16, making the network stronger, richer, more meaningful. For humans, Networks need invigoration. Likethe current play of Facebook – it’s interest is begining to dry up because it’s possibilities are becoming exhausted – to poke or not to poke is a dumb ass question because poking meant nothing in the first place.
Yochai Benkler’s Wealth of Networks is a hefty read, an introduction to Network Values, and is free to download here. But the book is a much easier thing to handle – the page count is enormous. (
He should have done it on a wiki. He has!) But as far as I can find – I’ve not read the whole thing – he doesn’t mention the strength of Network failure, nor the curse of Network Fatigue – the staleness that occurs when the network has no needs.
VC money is dependant on locking in users, at least, retaining them with editorial – may this been peer appreciation or media files – but regardless, the funding model – namely – an exit strategy from critical mass and acquistion from a needy/threatened business (Google/Microsoft/Yahoo!) – corrupts the Networks modal intent – that is – failure is good for the system.
Failing Faster is a good motif for agile productions, but an agile network produces huge amounts of value as different people use the system for different reasons, and thus old uses die, new uses are born. That’s why protocols are interesting. HTTP and TCP/IP are good examples – they are passing new formats of data collections because developers are creating, evolving new needs from the affordance of the design.
Humans are, basically, data packets, on social networks – producing vectors of relationship, and inturn, momentarily becoming themselves On-Line nodes. This means that an identity is constructed, which we believe to be representational of out On-Land identities. The fact that Facebook hates fictional characterson their Platforms is based upon non-inertial nodes that collapse the data exchanges that stablise their network.
But lets take this another way. Let’s look at old age as a form of data encryption. Time encodes our feelings, thoughts and knowledge by folding in influences. The theory that you are not the same molecular person you were when you were a 5 year old is chilling to most people. Over a 20 year period, most, if not all, of your molecules have been replaced with new ones. You are being cooked by time.
This syncronisty between us all is damaging to social networks, there becomes very little in the point of difference at a human level. Our thoughts and interests may give shades of difference, but there is no real value between avatars. But, it is this micro variation that is of value to technologists, because this smallness can be measured, valued and predicted, creating a baseline of prediction, which can be bet against.
Mark Wallinger, winner of the 2007 Turner Prize, tackled Nationality, Regality and Identity in the mid 90’s using the theme of horse racing. His interest in the populations interest in thorough breds drives home the uneasiness of our own self’s ability not to fundamentally change, just wither.
Whilst the value of social nets are speculated in the arena of web2.0, the techno-regal-proprietors are looking at which individual will be the next horse into the Knacker’s yard. Technologists look for the point of failure on everything they do; with social nets, the user is the weakest link.
Wallinger’s work, Sleeper, submitted for the Turner Prize persists with the themes, but curiously, close to the problem with have with social networks, namely, the evolution of identity through storytelling.
A film of a performance in which, over a period of 10 nights, he dressed in a bear suit and wandered aimlessly around an art gallery in Berlin, startling unsuspecting passers-by.
The video of him talking about it is here.
And here’s Bowie in 2003 aged 57 talking to Parkinson (with Posh Spice and Clive Anderson) about the years galloping away with him.
Compare Rock n Roll to Social Networks. You’ll begin to ask what is staged and what is the stage.
And here’s young Bowie trying to get a social group together. If only he had Facebook back then…
Social Networks requires, no, demands, the participants have to be actors in the widest sense. It’s the basis to software modeling. I think this is the basis for the next generation of media production – social networks will become the foundation of storytelling – not with peoples lives, but with the roles that people wish to experience. Age will be a huge informer to the roles, and thus, our human timescales become in-sync with how we model the (software) tools we need to remain connected, entertained and perform within our lives.
You have to perform to live. Now tell me about User Generated Content.
September 4, 2007
No message. It just makes you smile as if you were eating a bar of
For some (accessibility?) reason, they published the transcript. So I added a line. It makes it feel more like Phil had some involvement in the ethos of the project.
We open on purple recording studio wall.
A title appears: A Glass and a Half Full Production.
We start listening to the first sounds of ‘In The Air Tonight’ by Phil Collins.
The camera slowly pans down as we hear the keyboard’s atmospheric intro. When we start listening to the first lyrics we spot a hairy thing in the edge of the frame. As the camera keeps panning, the mysterious figure gets revealed.
We realize that in front of us is a gorilla.It looks calmly to camera. Phil continues singing: ‘I can feel it coming in the air tonight.’
The massive Gorilla stares at us – concentrated.
We are almost sure that he knows we are filming him, but his eyes look through and beyond the lens. ‘I’ve been waiting for this moment for all of my life.’
The gorilla focuses back on the camera. All we see is neck and head . And hair. A fax machine delivers the message “Yes, we have no bananas.”
The camera gently zooms out revealing the Gorilla’s surroundings. We see more of the studio.
And we discover a series of metallic things around him.
We realize that the Gorilla is sitting in front of a massive drum kit. One of those Eighties big kits with loads of things to hit. Loads of tom-toms, hi-hats, double bass drum, etc.
We know that the best drum solo in the whole history of rock – ever – is coming. The Gorilla knows it too.
The Gorilla hits the drums with passion and vigour. Elegance meets power. He’s phenomenal on the drums – feeling every beat.
The camera leaves the ape and his drum kit in the studio.
The screen fades to purple. We see a Cadbury Dairy Milk bar of chocolate appear above the words ‘A Glass and a half full of Joy’
Did you spot it? Did you get the facts?
If Cadburys say: ‘Well it just seemed like the right thing to do. There’s no clever science behind it – it’s just an effort to make you smile, in exactly the same way Cadbury Dairy Milk does.’ then I couldn’t possibly recall my own facts about Phil the Drummer, could I? Nor could I remember Tarzan or any other jungle inhabitants. But they seems to be promising more of the same ‘association’ promos.
I’m evidently thinking about this too much, but I like the desire to make media that fills curiosity time. And curious time is about connecting facts together.
UPDATE (07-Oct-07): I’ve just seen the 5sec version in the Channel4 adbreak of Alien (Movie). 5sec! Ok, this is clear media spend.
Like W+K’s ‘Happiness factory’ work for Coca Cola. (Full respect to team Psyop too. Check out their anthem.)
But there’s something better. This..
But then, as I write this, I spot this…
The opportunity in advertising, perhaps it’s saviour, is semantic binding. Loose associations that couple with other miscellaneous facts. I’ve been calling this ‘Stateless Marketing’, based upon RESTful services.
Much of my thinking on this, which I might get around to writing about here, is based upon ‘media as a platform’, the relationship between emotions and (social/software) functions and being able to model them for reuse. When you do this, the value is in the act of connectivity, not it’s duration, recall (memory state), proposition, knowledge transfer. If anything, a ROI model becomes the ‘frequency of the connectivity’. Wikipedia does over approximately 1m page serves a minute. Put that in your CPM pipe and smoke it.
When I see (superb) adverts such as Gorilla and Happiness Factory, I see the dynamics of ‘meaning’ dissolve in favour of connectivity that serves a moment of pleasure. Sequencing these, or rather, enabling the viewer-person-user-actor-punter to sequence them together would be ultimately orgasmic.
Media, participatory or not, has to be designed to fit into the overall seduction of the public. It’s a big audience, and you cant please all the people all of the time, but happiness is infectious and envy is a meal best served as humour.
I think there is a lot to be said for inappropiate behaviour. Yeah, the blog post is coming…
August 5, 2007
Rob and Crosbie have been kicking off about the idea and use of Gift Economy in the comments section here – which has led to the idea of some lovely GPLv3 wrapping paper, which I’d love to hand over under a Creative Commons BY-SA licence – but then I realised it’s probably just easier to make some Creative Commons wrapping paper, which is tempting to licence under GPLv3, well, the source file. But you can get the logos yourself and a copy of Gimp and you’ll be done in 5minutes anyway.
If you’re wondering what I’m talking about, here’s a video of Richard Stallman explaining the GPLv3
And as I’m at it, here’s a classy sheet of GNU gift wrap.
Remember, free software is for life, not religious ceremonies, like Festivus .
Bloody hell, there really is a company that makes Festivus Poles. Viva free culture!
Seriously – watch this. And again if you’ve no idea what I’m on about watch this video.
Here’s the best of Festivus. Enjoy
June 4, 2007
Fair Use has it’s uses if you can justify the use; but as demonstrated above in the two videos, does it really bring value to a new work in sampled form? Both videos are humorous, but hard to follow.
Instead synthesis, using the samples as the base material for the production, or better the characters, assets and storylines (bearing in mind Disney has enjoyed borrowing Jungle book from the public domain only to protected the story through it’s own ‘classic’ rendering.) can open the usability of the original production.
Disney pumps dollars into promoting its productions knowing ‘roughly’ the longtail business returns on every frame and tune of the production. It employs thousands of people who design, produce and market the production; an industry is built upon the manufacturing of a creative network of people communicating a singular vision of Disneyness.
Such orchestration is the fine tuning of a commercial network, held together by licencing. Licences here are acting like an API – clear defined parameters of retrieval and use. Fair Use is a hack of the legal API, the amount, context and re-usable-ness is never defined. It’s a gamble call – a dirty grab at a well defined API.
As much as the focus and lamenting over copyright continues, and Creative Commons tries to bridge a peace deal with cc-by-sa, I see it in media technologists barking over formats and content connectivity, especially here in a debate concerning Microformats and the Semantic Web.
For me this fundamentally not understanding that ‘media’ is made for different reasons though may look the same. Indeed, the message may be the same. From political media to entertainment media, both have ingrained messages that seek to seduce the audience into, at worst, empathising, at best, buying the T-shirt.
When the Medium is Not the Message is to look at the purpose of the production process – the methodology of manufacturing:-
Publishers look to produce media for paid consumption. Marketing looks to produce media for voluntary engagement.
Both systems are ‘protected’ by the deeds of copyright.
User Generated Media Authentic Media has been taken advantage of by both sides of commercial media producers; from YouTube as the video publishing arm of Google (admittedly having the lowest barrier to entry in the world) to Verizon Action Hero Movie Maker. Yet protection offers little in the way of commercial sense. Protection offers only the API to commerce use through uninspiring obvious reuse, such as distribution on portable media within territory markets (e.g. BluRay version in Egypt)
There is no fairy tale ending to this methodology of manufacturing; there is no downstream use with copyright acting like an API. There is no end in a closed network. And there’s no end in an open network.
Thinking that an open network of free media use is the holy grail of an enriching cultural existence, this is not an end in itself. To consider this as a destination (just as TV does being a non dialogue (Image) based technology), is to think incorrectly of the ambitions of message based media.
Message based media needs manipulation, it needs the Chinese whispers, it needs to find conduits. But at what speed does it need? What time does it require? Copyright, as recommended by Disney is up to 70 years after the death of the author. Reducing or decreasing it has no effect on the nature of the commercial APIness.
From Twitter to the LongNow (and Russel’s Dawdlr project) time is being used to leverage usage. I wrote about the use of time before in regards to Flickr patents and Interestingness, but with an assumption that the network effect sustains ubiquity. The Longtail theory would purport it does. But consider the value of the statelessness and fragility of the networks. A network thrives on collapses, allowing connections to be created through the result of misdemeanour (a collapse for example). Could media get trapped, moated from an audience is network collapses became more prevalent, and how does this effect the value of the media.
Service denials and caching has put stop to much of this commercial panic; but don’t these inflate the value of the persistant media suppliers? Sustainability and stability afford good consumer experience but is it helping create a good ecology of creativity?
Conflict has been a concernable source of innovations and product development, normally at the cost of short term humanity. Death has been a constant source of activation for achievement. Life has been a constant source of battle for designing solutions that invent cultural connectivity.
As social networks define themselves as platforms the hum of a media operating system becomes louder. The social grid is not a wired solution as the software developers are keen to believe. Consider the network a bag of nerves; an emotional net that individuals define their transmission and reception rules. ‘The Individuals Guide to the Emotiverse’ [sic] is the opportunity to build Emotional Media Interfaces (Sorry, EMI). Using the faux fragility of the server architectures to cache responses, media production can be used as a facilitator of emotional engagement.
By the user being the key instigator, the rights model is open to decision by the audience, not so much the facilitator. The user, as centric, is the first object in the downstream model of engagement ecology. Messages from are attractive to manufactures who have the scope to devise methodologies suitable to the request. The API in this case is dynamic on the side of the service provider, thus maintaining the love for asymmetrical communications.
If you go down to the woods today,
You’re sure of a big surprise
If you go down to the woods today,
You’d better go in disguise.
For ev’ry bear that ever there was,
Will gather there for certain, because
Today’s the day the Teddy Bears have their picnic.
Ev’ry Teddy Bear who’s been good,
Is sure of a treat today.
There’s lots of marvellous things to eat,
And wonderful games to play
Beneath the trees where nobody sees,
They’ll hide and seek as long as they please
‘Cause that’s the way the Teddy Bears have their picnic
Fair Use communicates that copyright has justifications, and as the methodology of the vast majority of productions supports the millions who make stuff, it wont vanish without systematic changes to lives outside the capitalist economy that we use to pay for substance, stability and now sustainability. Copyright will be one of the last things to go, not the first in a networked era of media communications.
As Damian’s mother said to him: “For the love of God, what are you going to do next?”
“That’s when you stop laughing,” Hirst says. “You might have created something that people might die because of. I guess I felt like Oppenheimer or something. What have I done? Because it’s going to need high security all its life.”
May 27, 2007
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.
May 13, 2007
Open source successes have been down to appropriating existing models of development, refining the concept and then sharing the development. How many open source projects are paradigm shifts in their conception? Linux isn’t. Mozilla isn’t. Puredata isn’t.
It’s a good question. A really good question. And I’ve spent most of the weekend thinking about it. Here’s my thinking on this.
1. The mode of production for web browsers has to change. Hand coded interfaces, applications and middleware configurations are, to a degree, costly. Time to market is painful when there is so much innovation and adaption of web services. But, are we seriously thinking that the future of media production online will remain as HTML. Heck no. HTML has been useful getting the global audiences onto 56k dialups, migrating them to broadband flash and ajax applications. Community, media sharing, bookmarkable, re-editable pages are extremely handy, and we all know this is what Berners-Lee had in mind from the start, only to be scuppered by the dodgy commerce of web1.0.
Media production is about to get a lot more agile, deploying more media than we can consume and it’s going to be closer to the broadcast media that you all love. Publishers know they don’t have to be clever interactions – like YouTube. It’s called the ‘Least Acceptable Media’ Syndrome (Nod to Steven Johnson for that one liner).
Are they going to want to faff around with pages that work well in browsers? No. They don’t want the browser and if you’re wanting a linear media fix, you dont need a browser. Look at Joost. A P2P system, with a Mozilla framework for crossplatform functionality and a video render slapped on top and bingo, you have the telebox on your laptop. I’m still disappointed with Joost, just as I am with 99.9% of broadcasting, but many many folk love that kind of thing. They are also the Joe 6 Pack Chris refers to.
2. The Mozilla production team are not business analysts; their passion is not in the review of media consumption; it’s in the disruption of software companies that make commercial browsers, befriending the web monkey and standing proud that they made an elegant solution to browse the web and give affordance to customisation.
Unfortunately, the customisation of the Firefox is at the hands of the wider community. Quality slips in favour of a quick hack of fun. Bad extensions slow the elegant Firefox. Fear of bloating the browser makes Microsofts job a lot easier. And if anything, Firefox has helped Microsoft make a better browser. I use both Firefox and Thunderbird. The latter is not by choice. In fact it sucks; the user experience is just not ‘fun’, the usability is a grunt, daily.
But with so much functionality, where is the innovation? Where is the paradigm shift in communications? Where is the emotional exchange that affords consumers to say, these are the tools I want to socialise and work?
Mozilla as a platform is an interesting idea. But it’s not going to happen. To be a platform that supports media production, right down to the level of scripts, filming, editing, encoding, deploying and taking into the consideration that the model of media production, is likely to evolve exponentially over the forthcoming decade to embrace digital broadcasting, then they don’t have either the development staff or the business roadmap to keep up with the paradymn shifts.
RSS will become that chosen supply chain for media distribution; unlikely that you’ll get your headlines and articles within it. Rather the feed will contain instructions, commands, fucntions even to instruct your thick client to generate the media you so wish. Yes, thick client. If you think about the benefits of real-time media production, its’ going happen locally, not on server or p2p network. The TV model is about to get an new lease of life, people the mass audience wont type URLs by choice. They wont fidget and play like the average Firefox user does. Media engagement requires the least distruptive interfaces. Like one button. Just one. Not options. Point and Click, get the Kodak moment.
If Mozilla wants to take the web to new levels of experience, they have to start talking to more than just web developers. Forget about browsing and emailing. How could we use asymmetrical communication devices that afford media production as the basis for commercial exploitation, leaving the user with One Click.
Chris highlights the ethos of choice, but herein is the folly of engagement; choice is an illusion of commercial culture. Free to choose is the basis of funneling the mind and the wallet. If choice is so important to the consumer, the answer is to optimise the benifits, not create more choice.
If Chris’ monologue was to prompt a call to action so that we can all begin to rework the rules of ubiquity, so be it. Joost should have been an open source project, but then again, the licence owners to the content would have never had touched it. If the Open Souce communities want to break the advertising model for something more richer, then projects like Mozilla have to work with the brands that need to communicate; help them innovate so that ‘prosumer’ engagement becomes natural.
If you want to get the openness of the web to it’s full glory then you have to talk to the auteur, the media makers, the designers who want to understand how their work, art, skill and passion can be shared so that they benefit. Dialogue needs to happen there, not preach to the surfing converted.
And how do you do that? Start to show them. Build the media industry tools and commercial processes that enable Mozilla to be relevant. Mozilla fixed a problem that mattered to a few and did it really really well. If Mozilla attracted the right minds, the economists, the media directors, the strategists, then you have a dialogue that can lead to a Production Suite that will make the media industry valuable again. And maybe, it just might make Google rethink it’s conduit strategy. Now that’ll be fun, wouldn’t it?
April 29, 2007
I’ve been wanting to set up a community song lyric site for a few weeks now, in fact I started it during the Easter break. The site is running off wikidot (a superb wiki farm – modules galore, rss friendly and free to use) and is now in what only can be descriped as a ridiculously early alpha build. It works, but you might not understand what to do. You can register and write some lyrics and tag them, but I really need to write some more help texts. The basics are here and some banter about it is here.
The idea behind this is that if we all write the songs under an open licence such as Creative Commons Attribution Sharealike, then musicians can use these songs without permission. This means that fans can write songs for their favourite singers and bands. The bands are free to work with the material.
It also means that songs that get published can’t shouldn’t charge for the songwriting, only the performance of the song. Songwriting makes up the highest portion of royalty charges for labels, but if your fan base is writing the songs the sales figures should go up.
So, I thought I’d get the site under your noses, so that you can watch the development from scratch. Yeah, someone might stream ahead and build a better version before I complete the style sheet. I don’t mind. In fact – I’d just like to see this form of economics in place.
Anyone fancy giving me a hand with this, drop me a line, or post something below in the comments section.
April 29, 2007
I thought I’d post about a system that I’ve been using and evolving, basically, to get some feedback from you lovely readers.
As business requests come thick and fast for online projects I’ve needed to formulate a way to match clients needs with users needs. Too many times I get the request that a client wants x, y and z to appear on their website and had to explain the people using the site (customers and potential customers) are the ones who should be asked what they need from the site. It’s the transferal of image based thinking of the old school marketing minds to the knowledge based economy of the nu wave tinterweb school of communications. (Nod to John Grant.)
It’ll be of value if you look at the Creation Plane too, as the number one rule is putting the user at the centre of the experience, not the project sponsor.
The next step, like any good planner will confess, is that the proposition needs a narrative. Under the terms of interactive media, narratives are non-linear, there for you can use the ‘beginning, middle and end’ scope of a movie. For interactive design, pathways are a better concept than narratives, as we want the user to find their way through the work, using the media as they see fit in order for them to achieve their goal. Remember, folks are coming to your website in their terms, not yours. Consumerscapes and demographics are all very well for editorial tone, but they are friggin’ useless when you have no idea what they want from editorial (The times I’ve ransacked Flickr for visual metaphors stands testament to this point.) And users want to engage; use your media, add to your media, participate in your media. Broadcast media fails here but interactive excels if you get it right.
If the user comes to your website to achieve a goal, and you don’t deliver, don’t expect a return visit. Websites are software, emotional data that must be useful, not just entertaining. Software is for repeatability not a single fleeting exchange.
So, we have, what I call, The 4 Humble Demands (of the Prosumer) . The Buddhists and medically inclined might twitch at this point. The title is ripped from Buddhas teachings: The Four Noble Truths (the eight fold pathways don’t factor here, in fact I think they are a bit of red herring in the teachings, but that’s another story).
The Four Noble Truths are:
1. Identify Suffering
2. Understand the cause of the suffering
3. Identifying the cure to the suffering
4. Applying the cure
Many western medical councils use the same 4 steps in diagnosis, prognosis, cure and treatment.
The Four Humble Demands draws attention to the participation of the audience to the service provider, that is, identifying the physiological stages in a user pathway to achieve their goal – whatever it may be. So, I call the four stages:
Let me explain.
You need to attract the user to your service, and once they have discovered you, how are you making yourself and your message attractive. The user needs to admit, “this is looking like this place can help me.” Which is all very well, but if you are addressing an infinite consumerscape, you need to help them refine their questions/quest so that you can help them achieve their goal. This is where Aspiration comes in.
You need to ask the user what they are looking for. Now, most websites have a navigation system that ‘guides’ the user in the right direction. An information architect will convert business requirements to navigation elements, may they be global, secondary or page local. Which is fine to a point. But what you should be thinking is what functions help the user ask the question. Search is fine, but retrieval is a better way to think about it. If you understand the semantic web, then you’ll understand why tag clouds are so brilliant. Because they get the user to the Insight phase fast. This is ‘editoral as navigation.’
Now, as much as I love Jaffe point about insight, I use the word to identify the stuff the user is after, that is editorial. This could be interactive, this could be text, images video, code. It’s the stuff they came to your site for. The better, more useful it is (and that includes being able to use it – and that means using an open licence.) If they can use it, they have achieved a goal. If your audience at this point has a lovely warm fuzzy feeling, a sensation of achievement, you’ve set yourself up for the payoff, that is Acquisition.
So your site visitor has got what they came for. It was quick, easy and fulfilling. Congrats to you pal. But before they go and all you have is some site stats of their visit (w00t!) and possibly some free marketing when they use an image of yours (which has been offered under an open licence), I’d guess you’ll either be a little smug (erm, myopic) or underwhelmed because you have’t sold them your best thingy. What you have to achieve is this transaction. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon.
At the very least you need to get the user to work with you in spreading the idea of your service. If they’re ones listening, then they are the ones who will spread the word. Social bookmarking, ‘send 2 a friend’, subscribe to updates. All these functions can be introduced at this point.
Either way – if you have helped them find what they are after, in their terms of engagement, then they are more likely to come back and purchase your ‘wonder product’.
Further, you can make the Acquisition phase become the driving force behind the project’s ecosystem. If your website users are in a mode of co-creation, or at least rating and promoting editorial, this can influence the navigational elements (remember, your editorial is their navigation). Work with your audience, understand their outputs and make them your inputs. Together, your media becomes more relevant to their network.
The Eightfold pathways, if you felt I’m being a little dismissive about Buddha’s elaboration of ‘treatment’ is aligned to functions of Acquisition. The various emotive frameworks of functions dont seem to fit his original manifesto, mainly because of the ‘righteousness’ of the declaration. I think dictating what righteousness is a little overbearing. In principle, yes, ‘be nice’, but I don’t want to be told what is nice and what isn’t. One man’s niceness is another man’s nagging.
So when you’re planning your interactive work, cross reference your content verticals (about us, what we do, who we do it for, why we do it yadda yadda) with these four stages. Then you’ll see where to drop in functions to pages and when not to. You’ll also see the range of functions you need across the site, thus optimising your production schedule.
If you haven’t read TIGS’ Transmedia planning, you might want to after this. The Four Humble Demands is not restrained to online digital communications. If you want to play nicely with the audience, you need them to feel they can take from you.
Happy to elaborate on any of the above, just let me know in the comments section below.