Wake up your sausage

June 11, 2008

Neil’s produced a cracking presentation about all things around communities and marketing. There are loads of them around, but this is fine piece of storytelling that will make any smart client sign up for experimenting with the live interwebs.

I’m overly humbled to see Where are the Joneses? used as a case study. For good or worst example of doing a project like this.

And if you like, that’s what Neil is pointing at; “getting on and doing it” – and do it well by learning from each part of the project. And that means working with the client team in a different way. Without a strong sponsor / champion on the client’s team, you wont get it out the door. It’s because there is so much detail in the legal framework from licences to contract with a project like the Joneses? it can be a test of patience. There’s also a massive shortage of lawyers who understand the 2.0ness of all this stuff, never mind advice on best commercial practice within open source productions.

Opening up to audience participation has not yet begun to worry legal teams in a way it’s shaken marketing.

As a Disney Board Co Chair recently said:

“We understand now that piracy is a business model,” said Sweeney, twice voted Hollywood’s most powerful woman by the Hollywood Reporter. “It exists to serve a need in the market for consumers who want TV content on demand. Pirates compete the same way we do – through quality, price and availability. We we don’t like the model but we realise it’s competitive enough to make it a major competitor going forward.”

I wrote the Joneses model as a format; like Big Brother or WifeSwap, so that it could be reused by different brands and production companys; the overall mechanics of using a central ideal (the branded kernal of the narratives platform’s operating system ) and then expecting the site to grow outwards through social utilities, by always referring back to the kernal’s logic.

The legal framework had to be ‘elastic’ and for me, writing the rules to engagement for the lawyers to approve, was the one of the most fun parts of the project. Sitting in a room of media legals,listening with horror and fear as the project was explained to them and then smiling as they balk at the simplicity of the solutions. I have the Channel4 legals to thank for that – they made me understand every ‘no’ in the book when worked there.

Neil – a slide on legals, especially Creative Commons would have been useful, I think. It’s the device that enables the legalities of sharing within and out of communities.

The aesthetics of the narrative also meant that the operating system (the Joneses’ media cloud == all the objects/pages that connected to the project together) gave the real time production maximum freedom – a massive need if the daily output had to happen. A bit like the daily news, the ‘look and feel’ was synthesised into the tone of the project – Where are the Joneses as an identity had to work with every service that the team wanted to use.

This goes against much of the consenus of how a brand needs to apply itself to content, especially as the project is USER centric.

So where is the brand in all this?

First, does it matter?

If it does, the brand needs to take its place in the sidelines, encouraging, cheering on users – their prospects.

The brand’s ‘essence’ can be woven into the production, through functions, through tone. But a brand ‘essence’ is such a wanky term.

A brand has a story, with lots of tales interwined. A story is an abstract of the company’s values, That abstraction can be performed in many ways – you just need to know the material you’re working with to get the best out of ot; like a stone masion or an enthusiastic knitter would.

I remember speaking to John Griffith‘s about Brand Stories, (I believe he invented them), and how he got clients (agencies) to play out brands – you know, like actors would.

One person is CocaCola, another is Marlboro, another is Sainsburys – and then you watch how they interact in these new roles.

But anyway, most of this is in the production itself.

How to create a spectacle.

How to create meaning.

Most Contagious Joneses

January 3, 2008


Industry reviews of the Joneses project for Ford of Europe, on the whole, were a bit rubbish, especially the ‘experts’ at NMA. They made me reminded me how lazy the press can be (“awwwwwww, we want a press release weeks in advance and be the first to know.” “What’s a Wiki? Does it have banner adverts?” “So, like, it’s a TV show?” “Twitter, wassat?” “Nah, I don’t think our readers would be interested in the Creative Commons thingy. No one understands media rights, right?”). Sigh.

It was rare to read intelligent responses from people who were aware of the changes in media production and commissioning. Bloggers were the most fun, check out the Technorati Blog reactions or my del.licio.us collection.

When Contagious called to do an interview, they took their time to try and understand what I was playing with and it showed in their write up. The creative industries need producers like this. The industry needs clients like the ones I have a Ford of Europe. Most of all, the industries need to talk to the production communities, such as BabyCow, if invention is going to happen in ‘Branded Utility Entertainment’.

They’ve just launched the ‘best of 2007’ and I chuffed to see Where are the Joneses? get a decent mention alongside comparable projects: KateModern from Bebo, HoneyShed by the most excellent Droga5, GlamourReel Movies (notably cutting out the role of the Ad Agency) and QuarterLife – the later I’m keeping my eye on, especially with the WGA still on strike. Here’s what they said.


You can download their 2007 round up, Most Contagious, here. Do it. It was a fascinating year.

Talking about the Joneses

September 2, 2007


Back in June, when we launched “Where are the Joneses?” I was actually in Bradford presenting the project at Btween07 to an audience of broadcasters, producers, software developers and very few marketing folk.

Btween is an event showcasing and discussing innovation that sits between broadcasting and technology. The curious thing was the majority of conversations were based around the migration of ‘TV’ to the web and how production companies were to trying to find the business models.

I was presenting with Patrick Crowe of Xenophile Media; our theme was ‘Freedoms of Engagement’. Xenophile Media are famed for their cross platform TV shows mixing online and broadcast for clients such as Disney.

Amid technical problems they did manage to film Patrick and I in conversation about “Where are the Joneses?” and just last week they uploaded the 3 parts via YouTube (Part 1 is the tail end of my presentation and the first 2 episodes of the Joneses). The presentation deck I used is below the videos and I guess wont make any sense at all by itself, but you might like to see some points of reference to the thinking behind the Joneses project.

If you’re wondering about what Frankie is doing here – it’s something to do with comedy and the semantic web… (Thanks JP)

If you’re not sick of me talking about this project, Btween in collaboration with Channel 4 Talent asked me to do a podcast about the project. It was supposed to be released under CC-BY_SA (Like the last one), but I guess the paperwork went missing. Here it is…


Disney Parody explanation of Copyright Law and Fair Use

Documentary Filmmakers’ Statement of Best Practices in Fair Use

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)

damianhirst_forgodssake.jpgThere 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

(The Teddy Bears Picnic 1907, John W. Bratton)

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.”


Taxing Sparks

November 27, 2006

“The value of the image depends upon the beauty of the spark obtained; it is, consequently, a function of the difference of potential between the two conductors.”

Adam’s been promoting creativity and surealism again, this time at an Internet People event. Roving digitali Jemima Kiss has the write up here. Adam (aka the ArkAngel) has left some further insights into his vision of the creative process in the comments section.


Adam continues: “The strength of an image or an idea is largely dependent on the potential between two disparate things that you bring together. The further apart they are, if you can make that creative spark leap between them, the stronger the thing you come up with.”

Which nobody can disagree with; it’s how the juxtaposition occurs that matters. The evening seemed to ask where the creativity resides in the UK, especially initiatives such as start ups, webby ones specifically AND if the US is ‘more fruitful’ than Europe. Sigh..

It seems that the desire to make money talk and the BS walk is still the moniker of media commerce. At a time where transactional business models that are based upon peer trust dominates the concept, design and manufacturing of software, there are still the confused to believe there is the need to pursue large cash rewards for being able to do what you want to do.

I wish I could remember where I heard “Profit follows meaning” as it’s the best advice for business pitches I’ve ever heard.


What’s missing from both the observations is the taxation. Copyright, taste ‘n’ decency, geographical restrictions/licences to transmit are relatively new concepts that neither the Surrealists not the forefathers of software commerce had to worry about when executing their projects; Bill Gates used the code that was available – Luis Buñuel shot the scenes he wanted to. Since their free run of ‘invention’ (and patients), the ability to free spark has become elusive; there are just too many legalities that prevent juxtapositions. Or is that too many are trying to clone the recipes of yesterdays successes. Online video services do seem to be suffering from this – and the consumer is less than enthused.

And there lies the debate: what does make sense at the intersection of communications, manufacturing and networks?

As you begin to try and answer this, the creative questions will give birth to commercial solutions.


Back to Adam’s interest with surrealism: Buñuel’s cinema works Un Chien Andalou and L’Âge d’or (Yeah, both link to YouTube – beat them for a find!) both build meaning based upon beliefs that he held – not anyone else – just Buñuel (OK – Dalí had some input..) Regardless, it’s this type of determinism that brings the everyday into a new light and a light that the audience will bath in.

And they will because there is space in the works for them to occupy and make their own meaning. Once the audience gain their own understanding, they would have already entered into an exchange – it’s the strength of the work that retains the ability of the exchange. Both Gates and Buñuel knew this. The ability to execute their work is a tribute to the vision.

Today with the need to include the participation of the audience to ‘complete the work’, execution is a factor that needs to be designed in to the concept. The audience needs to be in position at the intersection of communications, manufacturing and networks. Something that perhaps we used to refer to as the Sweet Spot. Today, the audience have to be the spark, and we have to make that space for them to spark. Legal taxes such as ‘rights’ that prevent us making interesting work for the audience to occupy has to be questioned; equally, we have to ‘tax’ the brains enough for the spark to happen..

Here’s the brilliant Jaffre explaining it in an interesting way..


Adam Gee (Commissioning Editor of Factual for Channel 4 New Media) and I spoke at the Inverness goHi festival last Thursday, and by request, here is my PowerPoint presentation.

Adam covered the opportunities for producers to showcase their work online, while I explained the commercial virtues of sharing and collaboration on digital platforms.

Many thanks to all who came along – and for putting your hands in the air in response to my questions, the applause, questions and after talk chats – you were a fantastic, welcoming audience – and made the event a great example of sharing and collaborating.

Many thanks also to Gill Mills from Icast.com who joined us for the Q&A panel session.

My apologies for the lack of illustrations in the presentation, I was called up to present just 2 days before the event and thus it shows in the slides. Judging by the questions afterwards, there seemed enough to engage in the ideas within the presentation – so again – thanks for bearing with me!

UPDATE: There’s a video of the talk on it’s way to the editing suite – which will help explain some of the slides. I’ll post the link when I hear that it’s been uploaded to the web.

If you have any questions, leave a comment below and I’ll be happy to answer them.


I’ll be talking alongside Adam Gee at the Channel4 / IdeasFactory event “Making the web work for you” in Inverness on the 7th September. Aimed at producers wishing to use web platforms to gain media coverage of their work, we’ll be discussing the online media communities such as Channel4’s FourDocs (which I project managed into existence) and the usual niche media alternatives such as YouTube, MySpace and Flickr. We’ll also discuss (I’m sure) licencing, podcasting and of course open-source collaboration – so it’s likely to be the full spectrum of pros and cons of creativity online. The event is free, so if you can make it, do pop along and say hi. Full details here.

I had a quick search for Creative Commons photo’s tagged with ‘Inverness’ on Flickr to see what activity is going on – the photo above is from Calum Davidson aka ccgd. After discovering these amazing images I read that Calum also administers the Scotland Flickr Blog – which is a stunning collection of images and a fantastic example of what we’ll be talking about on the day. In fact – I’ll use it as an example.

Ah – it’s good to practice what you preach..

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