September 22, 2008 by Colin
I can enjoy a recent note on the work of Marko Pecarevic, a Croatian biologist who just finished up a Master’s at Columbia, for a number of reasons: he thought up an interesting thesis subject that dug into intensive behaviour that occurred daily right in front of millions of oblivious humans; he made up a uniform that would allow him to poke around unfettered, and he managed to make ants interesting.
“… If people, viewed from a great height, look like ants, do ants, viewed at close range, look like people? Of course not. Ants have six legs, compound eyes, no lungs, and impossibly narrow waists, and they tend to hang around with aphids and mealybugs. Still, behavioral similarities make them excellent analogues. Ants, like humans, are into career specialization, livestock herding, engineering, climate control, in-flight sex, and war; for them, as for us, free will may or may not be an illusion.
… Employing Google Earth (forgive him, he’s from Zagreb), he chose three median-rich stretches—Park Avenue, the West Side Highway, and Broadway—then made himself an official-looking ID, dressed in parkish green, and started collecting ants, travelling the city with a duffelbag of garden tools and Evian bottles filled with antifreeze. No one bothered him …” (New Yorker)
September 21, 2008 by Colin
I spent the last three days at a resort in the Muskokas, wedged right alongside the majestic Algonquin Park. There is nothing more relaxing than a crisp and clear early autumn morning, sitting on a deck perched on an outcrop of the giant Canadian Shield, looking over a lightly misted bay framed by a ridge of pines, oaks birch and elm trees tinted in a palette of orange and red hues, the silence only interrupted by the far-off honk of Canada geese.
Which does nothing to explain why THIS was the only photo I took all weekend:
An AMC Eagle on display at the Huntsville old car days. Cherry.
September 21, 2008 by Colin
I love this description.
“… the governor, Sarah Palin, became the human cannonball of the Presidential campaign and blasted into overlapping orbits of political and tabloid super-celebrity …” (New Yorker)
September 21, 2008 by Colin
Plus ca change, baby. Five hundred and sixteen years ago, respectable intellectuals were worried, nay, overwrought, that fantastic new technologies were giving any loudmouth and troublemaker the opportunity to speak to larger and larger audiences with fewer and fewer filters.
“… every grosse braind Idiot is suffered to come into print’, and ‘every scandalous tongue and opprobrious witte … will advance their peddling wares of detracting virulence in the publique Piatza of every Stationers shoppe …”
Anna Bayman, Rogues, Conycatching and the Scribbling Crew, History Workshop Journal, Spring 2007 (sub. only)
See what that fool Gutenberg wrought? Within a hundred years, fantasies and crime stories about the rapscallions of the street – “conycatchers” – were stimulating the masses teeming on the streets.
And here we are, worried that poor strategy, bad language and weak logic is undermining social media.
September 17, 2008 by Colin
Voila, people. My presentation from today at the ALI Social Media for Government conference. Since I try to follow the 10/20/30 rule, you will not be able to use this presentation as a moving backdrop to your spoken word denunciation of the egos and self-importance of “social media gurus.”
I’ll let you in on a secret: everything I learned about public speaking i learned by participating in “subway debates” at Trinity College.
You can also follow the twitter blow-by-blow from @thornley, @markgoren, @quepol and others: Twitter search log here.
(the clown in shadows reference is to the second slide of my deck)
September 13, 2008 by Colin
I saw a brand new van driving down a nearby thoroughfare* today, freshly painted and wrapped with graphics for a local graffiti removal firm.** This is Ottawa. We do not have a quantifiable graffiti problem, no matter what resident associations, politicians or the police would argue.***
Not to sound too Marxist, but the creation of a private graffiti removal firm can be interpreted as catering to the petty prejudices and simplistic tastes of the suburban bourgeoisie.
Considered and creative graffiti can make a statement about the economic, political or social situation in any urban area – even boring, quiet Ottawa.
It certainly makes a statement about the level of engagement between community activists, artists and residents. A knee jerk opposition to graffiti can belie a knee jerk preference for order and restraint – to the expense of debate and criticism.
NolaRising, a blog championing New Orleans’ recovery from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina through the use of public art, pointed to a very creative and constructive application of graffiti: the appearance of several Banksy pieces in the Louisiana city in the weeks leading up to the third anniversary of Katrina’s landfall.
Now THAT’s graffiti that demonstrates a sympathy and empathy for the city and its citizens.
*what’s the difference between a thoroughfare and a street? One is full of stupid people that drive too fast. And fast food restaurants. The other has no restaurants.
**can you appreciate the irony that a graffiti removal company feels the need to cover every inch of their van with graphics in order to make an impact on a society besieged by commercial messages every second of every day?
**although some property owners certainly do have a right to complain about poor graffiti and vandalism on their property.
September 12, 2008 by Colin
Being a generalist doesn’t mean you shy away from being an expert in one particular subject. It means that you remain open to the possibility that other subjects, items, disciplines or theories may have value for you, your customer and their product.
“… my profession is identifying and establishing the connections between people, culture, brands, stories, and products, and that means it’s absolutely crucial that I know a little bit about all sorts of stuff that I may personally regard as crap.
… I believe strongly that those of us who make things for other people need to embrace the existence of the “other.” Whether it’s postmodernism or pop culture, we need to consider the good, the bad, and the terrifying aspects of those others …”
September 9, 2008 by Colin
Let me begin by drawing an analogy: this will prove you and I have a common cultural frame of reference that allows me to effectively explain a contemporary but minor development in the evolution of social media in a manner that you will understand and find appealing.
This cultural frame usually revolves around one of three axes:
- 80s movies or music (of which John Hughes and New Wave are subsets)
- A citation from one of: Office Space, Glengarry Glen Ross, or the Judd Apatow oeuvre
- A reference to a similarly obscure yet momentarily popular applications from either 2005 or 2000.
Now that we have a shared understanding, I will support my argument by making a tenuous link to social theory, literary criticism, existential philosophers or post-modern artists. This will reassure you that I can move beyond simple analogy and am capable of applying cognitive frameworks to the issue under consideration.
If I’m unsure of my interpretation, I will link to a Wikipedia article or mention that I last studied the point in university.
At this point, I will need to tie my budding argument into a contemporary narrative. After all, you the reader needs right here, right now to keep on reading. This means one of two things: a link to a more prominent blog that has already staked out ground and an opinion on the issue, or a direct citation from a report in a mass media publication.
Unless I’m an economist, you will never see me link to a more considered examination of the issue in an academic journal. This is largely because academic journals are long and hard to read, but can also be explained by the firewalls that keep me from reaching subscription-only material.
Anyway – back to the contemporary narrative. If I have bounced onto this issue from an MSM report, I will take issue with the reporting. There is no value to me, my reputation as a capable strategist and thoughtful person or my employer in reaffirming the work of a more informed and professional reporter.
If I’m deriving inspiration from another blogger’s insight, I will take one of two tacks: I will be 87% in agreement, or I will cockblock their argument. In either circumstance, I will be demonstrating that I am, in no way, a dogsbody or a yes man. I am a man of ideas, a man of thought, a man to be considered a thoughtful and capable strategist.
Having established that I am well informed, educated enough to draw historic comparisons and critical enough to avoid parrotting the work of others, I will present a thesis for why the issue under consideration has arrived at this point. This thesis will draw upon three things:
- my experience, however limited, with a particular technology still in alpha
- my conversations with other strategists and gurus
- trends derived from online analytical apps
This thesis will present a forward-looking statement that is sufficiently vague that I will not get in trouble with the SEC nor anyone who decides to conduct a semi-annual retrospective evaluation of my predictions and assessments.
IT WILL, however, claim that the issue under consideration will have significant impact on the future prospects of a) the public relations industry b) publicly traded consumer goods companies c) the future of one politician in particular or d) the advertising industry.
Now, as a capable strategist, I will take a moment to point out that others have taken issue with the position I am currently arguing. I will reference a high profile blog, even if I have to dig deep into the comments to find a point contrary to my own.
I will then hurredly summarize my position, for a variety of reasons:
- it’s a wobbly house of cards, truly understandable only when read on a smart phone in traffic
- I cannnot extend the argument without revealing that it was lifted directly from Wired and the Economist
- if I stretch the logic of my main thesis much farther, it will disintegrate like a stick of chewing gum from a pack of 1983 O-Pee-Chee’s
- the Lavalife commercial just came on tv.
Having established my bona fides with my insightful and prescient thinkpiece, I will tend to the comment fields like a Chinese democracy activist who had the temerity to actually apply for a protest permit during the Olympics.
There, people of a similar mind will be in 87% agreement, or will cockblock me. Or, if they’re Amanda Chapel, they will actually make constructive comments that point out the holes in my argument and question my ability to wield a keyboard without significant instruction.
September 7, 2008 by Colin
With his defeat of Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray has the potential to be the first male tennis player from the United Kingdom to win a Grand Slam event since Fred Perry won Wimbledon in 1936 – which is opportune, since Murray is sponsored by the Fred Perry brand.
As a global consumer brand, Fred Perry was long ago overshadowed by Lacoste and Polo, and more recently by athletic wear manufacturers like Nike and Adidas. More recently, the brand has been capitalizing upon its appeal to more segemented markets (like hipsters) through targeted efforts like the Fred Perry Subculture microsite, with its music downloads, band features and bar openings.
Too bad, on the day that their brand has reached its greatest popular exposure stateside in decades, www.fredperry.com is down.
And I can’t understand, given the range of colours, patterns and styles in the Perry range, why Murray is wearing that tshirt in bland browns and earth tones.
Maybe I pay too much attention to this brand …
As for Murray the spokesperson:
“… Granted, he can be gauche, tetchy and, in Tim Henman’s measured assessment of last May, ‘a miserable git’ - a criticism that Murray accepted as legitimate and acted upon – but none of these undermines the fact that the faith he has in his ability is genuine. All professionals talk up their chance of reaching the very top, but only a few do so with a conviction that rings true. Murray is one of this handful …” (Guardian)
September 3, 2008 by Colin
I’ve got a new ringtone that doesn’t fail to bring confusion and smiles to the people around me, thanks to the guys at You Look Nice Today.
Just over a month ago, in a podcast, they slipped in a short little sound bite that essentially went like this:
Boop Boop Boop Be-Doop Be-Doop Boop
On its own, it was a promising ditty. But then a fan got involved, and created a ringtone.
Others stepped up to the plate, and now there are TWENTY SEVEN different versions available, including techno, party, chase and Atari 2600 versions.
All in the comments to one blog post.
Now that is co-creation. No bullshit marketers trying to create an environment where consumers – sorry, I meant users – can help a brand leverage its product with the help of wacky online twists to the brand identity. As long as we don’t stray too far from the brand manual!
The one I picked has cowbell. I’m retro that way. Cowbell is SO 2005
September 1, 2008 by Colin
Some presentation goodness from Merlin Mann, with insight, good design and humour:
August 30, 2008 by Colin
Russell Brand, a British comedian, will be hosting the MTV VMAs this year. He has quite a colourful past, which he isn’t careful to hide:
” … In the ensuing years, Mr. Brand writes, he was treated at Focus Counseling Services in Suffolk, England, for his drug problem, and at the KeyStone Center in Chester, Pa., for a sexual addiction. (A representative for KeyStone said it did not release the names of former patients; a spokesman for Focus said “it would be churlish to deny” that Mr. Brand had been treated there.) …” (New York Times)
August 29, 2008 by Colin
I had no idea “milk bars” were greeted with such consternation in 1950s Britain. “Milk Bars, Starbucks and the Uses of Literacy,” written by Joe Moran and printed in the November 2006 edition of Cultural Studies, touches upon a number of cultural influences affecting British youth in the 50s. Like jukeboxes:
“… By the end of 1957, 8000 jukeboxes had been imported from America …
Many commentators were … hostile to the jukeboxes, because they offered a cheap, synthetic alternative to live dance bands.
In the 1950s, there were still about three million people a week in Britain frequenting halls licensed solely for dancing …”
Even worse, a transition was underway, as the local milk bar was facing competition from the relatively new espresso bar:
“… The espresso bars were thus different from the milk bars in that they actively encouraged young people to ‘hang around’ talking and playing records, without necessarily spending much on coffee. the average waiting time in a Wimpy Bar, by contrast, was 17 minutes.
The coffee bars influenced youth culture in a way that the earlier milk bars never had, because they allowed customers to linger in a thoroughly sensual environment, the hissing steam from the Gaggia machine, the colourful decor, and the smell of coffee and boiled milk …”
August 28, 2008 by Colin
When Joe asked “are there social media tools and apps for which you once had high hopes that you now find yourself using and visiting less often?” – I knew I was in trouble.
I have a hard time with commitment. Especially when it comes to online applications.
You see, I loved once. And then I inevitably lost.
Shopping carts crashed. Design changes eliminated the features I preferred. The site’s coders fell behind the curve. The executive team burned through the first round financing before the AOL ad buy had a chance to drive buyers to the site.
That’s right. I haven’t felt loyal to an online app since early 2001. Even this blog has been on three different content management systems.
Just a few weeks ago, a widget developer emailed me to ask why I had dropped their app from this site. And sounded a little sniffy about it.
Ummm, because I wasn’t really committed to it? Our “relationship” was hollow and false and wholly self-serving on my part?
Sure, I installed the app because I thought my readers might find it useful. But I dropped it as soon as I realized it didn’t fit into the new design grid for the block.
I’m just a gigolo, baby. I’m looking for the short term hit, the thrill ride.
After all, it’s not like you’re invested in this relationship either. There’s an awful lot of chatter about monetization, exit strategy, buyouts and acquisitions. I know, you try to keep that talk for when I’m out of the room – but I hear it anyway!
Sure, you’ve hired a community manager. You’re rockin’ the CRM software, tracking installs, monitoring comments and tweaking your look.
Know what you don’t have? Time. Time to give me. To care.
I’m not a next big thing™ kind of guy. I don’t need to feel invested in your success. Your market share has nothing to do with my skills, obsessions or weaknesses.
When it comes to online social media apps, I’ll grab on to something that’s functional and serves my needs. Is your app weak in some respect? Giddyup, I’m doubling up!
Come on, you know it’s true! Ask any social media nerd about monitoring. Eventually, they’ll all admit they’re pulling a train behind your back. It’s the only way to keep on top of things.
But don’t cry, baby. Know what’s magical about a gigolo? Where there’s no commitment, there’s no sense of entitlement. No conviction that you owe me – we stuck through the hard times together!
You’re not going to get late night emails from me, complaining about how you’re never “ready” anymore. I won’t post minute-by-minute narratives about my experiences with your customer service crew. I won’t marshall all the social media tentacles at my disposal to whip up a micro-frenzy about your obvious failures.
Because, obviously the thinking goes, if you’ve failed me, your loyal and vocal follower, you’ve failed everyone.
Not so for the gigolo.
I’m just glad about the good times we shared together. Hopefully, you didn’t embarass me during a demo. Maybe you surprised me a few times. Even though I’ve dropped you off my favourites, I’ll still drop by every once in a while, just to see if you’re still around and good for a spin.
And I’ll always be grateful – that I didn’t have to pay.