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Archive for March, 2010

  • The Joy of SXSW

    26th March 10

    Posted by Mel Exon

    Posted in awesomeness, interactive

    This post is adapted from an article written for Campaign magazine (25.03.10), available online at campaignlive.co.uk next week.

    SXSW banners outside Austin's conference centre (image by Ben Shaw)

    SXSW banners outside Austin's conference centre (image by Ben Shaw)

    South by Southwest, or SXSW as it likes to be referred to, has celebrated emerging film and music for over two decades, but 2010 was the year the Interactive component of the conference shifted up a gear and gained critical mass. Last week around 15,000 people descended on the city of Austin in Texas for 5 days of neck-deep immersion in progressive digital culture.

    Despite its mind-blowing scale, a few key themes emerged for us from SXSWi’s smorgasbord of panels and presentations. Read full post

  • A Developing Story: Founder interview

    19th March 10

    “Designers are natural activists…taking responsibility for the consequences of what we design needs to be part of the value system of our industry, not a burden for a fringe group to take on. We have reached critical mass in terms of consciousness of the challenge; now we need to move from awareness to action.”

    Valerie Casey profile, SXSWorld magazine 2010

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    Ideas that marry great design with real purpose make us sit up and take notice. So it is with A Developing Story, which we’ve been following since its launch at the end of last year.

    ADS publishes news stories from developing countries with a clean & intuitive design that avoids all the worthier-than-thou clichés associated with the category.  It also has a mindblowingly simple campaign at its core: to make the creative assets created for public awareness campaigns freely accessible across developing markets.

    Makes perfect sense, right? A campaign that nonetheless needs all the support it can get if governments are to be persuaded to dump red tape and adopt what is in effect a Creative Commons approach across developing nations.

    Of course that’s easier said than done. If you want to get involved or just show support, visit http://www.adevelopingstory.org/joinus or email adevelopingstory@googlemail.com.

    To find out more we spoke to the people (John, Benjamin & Phil) behind A Developing Story.  Check out what they had to say below.

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    Read full post

  • Mapping Twitter Part 2: The Tweet-o-Meter

    10th March 10

    Posted by Ben Malbon

    Posted in data, design, mobile

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    Came across this today. Tweet-o-Meter (link) is the beta version of a platform created by University College London’s Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis. The Tweet-o-Meter supposedly updates every ten seconds (not sure it does quite do that right now), showing the number of tweets in each city per minute. The ambition is to log and analyze all geo-located tweets in these major cities. Once logged, they will be used to show Twitter activity over time and space. Various kinds of maps will be the main output. I imagine a variety of delicious visualizations will be forthcoming.

    We are possibly attracted partly by the simple analogue-feel, dial-based interface. But we’re also struck by yet another work-in-progress attempt to bring life to the data spawned by Twitter (see also Getting to Know Your Twitter Followers & Why that Matters from earlier this week).

    Tweet-o-Meter is part of a broader project called NeISS (National e-Infrastructure for Social Simulation), another UK Government-funded project. Read more about it here.

    And of course it also reminds us of of the work by Google’s Aaron Koblin on visualizing SMS messages sent on New Year’s Eve in Amsterdam in 2007 (see below). We imagine as Tweet-o-Meter moves forward through beta they’ll need to figure out how to marry Koblin-esque visualizations to their gushing pipe of data. Bringing magic to the mayhem.

    Amsterdam SMS messages on New Years Eve from Aaron on Vimeo.

    Amsterdam SMS messages on Queen’s Day from Aaron on Vimeo.

  • TIE: Exchange For Good

    9th March 10

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    When we first heard about The International Exchange (TIE), we were immediately impressed and a little scared in equal measure. TIE is a rare and radical thing: a magical combination of social change and personal development, with a difference. This isn’t a series of talks in swanky conference centres: TIE puts you on the ground where you’re needed, testing everything you think you know about the communications industry along the way.

    In a sentence, TIE marries the skills of an individual in the communications industry looking to be stretched professionally and personally, with a project in a developing country needing their time and skill (at this point in time TIE’s focus is Brazil). The experience is like no other, as people who’ve taken part so far testify:

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    Check out more case studies on TIE’s site: they are an inspiration and an education in equal measure.

    We’re happy to say BBH has signed up to take part, so we caught up with Philippa White, TIE’s founder, to hear more about the idea. Read full post

  • Getting to know your Twitter followers & why that matters

    8th March 10

    Posted by Ben Malbon

    Posted in Uncategorized

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    Last week Aaron Richard (@ralphthemagi) contacted us at BBH Labs with something pretty cool, and we wanted to share it.

    Aaron was most recently a digital strategist at Big Spaceship in Brooklyn. A while back Aaron created a map showing where @bigspaceship’s many thousands of followers lived (or claimed to live). I contacted Michael Lebowitz at BS and asked how they’d done it . . . a few days later Aaron wrote to us with our very own version of the data, mapped and analyzed. Brilliant.

    Aaron goes into great detail on his site about how he did this, the problems he encountered, the choices he made in filtering, and so on. In short, he used the publicly accessible Twitter API combined with cURL software to play around with the data shared by our c.12,600 followers on Twitter.

    After some fairly smart sounding parsing of the follower base to weed out spammers (or at least people who looked most like spammers) and non-actives (see his post for the detail) Aaron pulled down the following public data on each of the remaining followers.

    • ID
    • Name
    • Username
    • Location
    • Profile Bio
    • Profile Picture
    • Web URL
    • Privacy Settings
    • # of Followers
    • # of Friends (“following”)
    • Account Creation Date
    • # of Favorites
    • UTC Offest
    • Time Zone
    • Per-tweet Geolocation Status
    • Verified User Status
    • # of Tweets

    He then used one of Google’s Lab projects, Fusion Tables, to geo-code the massive amount of information he had in CSV form.

    The result was two forms of map. First, a fully interactive Google map (launch it and take a look, click on the dots for detail), and second a heatmap showing concentration of followers by major cities. With the interactive map it’s possible to click on a follower and see the data that Twitter holds for them (which is a little scary, but I guess comes with the territory).

    Aaron also looked at our follower data and pulled put out some insight about our followers, which we found fascinating.

    • Average # of followers: 1,746 | Median: 163
    • Average # of friends: 982 | Median: 206
    • Average # of tweets: 987 | Median: 247
    • 6% of followers keep their tweets private
    • 9% have per-tweet geolocation enabled
    • 12 followers are “verified”

    As Aaron notes, one can see by the deltas between means and medians, all followers are not created equal.

    So all this is fascinating to us (for example, to learn that @bigspaceship and @BBHLabs share the same two followers in Iceland . . . hi Islenka and Finnur). But I wanted to see what additional uses might be made of this kind of data and insight. For example, for brands, or for non-profits, or just for individuals. I pinged Aaron a few questions on this theme:

    BBH LABS: So Aaron, thanks for this – this is fantastic. But thinking more broadly of potential uses of this kind of insight for marketers, brands and individuals, how do you think this might be used in a more applied way?

    AARON: I think this kind of information can be used for setting better goals. Asking better questions and finding better answers. I think a lot of brand teams have this preconceived notion that they are using social media effectively if they have a lot of fans, followers, etc … I just don’t think that’s true.

    BBH LABS: Give us some examples of what you mean.

    AARON: The particular data set I pulled for BBH could be used in a number of ways. For example, say you wanted to give away something to a few Twitter followers with the goal of growing your network. Send them an iPod Shuffle, get them to tweet about it, drive a little positive PR. But how would you decide who to give stuff to if you wanted to maximize every give away?  Well, with data like this you could easily find the top 20 people with the most followers and target them. Or look at the top 50 people with the most followers, then look at those with who have the least number of tweets (there’s something interesting about people with a lot of followers and few tweets, because when they do tweet their message tends to get retweeted a lot and cuts through the clutter).

    BBH LABS: And for brands, can you give us an example of how they might make use of this? Maybe to make their stream more relevant? Maybe to get closer to their most valuable customers?

    AARON: Sure. You can start to see how you might use this kind of information to challenge large incumbent brands. Imagine you wanted to take on Comcast as a small regional ISP. You could pull the data for everyone who follows Comcast Cares [on Twitter] then look at all the people in your region and start following them or sending them public messages. You could even target the people who are pissed off at Comcast and give them a special offer. Dell Outlet [on Twitter] has +1.5m followers. That’s 1.5m potential new customers for HP, if they provide the right incentive to get a customer to switch.

    BBH LABS: This is only one particular series of API calls, as you point out. What else can you envisage coming out of the Twitter API?

    AARON: Absolutely, this is really just one tiny piece of the data that’s available. I did this more for fun and to get a better idea of how to manage large API pulled data sets than I did to answer a specific question. Twitter has calls for search, tweets, retweets, lists, etc.. If, for example, you wanted to track something like brand mentions you could do that—and not just by using the regular old search.twitter.com or paying for something like radian6 (who’d never give you the raw data). You could look at all tweets by keyword, replies, retweets, etc., and then figure out who’s saying these things, where they live, and what (or who) they have in common.

    I’m going to do a followup to this that talks about how to use API data in a more tactical way, using Facebook (and probably Coke) as an example to find the answer to things like, “What day of the week should I post something in order to maximize likes, comments, etc.?”

    BBH LABS: Thanks again Aaron. Keep us in the loop. We’re keen to learn more as we go.

    If you have any questions for Aaron feel free to post them under this post, or on Aaron’s own blog.

  • The Economies of Small

    1st March 10

    Posted by Mel Exon

    Posted in business models, culture

    'Frenzy' by Amayu, courtesy of Flickr

    'Frenzy' by Amayu, courtesy of Flickr

    “The money on the table is like krill: a billion little entrepreneurial opportunities that can be discovered and exploited by smart, creative people.” Landon Kettlewell, fictional CEO Kodak/Duracell in Cory Doctorow’s “Makers”

    I’ve finally finished reading Cory Doctorow’s new novel “Makers” and – like a lot of people I suspect – needed to take a little break afterward to put my brain back together again. It’s the usual Doctorow high octane cocktail: stuffed full of imaginative near-future action & immutable human frailty, at times the plot veers close to depicting a post-capitalist, economic Armageddon. I’m not going to spoil the book for anyone who hasn’t read it by saying more.  Instead, against an ever-increasing backdrop of recent pieces examining crowdsourcing (here are two of our own, here and here), I wanted to dig quickly into a single thought that the book provoked in me within its first few pages.

    What if, instead of thinking about sourcing from the crowd, we reverse engineer that thought. In other words, why not send the company out into the crowd?

    As Doctorow’s character Kettlewell (more force of nature than human being) puts it:

    “Our business plan is simple: we will hire the smartest people we can find and put them in small teams. They will go into the field …capitalized to find a place to live and work, and a job to do. A business to start. Our business to start. Our company isn’t a project that pull together on, it’s a network of like-minded, cooperating autonomous teams, all of which are empowered to do whatever they want, provided that it returns something to our coffers. We will explore and exhaust the realm of commercial opportunities, and seek constantly to refine our tactics to mine those opportunities, and the krill will strain through our mighty maw and fill our hungry belly. This company isn’t a company any more: this company is a network, an approach, a sensibility.”

    Read full post

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