24th December 09
2009 undoubtedly has been the year when the ‘crowd’ really came into its own. As the year drew to a close, it seemed like it might be a fun (okay, also possibly foolish) idea to attempt to create the world’s first crowd-curated holiday playlist.
Whilst I’d tinkered with this in fairly samizdat fashion at the end of November, the idea properly came to life when Maria Popova (@brainpicker) – the undisputed queen of online cultural curation and author of, amongst other things, Brain Pickings – got in touch. She suggested we create an audio tumblr together and see if we could find 31 people to curate one, great, vaguely seasonal track for every day in December.
So far, 24 days and around a 1000 plays later, it’s a fairly diverse collection of music and commentary: by turns happy, nostalgic, darkly funny, triumphant, moving, warm, sad and – if you ask us – all of it pretty downright wonderful.
We hope people have had as much fun as we have getting involved and watching it unfold. Maria and I will say thank you properly to everyone when the project completes at the end of the month, but in the meantime please keep checking out the site, listen to the smorgasbord of tracks we’ve had in so far and read what the curators have had to say about the music they’ve chosen.
For more about Taped Together, check it out here.
The full and final playlist will be made available as a download to anyone who’d like one, please check out the site for details at the end of this month.
Happy Christmas and Happy Holidays Everyone.
18th December 09http://www.vimeo.com/8217311
We were stopped in our tracks by this concept video from the design consultancy Berg for Bonnier R&D. There is a fluidity and beauty to the design that suggests a significant step forward from the first generation, ‘push button’ e-readers. We particularly liked the fact the prototype (which makes its debut around 1 minute in) suggests it has been designed to create a better reading experience, as opposed to recreating slavishly the experience of reading a magazine. Not that this has been ignored: Berg make the point that magazines still arrive in separate issues, for the simple reason that “people like the sense of completion at the end of each.”
You move through the magazine by scrolling articles placed side-by-side (they call it a ‘mountain range’) and whilst they were aiming to create a “a space for quiet reading. It’s pleasant to have an uncluttered space”, you can heat up the words and pics to share, comment, and to dig into supplementary material. It certainly seems a logical and neat way to resolve the oft-discussed need to balance our thirst for more, more, more information, with the requirement to concentrate on one thing from time to time.
If you’ve been following the fortunes of e-readers, none of this may sound particularly radical. The bit that’s impressive is the execution. And, in their own words, Bonnier are interested in “sparking a discussion around the digital reading experience in general, and digital reading platforms in particular.”
That discussion is certainly happening. Aside from the general rants and evangelism, there are more balanced points of view on the topic, not to mention an excellent follow-up post here from Tim Maly at Bookfuturism that examines the operational, production process piece missing (possibly inevitable at concept stage…) and why it’s important. Well worth the read. There’s clearly huge scope for development: our own Richard Schatzberger notes the multimedia opportunities haven’t been looked at deeply enough. “The move to magtabs will start to break down the barriers between web broadcast and print. Live news playing inside the article about the same subject, your friends opinions connected to the content, live audio conversations about the story as you read it (like being in a coffee shop and hearing everyone talk about an article in the times).”
Either way, we liked the concept and we look forward to seeing where Berg and Bonnier take it. One thing is for sure:
“Ebook readers will be completely different in 2020. And paperback books will in all likelihood still be very much around, and pretty much the same.” Comment from tcarmody on Bookfuturism’s “Nostalgic Myopia” post
17th November 09
Posted in Uncategorized
The third year of this annual, US-based report, the 2009 edition makes a bit of a departure, with the emphasis squarely on brands and the degree to which digital brand experiences shape & drive purchase. It’s received a mix of high praise and some criticism. We’ve found the report itself and the reactions to it thought-provoking stuff, so caught up with Garrick who kindly agreed to mull over a few questions with us. Here’s a run-through of what particularly caught our attention.
15th October 09
“This is it. One day, one issue, thousands of voices.“
Robin Beck, Lead Organiser, Blog Action Day 09: Climate Change
Blog Action Day has it all: a social experiment on a mass scale, for the good of the planet. And, whilst it’s been pretty awe-inspiring to witness thousands of people write about the same topic in one day, it’s fair to say we’re most excited by that word in the middle: Action.
With that and #BAD09′s climate change focus in mind, we’re using our post here to share the work of Sebastian Copeland, the photographer, environmental advocate & polar explorer. (Full disclosure: I’m proud to say Sebastian is also my cousin).
Aside from the fact we’re not-so-secret fans of exploration in all senses of the word here at Labs, the thing we most admire (as we’ve discussed on a more than one occasion) is the killer combination of ground-breaking creativity put to great use. In Sebastian’s case, it’s one thing to have enviable creative & technical skill as a photographer, director, writer & speaker, it’s altogether another thing when that’s combined with a fearless appetite for physical endurance and a single-minded commitment to putting climate change issues front & centre.
3rd October 09
As in thrall as we may be to the firehose of new stuff drenching us in the here and now, occasionally we want to look a little further over the horizon. Two thoughts collided in the collective Labs brain a short while ago. By ‘collided’ we mean we saw a consequence of the relationship between the two that made us sit up and think:
1. The mass socialization of technology. 300 million + Facebook users can’t be wrong. We’re still in awe of how mainstream the adoption of technology has become and just how networked the world is. Increasingly the ‘loop’ never seems to close.
2. How ill-equipped we are to cope with the deluge. Natural human processing power is sadly finite and struggling to cope. Certainly, we know we’re not alone in adopting coping strategies like continuous partial attention and ignoring much beyond tomorrow or next week. Steve Rubel at Edelman also has written extensively on the attention crash and its relevance for marketers.
The heady mix of excitement and uneasy tension brought about by these two things has felt irresolvable and on an accelerating curve. Sure, we can help speed our path through the data with better micro tools (“there’s an app for that…”) but they invariably lead us to consume more, faster; giving us the sense that we’re simply accelerating to the point where our brains implode are placed under too much stress. We’re not wannabe priestesses and priests of Zen around here, but is there a longer term, more profound step change to be made where technology actually enables a more balanced life?
An answer began to emerge when we read a thought-provoking piece in the NYT by John Markoff subtitled “Artificial Intelligence Regains Its Allure.” AI. Cybernetics. Nanotechnology. Post Humanism? Sounds eccentric, but stay with us. Markoff’s assertion that a groundswell of attention and respect has been building around AI, in particular around an idea dubbed the Technological Singularity, made us curious. In a sentence, the idea is that once we create an an artificial intelligence greater than our own, it follows that any resulting ‘Superbrain’ will be capable of augmenting itself extremely quickly to become even more intelligent and so on, leading to an explosive growth in intelligence that is (literally) beyond our imagination.
3rd October 09
*John Markoff, “The Coming Superbrain”, New York Times, May 2009
This post exists to house the material we digested to write the “The Coming Age of Augmentation” Labs post which follows this one.
We have to come clean first. Yes, we do like tech innovation and even sci-fi. We count amongst our Labs midst a few fans of Philip K Dick and one who still reads Yevgeny Zamyatin, so we may appear to be on less than entirely rational, objective ground here. Then there is the fact there is something fabulously seductive about the language and imagery used to describe prospective real & imagined scientific frontiers: Dystopia, Utopia, Rapture (of the Nerds), the Singularity, that extraordinarily gripping, nightmare sequence in Terminator 2 when the playground is blown to smithereens… But we’re drifting from the point.
Here we’d like to create a virtual library of all the very best content about the Technological Singularity and related topics. Please add links to other good stuff worth reading in the comments. We’ve arranged the content here on a make-shift scale from Tech Evangelist all the way to Sceptic, starting with the former. Here goes -
25th September 09
We like nothing more than a brilliantly innovative creative idea that does its bit for the planet, as fans of iSaw and Papercut will know. Throw in a fashion angle on top and we’re totally sold…. so when our friends at Green Thing told us about their Glove Love initiative, we were delighted on at least three levels.
Launched to coincide with London Fashion Week, Glove Love is part of Green Thing’s anti-waste initiative All Consuming and is their first sustainable product to help people do the Green Thing in the physical world. Very simply, they will take lonely single gloves that have lost their original partners, wash them and then pair them up to create new and unique Glove Love pairs. You can get involved by donating a lonesome glove yourself and/or buying a pair for just £5 plus postage & packaging.
Glove Love has received some great support from the likes of Emma Thompson, whose voiceover immediately gives their ‘Glove Story’ promotional film a decidedly Working Title rom com-esque feel:
We particularly like the fact once you place an order a mystery pair of gloves are despatched to you lovingly labelled with their life stories. And of course you can add comments to the site and as a proud owner you’re invited to upload a photo to the site gallery.
Glove Love is creative, ethical, slightly silly and has the ability to offer that little frisson of surprise life so often lacks. What’s not to love? Go donate a lonely glove or even better buy a pair at the dothegreenthing.com shop
11th August 09
Posted in transformational change
At the end of May this year we got pretty excited and the debate got fairly heated about the launch of Agency Nil – the agency with the convention-busting business model that ‘will work for all it’s worth’. In other words, they’ll do the work and you pay them what you think you should. Unorthodox, audacious stuff whichever way you look at it, we were impressed.
Since launch they’ve been approached by both clients and talent and, inevitably, as they started work on live projects (including clients with food products and online services, not to mention a pitch for a large software company’s NPD launch), one of the toughest questions facing any agency arose: when were they going to find time to do the work brilliantly AND keep scouting for new business? Clearly a conventional solution wasn’t going to cut it at Agency Nil, which is when they came up with this ultra simple, ultra ‘on brand’ idea:
Catching up again with Agency Nil’s founders, they explained the concept a little more:
“If a person connects Agency Nil with a business that would be interested in our services and they become a client within a year, Agency Nil will give the person who refers them 10% of the first payment they receive (from $100 to $100,000 or more…). This person is called an Agency Nil Spotter. All it takes to become one is an email to Agency Nil introducing the potential client (with the client cc’d, of course). Then the Spotter’s referral is documented. When Agency Nil get paid, the Spotter gets paid. Simple.”
We love the idea of an agency experimenting with new business in this way. A smart move that painlessly exploits an era where networking and sharing useful information has never been easier. What’s more, it’s in keeping with the spirit of their launch which, as they put it at the time: “It’s a win/win. And that’s the kind of business we like to be in.” Agency Nil also draw attention to the fact they’re putting into practice a simple way for talented individuals to profit from their connections: “Isn’t it about time people started to get rewarded for the networks they’ve built?”
Of course this isn’t the first time an agency has used crowd sourcing to find prospective marketing clients. Who knows, will people really refer a hot prospect? How reliable will the connections be? Will it tend to be for small projects only, or will Agency Nil land a multi-million dollar account this way? They may hit some bumps in the road along the way, but to us this approach looks like a natural next step for them and a dead simple, innovative solution to an age old problem. So again, we say hats off to Agency Nil and good luck.
If you want to sign-up as an Agency Nil Spotter, send an email to Spotter@AgencyNil.com.
30th July 09
“There are always at least two ways to tell a story”
Launched last month under their Puffin label, We Make Stories is the latest in a long line of digital publishing innovations masterminded by Jeremy Ettinghausen (@jeremyet), Penguin’s Digital Publisher. This is the second piece we’ve done in recent months looking at the publishing industry as a whole. Back in May we wrote about the transformational change going on at TMG in the UK (also check out the ever brilliant Nieman Lab for a far deeper examination of journalism in this respect). Why are we so interested in what’s going on here? In short, we’re witnessing a radical re-shaping of an industry we believe we can learn a lot from. An industry which – aside from its sheer cultural importance in the first place – has been experimenting with new creative & organisational solutions for some time now.
The launch of the new service from Penguin was a good excuse to catch up with Jeremy and find out what he’s learned from this and other past projects, as well as ask him to share his thoughts on the future of digital publishing, the struggle to monetise content & services online, the impact of the web on storytelling and finally, what role he sees for brands in this space. So just a couple of meaty topics then…
14th July 09
For a good while now we’ve been hearing about the death of the big idea (put that phrase into Google and see what you get back), but before the coffin gets nailed down once and for all, I’d like to check for life signs. Not so that we can limp on, clinging to an old familiar industry cliché, but to make sure we’re not systematically talking ourselves into killing off something that still has the power to bring tangible and intangible value to the brands we serve. Read full post