26th September 13
One of the more innovative corners of the Web, is a dark and somewhat unscrupulous place. That does not mean that it cannot contain a wealth of innovative thinking, once you scratch the surface.
Since it’s launch in 2011, The SIlk Road has pushed the value of bitcoins (the digital currency underpinning its operation.) by over 200 fold, to today’s worth which is over $100 USD. Since the rise of the Internet, no other online marketplace can boast so high a demand, that it lifts a digital currency to become the world’s most valuable. Aside from its huge product demand, there are a number of innovations on The Silk Road that will likely be adopted by the rest of online retailers in the coming years.
US Senator Chuck Schumer summed up the site nicely as “the most brazen attempt to peddle drugs online that we have ever seen… by light-years.” He demanded that the website be shut down in 2011, but the Drug Enforcement Administration has yet to find a way to do so.
To an outsider, how such a site still exists may not make sense: the buyer and seller are anonymous, they sell illegal drugs, and do so with an online currency. However, the mechanics to make this work so seamlessly are in fact, light years ahead of their time.
The transaction process on The Silk Road is one of the most innovative systems on the Internet today and the population’s trust in the economy allows for an extremely simple system.
Here is the user experience of a transaction:
A buyer decides to make a purchase, they notify the seller of the quantity and their bitcoins are transferred from their wallet to The Silk Road. Their bitcoins are then held with The Silk Road, which acts as an escrow agent for the transaction. The bitcoins are only released to the seller after the buyer has received the product and leaves a review on the seller’s page.
This very simple mechanic of mandating product reviews is an extremely smart step when dealing with a black market because the market becomes more intelligent with every single transaction. This mandate naturally lessens the risk of scammers and builds the trust in the market that it requires to operate. Quite simply, The sellers with the better products get the best reviews and buyers shop with more confidence.
Online retailers like Etsy, Airbnb and Craigslist could benefit from implementing The Silk Road’s review-dependent transaction system. A major barrier for small vendors is garnering enough trust, which usually takes years and several purchases to gain. Although notorious for it’s drug-trafficking, beneath the pavement of the Silk Road lie a number of amazing innovations. happening in this surreal environment that we can all learn from.
23rd September 13
Author: Mareka Carter, Writer & Art Director, BBH LondonWe know anyone reading this blog is interested in hearing about new digital experiences, and so we’re proud to announce a little probono project that a small team have been working on at BBH.Artist Rosalind Davis approached us to see if we could help give some exposure to an exhibition she was mounting of work made in response to the London Riots.With our connections in Tottenham built from the Keep Aaron Cutting project, we suggested a venue and then a concept – to turn fine art into a truly digital and immersive interactive experience.Inspired by Rosalind’s theme of using creativity as a means to repair after destruction, we have built her a website for her show, To The Light - which makes two of her artworks in the online gallery, Splinters and The Distance Between, into soundscapes of archive from the time of the riots, combined with commentary and opinions from Rosalind herself and others. Snippets of sound are released as you mouseover the brushstrokes and structure of the image.The site encourages people to add their own thoughts to Rosalind’s work by recording voice memos and emailing them through to further populate the soundscape, which we hope will grow and grow.The show’s private view is next Wednesday 25th September between 6-8:30pm at the Bruce Castle Museum in Tottenham.We’ve definitely enjoyed demonstrating Rosalind’s belief in creativity’s power to effect change and open up discussion, so please participate if you’re moved to, and do spread the word.Thankyou.The creative band involved:Mareka Carter & Adam Powers on concept, Alex Matthews & Luke Kidney on tech and build, Heather Alderson & Xoch Ireland on connections and organisation, Izzy Barnes on PR advice, and Ian Lambden at the Mini Mill on sound engineering.
16th September 13
Posted in Creativityforgood
Author: Nicolas Jayr, Team Manager, BBH London
Could your career do with a one-on-one mentoring session from Sir Nigel Bogle?
Or do you have a speech (or resignation letter!) that needs copywrangling by multiple award winning copy legend David Kolbusz?
Or maybe your profile could benefit from an audit from BBH’s top social media strategists?
These are just three of the dozens of unique experiences that will be auctioned or offered as lottery prizes as part of the CITYofGOOD project. Other items available include a wine tasting session with BBH founder (and vineyard owner) Sir John Hegarty, a racing top signed by Usain Bolt and a portfolio review from BBH Executive Creative Director Nick Gill.
All money raised goes to support Brazil NGO Grupo Ruas e Pracas and is part of The International Exchange initiative which brings together communication professionals and NGOs working in developing countries.
You’ve got until 10 October to decide which fantastic experience you want to bid for and make your offer. Follow @bbhcityofgood for updates and good luck!
Nicolas is heading to Recife (North-East Brazil) in November as part of the TIE initiative to work with NGO Grupo Ruas e Pracas, whose mission is to empower children and adolescents living on the streets through an educational process based on street education.
5th September 13
This is the third cross-post this week from a few articles we’ve written this year for a tech column in Marketing magazine. This one from the June issue looks at designing for mobile web versus native apps: as mobile moves to centre stage, should marketers design for every operating system and every device, or opt instead for the mobile web?
Last month’s column covered how wearable tech is likely to succeed for no other reason than it makes intuitive sense once you try it. Just as mankind ditched pocket watches en masse in the first half of the 20th century (albeit reluctantly at first: apparently your average British male stated they’d “rather wear a skirt than a wrist watch” until after WW1), it follows that we won’t carry around a smartphone when we can wear one instead and stay handsfree.
When it comes to designing for mobile however, wearable tech throws up additional demands in an already quite complex space. Designing for different operating systems on a bunch of different handsets and tablets is going to look like child’s play when wearable tech fully enters the arena. It’s going to get harder before it gets easier.
Enter the mobile web. I usually subscribe to the view that the more complex a task, the simpler the solution needs to be. Native apps increasingly dominate mobile traffic, currently delivering four times the volume of the mobile web and yet… why design separate solutions for different OS when you can have the broader applicability and lower costs of designing for the mobile web instead?
In truth, there is no one mobile solution to rule them all. So how best to navigate development choices now, with one eye on the future?
Here’s a dead simple guide to ‘what to choose, when’:
1. Native apps
If you’re designing a service or utility (task-based) app that requires real speed and you want to use the native features of the OS running on a given device, then for now your best bet is to code a native app, think Instagram.
2. Web apps
In other words, apps that live entirely online and run in a web browser tab. If you don’t need the native features associated with iOS or Android, say, and the purpose of your app is primarily information-based – to the extent it needs constant communication with the server – then you’re better off building a web app. An example of this would be Forecast http://forecast.io/, the weather app built using HTML5. No need to go to the app store, just search, download to your home screen and you’re good to go. Forecast also puts to bed any assumptions that a native app interface is de facto better. As Forecast themselves say, it’s more a question of users getting familiar with the progress that’s been made:
“It’s 2013, and mobile browser technology has advanced tremendously in the past few years: hardware accelerated transforms and animations have made it easy to create perfectly smooth, jitter-free, interfaces..”
3. Hybrid apps
In short, each of the approaches here have a role, it depends on what we’re trying to achieve. For marketers, I’d wager we default to a native app too quickly. The question to ask is “will this app provide genuine utility or entertainment that users will want to return to of their own accord in future?” If the answer is closer to “no, this is a short term campaign to promote a product launch” then let’s do everyone, including our CFOs, a favour and build a light, responsively designed web page instead.
Love this related post on cards as a design approach that solves many of the perennial issues around mobile – it’s must-read: Why Cards Are The Future of The Web, by Paul Adams @ Intercom.
3rd September 13
This week we’re cross-posting some of the monthly tech columns we’ve written over the past year for Marketing magazine. In part so we keep a record of the topics that are vexing and/or getting us going here at Labs, but mainly because some of these topics keep resurfacing and seem worthy of on-going discussion. As always please let us know what you think in the comments below.
First up, a piece published in March this year on code and creativity.
A biography of Beatrix Potter published last century may not sound like it warrants a mention in a column about technology. Yet when a friend sent it to me recently I was surprised: as a child, Beatrix had conceived her own cipher or code for use in private journals that she wrote well into her late twenties. 200,000 words in total that were only successfully decoded two decades after her death. So why did she write in code? And why was there such baffled curiosity that a creative writer did this?
The thoughts Beatrix encrypted were neither controversial nor particularly personal. The biographer speculates that she was a lonely, if intelligent child who sought refuge in her own imagination. Described as a peculiar act of creativity to escape an otherwise colourless childhood, if you will.
Reading it, I was struck by how little fundamental attitudes to writing code have changed in decades. In our industry, as in others, there’s positive intent and considerable uptake of courses designed to teach the basics of programming languages, sure. But reading and writing code is still not a part of the fabric of life the same way learning a language, sport or an instrument is. Many still see code as intimidating, or the preserve of the solitary (male) computer science geek.
Even as we grasp how code and the role of different languages are transforming marketing output and our ways of working, still too many of us step back from getting to grips with code directly and personally. That’s for newcomers to the industry, right?
Yet it’s no more complicated than anything else we learn over the course of our lives and it’s part of the day job: we already know the Internet has been the biggest advertising sector in the UK for the past four years (IAB data) and that it will register double digit growth every year for the next four (PwC’s Global Media & Entertainment Outlook for EMEA, 2012-2016).
So what now?
Perhaps we don’t all itch to shape the way the web develops, but let’s embrace the fact that, at its simplest, code is how things get made on and for the web. Much as Beatrix Potter understood a century ago, code is creative. Of course there’s much to do here: if code in combination with its older siblings, art direction and copy, is to grow up faster, better, stronger it needs leadership at every level. We don’t all need to learn to code necessarily, but we do need to know what code can do.
Time to get with the program, people.
More on the topic:
A series of experiments launched at the start of the year designed to re-imagine advertising, reflecting the triumvirate now at the heart of commercial creativity.
Code.org and their video ‘what most schools don’t teach’ featuring Zuckerberg, Gates and a host of other geekarati championing code. If I were Secretary of State for Education, I’d make it mandatory for all girls in secondary education to watch this.
Decoded – http://decoded.co/. The original “learn to code in a day” training course. You may not emerge a fully fledged developer, but you do leave with a good grasp of the history and roles of different programming languages, plus an app you built yourself. Intelligently designed course, highly recommended.
Teaching kids the basics of code through a parent-child physical training session where the parent is the ‘robot’ and expected to respond to specific commands: “How to train your robot”. Every small child’s dream.
And as a counter-point: Learning to Code is a Waste of Time (Forbes)
9th August 13
We live for our holidays, and yet sorting them out has become a self-service chore. So it didn’t feel right to just tell people that British Airways *do* holidays, we wanted to deliver on their brand promise to serve, by creating an experience that actually helps people to plan their perfect break.
We talked about how holiday planning begins with a picture in your head, and it’s these images that resonate emotionally – when people pick up a guide book they go straight for the photos pages. This made us think – wouldn’t it be good to make a tool that stimulates the senses and imagination, helping you plan your holidays with just your eyes?
Coming up with the idea of choosing your holiday through pictures was relatively quick, but the biggest challenge was executing it in a simple, functional and pleasing way. We explored a few options with different levels of interactivity. One involved asking people a series of visual questions, another was a sort of ‘paint by numbers’ – but both these seemed to add an unnecessary layer onto a very simple idea. This exploration made us realise that we should use as few words as possible and make the most intuitive experience we possibly could.
The tool simply needed to read image choices, then suggest bespoke holiday options to match. This felt like a new way to inspire and buy a holiday in itself. And that’s where the name came from: ‘Picture Your Holiday”.
The soul of the experience was always going to be in the animation and interaction – no amount of beautifully designed stills could bring it to life – so in order to ‘see’ this we had to prototype the build. Moving quickly to prototype gave us a number of advantages – it helped focus the team, which unearthed the key interaction challenges very early on. This proved to be cost effective and allowed us more time to really think hard about solutions.
We were able to explore the tool across mobile and tablet simultaneously, adapting the development branch so that each was optimal but largely from the same code base. Which in turn meant the interactive six sheets at Westfield are essentially running the same version of the tool that works in your browser. Added effort early on made for a much more effective roll-out towards the end of the project.
There was also a great sense of excitement at the point where we shared it with the client, they could see for themselves the simplicity and delight in the idea. We were then able to do real world guerrilla user testing with the prototype to get feedback and roll it into the iterative dev cycle. Several recurring key findings changed our approach, one of those being the labelling of buttons.
As the prototype evolved into what would become the final tool, parallel activity to develop ‘campaign ideas’ were set aside. We realised that the product WAS the campaign and the concertina of beautiful images would become the key visual for all communications platforms.
Behind the elegant interface is a data driven system for all device types. We created a spreadsheet of attributes for each destination and then assigned a value to each. It was then exported as a JSON file, means that the whole thing can still be updated easily, should BA wish to add new holiday destinations, by simply deploying a new file to the cloud.
The end result is something which feels elegant, inspiring and fun to use.