13th April 10
The Johnny Cash Project has been doing the rounds on Twitter and the blogosphere recently, for good reason. Anyone initially sceptical (“another crowdsourced music video?”), very quickly realised it was something pretty special. Digging a tiny bit deeper, spotting Aaron Koblin was heavily involved, things started to click into place for us. It’s a well-conceived idea, beautifully done – textbook Koblin.
Something else clicked into place at the same time. So much talk about crowdsourcing, so much experimentation, almost all of which we’re in favour of. Nonetheless, there is an art to how we use the crowd.
Last night I saw Ennio Morricone at the Royal Albert Hall in London. The maestro was conducting some of his best known compositions (including soundtracks to many of Sergio Leone’s films – last night The Ectasy of Gold from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly was unforgettably good). On their own, the soprano Susanna Rigacci, the Roma Sinfonietta orchestra and a 100-strong choir were all world class, together they were extraordinary. Morricone is famous for using singers less to tell a verbal story and more as an emotional, ‘human’ instrument. Last night was no exception: there was something completely mesmeric watching orchestra and singers working as one. It was an act of collective creativity.
No question, a lot of us in the audience felt moved, even elevated.
In a similar way (although perhaps the reaction is less viseral, given there’s a little more distance when something isn’t live and in front of you), The Johnny Cash Project is elevating. There is something profoundly brilliant about making the work of many hands *entirely* visible. It feels 50 times as powerful for its sense of mass mobilization behind a creative act. Its strange quirks, differences, non sequiturs…versus how you’d imagine the same task performed by an individual working alone. Suddenly, one artist in isolation feels one dimensional, ironed out, as if the output would lack vibrancy and surprise.
Sure, centuries of art prove me wholly and irrevocably wrong on that last point. But when I think about how we might most usefully use the crowd, it strikes me crowdsourcing has the potential to be most palpably powerful – to lead to richer outcomes – when we use the crowd as a creative collective.
Right now, with the honourable exception of the likes of Aaron Koblin, a number of innovators in music promo creation (including early initiators Hal Kirkland, Masa Kawamura at BBH New York & their buddies Magico Nakamura & Masayoshi Nakamura – whose lovely video for Sour’s Hibi No Neiro is justly famous), our industry seems most interested in using crowdsourcing primarily to:
a) drive down cost
b) give the crowd something to do – in other words, the ‘crowd’ are in fact a target audience and we want them to feel ‘involved’ with a brand
c) broaden choice – lots of responses to a stated question or task, only one winner
Those are all reasonable things to attempt and we’re not suggesting there should be only one use of the crowd, it just strikes us that focusing on using the crowd as a collective creative resource is something we’re doing less of. And yet, oddly enough, it might be the most powerful use yet.
What do you think? Are there a host of examples of brands using crowdsourcing as collective creativity that we’re missing?
For more on The Johnny Cash Project, check out Maria Popova’s blogpost here.
A version of this post was originally posted on melex.posterous.com.
12th April 10
Author: Steve Peck, Art Director, BBH New York
If you follow golf, then you know that the Masters and the word ‘innovation’ don’t usually belong in the same sentence. In many ways, that still holds true – The Masters certainly isn’t changing the game in how it’s played. But, in the way the Masters site functions, it is changing how it is experienced. Here’s how:
Multi-Camera Live Streaming Coverage - Choose one of five cameras to watch a live broadcast (full screen if you prefer). You can also view an additional camera with the picture-in-picture feature and swap back and forth between the two. Not a bad live viewing experience.
Time-Based Viewing - Watch tagged highlights throughout the day for each of the set cameras. If you’re watching the camera for holes 15 and 16 live at 4pm, you can scrub across the timeline to see thumbnails of previous highlights earlier in the day. So you can go check out that long birdie putt that Mickelson laid in at 11:30 am. You can return to live viewing at any time.
Scorecard-Based Viewing - The leaderboard offers another unique feature; not only does it provide updated scores in real time, but the score from each player on each hole, but a yellow outline around the score denotes a video. It allows you to track an individual player’s highlights throughout the round as it’s played.
User-directed Viewing Experience - Essentially you can view the tournament from a specific vantage point through a live camera; historically in a timeline throughout the day; or through any one individual player’s round. The Masters iPhone app further provides a multitude of features including: live mobile tv; video highlights; streaming radio; leaderboard; news; photos; and a course overview. The mobile app extends the Masters reach and is available for free. It is very useful for the audience since most people are at work during live coverage throughout the day Thursday and Friday. The web and mobile features allow the audience to stay current and decide what and how they want to experience the tournament.
Take a look at how the site felt to experience in this film:
So how did they make all of this happen?
The Masters has a limited media and sponsorship structure and is fully supported by only three (admittedly large) companies: AT&T, ExxonMobil, and IBM. The Masters doesn’t run many commercials and all of them come from those three companies. While AT&T and ExxonMobil operate like traditional sponsors, IBM’s participation is unique and extends further than pasting logos around the event and running television media during live broadcasts. In fact, IBM actually utilizes their technology and expertise to power the masters.com website. Rick Singer, VP of client executive marketing at IBM says, “We provide virtually all of their technology needs from beginning to end. That includes a wide range of tasks such as: core infrastructure and data center management; website design and interactive content development; networking and security; and golf scoring and player statistics, a.k.a. “data management.”
More information about the technical specifics are available here.
An important thing to note is that IBM is actually proving their product functionality through this sponsorship. They are demonstrating their technology management capabilities in providing an engaging experience online and in the mobile space. It’s about *doing it*, not just saying it.
The Masters is a great example of how the interactive space can change and enhance the viewing experience. It’s way more dynamic and personalized than broadcast and provides more useful tools and information. This would have been outstanding for the Winter Olympics earlier this year; you might have been able to see earlier ski races you might have missed, for example, or watched Shaun White in training. It will be exciting to see how implementing this technology will develop into the future. When watching football, you could go and view a video clip of each touchdown or scoring drive (let’s wait and see how the coming World Cup in June turns out – there’s surely innovation to come there). When watching baseball, you could click on your favorite player to see clips of all his hits for that game (or any game).
We say kudos to the Masters and to IBM for taking up the challenge and setting an exceptional benchmark in changing the game for live events.
What did you think? What might have been different or better? What did we miss?
7th April 10
Posted in Uncategorized
Posted by Zach Blank, Creative Technologist, BBH New York
We are so consumed by the communities that Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare (and our local knitting website) foster that we often forget to take a step back and think about the lessons to be learned from these communities. Within each of these online ecosystems, participants, aware of it or not, share some of their most intimate secrets with the world. Conversations about relationships, ridicule for certain social behavior from the night before, bragging about their new iPad, and most importantly simply being open all seem commonplace.
Coders admirably follow the same model however on a significantly different level. Most, I believe, have taken this notion of community and have truly found the value in it for what they do, and there is much we can learn from that. Coders who have affectionately adopted the open source mantra are out there sharing their code, encouraging others to take it and well pretty much do whatever they want. The idea is that by making the work available to be built upon and expanded, it will be built upon and expanded into something better and exponentially more worth sharing.
A piece of work created this way, where the sum of the parts is less meaningful than the work in its entirety, or gestalt, becomes very powerful when considered in the context of the open source philosophy. Projects made up of libraries, code blocks, classes, and ideas whose authors individually poured hours into creating are incomparably more notable than their preceding work which undoubtably made it possible. This is the key most important value in open source. And it is that value that can be translated to other media and have the same result.
Open source technology has given birth to a large array of projects, from everyday utilities to intricate and involved interactive art installations. Each has a narrative behind it that has an impact on its own.
The story of these projects are most relevant to us in understanding how to use the ideas of open source. The two projects below carry strong narratives of how they evolved, lending a learning experience on a much different level than the end product. Thinking about the path that these projects took and the backstories behind their creation is an exploration of the creative process that went into them; therein lies the most powerful ideas.
You Fade To Light is a beautiful project by rAndom International (with software created by Chris O’Shea), existing in large part because of people who understand the power of sharing their work and encouraging growth. This project was born out of projects before it, borrowing code, leveraging libraries and frameworks to bring it to life. Audience, a separate project also by rAndom International (in collaboration with Chris O’Shea) adds to the narrative and creates its own. Have a look at that here.
I Want You to Want Me (IWYTWM) by Jonathan Harris (http://number27.org) and Sep Kamvar (http://kamvar.org/) for the 2008 exhibit ‘Design and the Elastic Mind‘ at MoMA in NYC was created using OpenFrameworks, an open source framework in C++ for artists, interaction designers and creative coders. This beautiful work is in debt to all the work before it. Fortunately the IWYTWM team documented their process, their narrative. It is a prime example of the power that the evolution of these projects exemplify and the value in sharing them.
So, how can we leverage this power of sharing creativity in our business when we hold our ideas in such high regard and guard them so jealously? There is so much buzz around crowdsourcing at the moment because the ‘power of many’ has been proven. That is simply my argument. We need to adopt this powerful idea and understand how to make it relevant and practical for our work. How does the story behind the larger collaborative efforts fit into our business and make our work better?
The easy answer is it doesn’t. But it could.
We can open our ideas and leverage larger collaborative efforts. We need to start with sharing honest explorations of the process behind an idea. Again, IWYTWM illustrates this beautifully, and if we can embrace this idea and run with it we will come out with a whole new level of creative work – perhaps a new breed of creativity altogether.
We’d love to see more examples like the ones above. And we’re always keen to hear what you think.
1st April 10
Author: John Sheldon, Director of Brand Dialogue, BBH New York
(This is an updated version of a post from 04.01.10)
There is nothing like working on a completely new platform to get everyone energized and excited.
Everyone here at BBH has been super excited about the opportunities that Apple’s new iPad will open up. We have just announced our first iPad application, the Cool Hunting app initially presented by our client, Cadillac, and developed in partnership between Cool Hunting, BBH and Front Ended.
Here it is. Well, a very static image of what it will look like.
Working with Josh and the team at Cool Hunting was really important in this project. We took their vast library of the latest in design, technology and culture and aligned – and spliced – it with a number of stories and facets about the vehicles.
It was a really interesting challenge from a design perspective. The “creative ambition” was to create a groundbreaking experience for consuming content on the iPad – one that becomes multidimensional with articles, photos, and videos in ways that were never possible before on the web or in the mobile space. We also wanted to propose a new advertising model for publications for the device – one that avoids slapping display advertising on everything and instead envelops the most appropriate and desired content for people. So we’re putting the brand in right place in providing great content to people rather than distracting them from it.
For the initial client/sponsor, Cadillac, this approach would allow the Cool Hunting team to curate and deliver specific content in new, more relevant, and more innovative ways. The muse for the curation is the very sexy new CTS Coupe and CTS-V Coupe vehicles that Cadillac is slated to release in mid-summer. Building excitement around these vehicles and garnering handraisers for additional information are key goals for the brand.
The design process took six weeks (late nights and every weekend included). Our team ranks this among the most challenging design they had ever taken on. The interesting aspect is that you have to design everything twice – both for the landscape and the vertical layout. And that doesn’t mean the layout changes visually, because we actually changed the experience based on how you were holding the device.
The goal was to incite users to interact with the design as opposed to just looking at it. For example, the default article view allows users to choose how they would most like to consume the content. So we enable more choices based on how people want to view or read the articles. This makes the interaction and visual design process incredibly more complex, but opens up a multitude of new opportunities.
The other part of the design and development challenge was putting together this app for a touch-based interaction in a platform that uses keyboard and mouse as the primary interfacing tools.
Working with the great guys at Front-ended to get it developed and App store approval-ready in short order was only possible through embracing a genuinely iterative and collaborative approach across all partners and client. Iterating between app designers, brand teams and developers daily made sure the final App met the needs of the sponsor, the technological benchmarks and the editorial approach of Cool Hunting.
Many of us are awaiting delivery of our iPads this weekend (our Director of Creative Technology, Richard Schatzberger, spent two hours on iPad release day refreshing his browser literally every second). And we can’t wait to see how other brands are going to find creative ways to take advantage of this new platform.
We know we have a whole bunch to learn about what’s possible, but weíre pleased our learning curve has been steep in the last few months. We like it that way.
In readiness for your iPad deliveries this Saturday, download the Cool Hunting app (here) and give it a look. We’d be interested to know what you think.
26th March 10
This post is adapted from an article written for Campaign magazine (25.03.10), available online at campaignlive.co.uk next week.
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
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
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.
10th March 10
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).
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.
9th March 10
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:
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
8th March 10
Posted in Uncategorized
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.
- 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.