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Posts Tagged ‘experiments’

  • Introducing thinky.do

    11th February 14

    Posted by Agathe Guerrier

    Posted in Experiments

     

    As Jeremy hinted at last week, we want to make more experiments this year. One of the key things we took away from Robotify is the need for a more modest approach that genuinely allows for speed, failure, mess … experimentation, really.

    thinkydologo_black

    So for this year, we’ve baked lightness and pace into the process itself in order, we hope, to accelerate learning, but also to have more fun.

    Our ambition is to create and release 10 experiments in 2014. We will do this by adopting a ‘hit and run’ approach to the exercise. Each month we’ll pose a new question, and we’ll run a live session to generate and prototype answers. We’ll force ourselves to ship something within 25 days and with a tiny budget – the month’s experiment needs to have sailed before we agree on the next brief.

    We might end up with 10 failures, but we’re certainly hoping for 10 pieces of learning, 10 horizons broached, many more new people met and at the very least, to have done something fun with something new, every month for a year.

    This new framework means our focus will be on people before machines, behaviours before builds and live development, not drawn out processes. Inspiration might come from platforms, from partners or from people’s imaginative uses of technologies and the web. It could come from anywhere really, as long as it gives us an opportunity to learn.

    As well as more experiments, we’re also looking for more involvement from more people. So we’re going to be inviting the whole of BBH and our partner MediaMonks to experiment with us, and a bit later this year, look at how we can go even more open source. For now, we’ll post the question up on the blog before we run the working session and welcome comments and insight. And, as we did with robotify.me, we’ll make the learning process itself transparent, with briefs, ideas, and development being posted in (almost) real time on our new experiments platform.

    This new home for Labs experiments is thinky.do. From now on, this is where anyone interested can follow the erratic ballads of Labs experiments, though of course we will point at new thinky.do activities from here and from our twitter every now and again.

     If you head there now, you’ll see that we’ve put up our question for the first experiment of the year. It’s all to do with crypto currencies and the creation of value. We’re holding our first live session this afternoon at BBH in London, so expect to hear more very soon.

    We’re excited about switching up a gear in experimentation and we’re definitely curious to see what happens. If you’d be interested in joining us for the ride, please drop a note to collaborators@bbh-labs.com, leave a comment here or at thinky.do.

  • Learning Bit by Bot

    7th February 14

    Posted by Jeremy Ettinghausen

    Posted in robotify.me

    Tyrell: Would you … like to be upgraded?

    Batty: I had in mind something a little more radical.

    Tyrell: What … what seems to be the problem?

    Batty: Death.

    Blade Runner, 1982

    Robotify.me – what we did, what we learned and what we’re doing now

    In December 2012 we launched robotify.me, an experiment to test our hypothesis that seeing social media behaviour visualized could actually influence and change those behaviours. Perhaps, we asked ourselves, data visualisation might reveal surprising nuances of social media behaviour which might otherwise be overlooked?

    robo1

    How would it feel to compare activity – likes, links, retweets, checkins, photos – with the rest of the group’s data? Would the transparency of the visualisation cause any changes in social behaviour? Would inveterate retweeters be shamed into posting more original content? Could we encourage more checking in, more posting of photographs, more liking by visualising the effect that it had on the robot?

    Robotify.me was also another opportunity to learn and experiment with process. Could we create a service rather than a campaign? Could we work fast and lean and create a mvp? Could we create a product without a brief, without a client?

    robo2

    A little over a year on, the answers to some of these questions are in. The first thing to say is thanks. Thanks to the team who worked so hard (and gave their time so generously) on robotify.me and thanks to everyone who took part in this project. Thousands of you created robots and we loved seeing the project come to life, reading the tweets, hearing your thoughts and feedback on this thing we’d made.

    Much of what we learned is displayed in the infographics accompanying this post and some of our early learnings were incorporated into changes we made live on the robotify site in the early go-live days and weeks. Perhaps our major learning was to do with storytelling – if we wanted people to learn a little about themselves we should, perhaps, have shown more, and told more explicitly. Knowing when to intrigue and when to explain is something we will take with us in the future.

    robo3

    We also learned that when you have a team with demanding day jobs it’s impossible to schedule daily scrums and the focus and scheduling required for an iterative workflow are not easily applied to side projects. When we plan future Labs experiments (and more on that very, very soon) we’ll definitely be thinking about the sorts of projects that lend themselves to a leaner approach. Stretch is good, but restraints will help define scope from the very beginning.

    So, we’re going to be pulling down the shutters on this particular garage and disassembling the robotifier, cleaning down the work surfaces and wiping down the whiteboard in preparation for a new swathe of Labs experiments, robotify learnings fresh in our minds. We’ll be keeping the service up in it’s current form for another month, so you can still create a new robot, revisit your robot mirror-self or download and print out your robots for your digital files.

    Finally, thanks again for supporting our Robotify.me experiment.

    Bleep. And out.

  • Under My Skin: The 2013 Edition

    31st December 13

    Posted by Mel Exon

    Posted in BBH Labs, culture

    Wind-blown - What the Internet Felt Like in 2013

    Windswept – What the Internet Felt Like in 2013

    “We are sensation junkies, predisposed to excitement, and if that means danger and death, we are ready for it.”

     ~ Doris Lessing, ‘Under My Skin’ (part 1 of her autobiography)

    Since Labs was founded in 2008, at the end of every year we’ve written a round-up of our favourite memories of the previous 12 months: the people, the products, the posts. And I like to think this has reflected the fact we’ve spent much of the past six years engaged in a sort of happy, virtuous circle of accelerated learning and application; of thinking and doing. Taking everything we’ve learned about the Internet and technology and applying it to client business, for the company we work for, with a generous community around us and even together with our families. And, personally, I was proud of the balance I was striking for a lot of that time. Although who needs work-life balance when you can have the merge, eh?

    This year we’re taking a different approach.

    When Lessing wrote the sentence above she was describing mid-20th century life, bearing witness to a ‘regret for intense experience’ that was voiced openly in the aftermath of two world wars. She wasn’t referring to Internet culture in the early 21st century, although that was the association that immediately suggested itself when I read the sentence. I’m going to use the fact she makes her assertion in the present tense as my excuse.

    Looking back over the past year or two, I’d argue we’ve reached the nadir – or the height, depending on your perspective – of our generation’s sensation junkydom. I say this as someone who has disagreed vehemently with Nicholas Carr, Jaron Lanier and the rest of the-Internet-is-making-us-shallow gang, smiled blithely through Sherry Turkle’s ‘Alone Together’ (“c’mon, I’m not that bad” I said to my family as I swiftly sent another 5 tweets over lunch) and I have declared my undying love for the joys of the social web, several times, in public.

    Certainly by 2012, the point at which this post becomes harder to write, we had started to sense a shift from the visceral burn of excitement, the learning curve we were all on, to something else, something more akin to a collective burden, that – god forbid – we’d helped fuel. At worst, a pressure to overvalue and prioritise what we could call the “‘nesses” truthiness, newsiness and, the king of all things real-time: nowness.

    Now, whether you are a journalist questioning the very purpose of your existence when a casually fact-checked Upworthy or BuzzFeed piece beats your thoughtful op-ed hands down again, or the brilliant poet Kate Tempest beautifully and poignantly nailing how it feels as a teenager to have your life documented, duplicated and fetishized over, or a blogger satirically sending up copy-cat millennial marketing, our social status quo is being questioned from multiple perspectives.

    Taken to the absolute extreme this year in The Circle, Dave Eggers paints a (fictional) portrait of a totalitarian world where the pursuit of ‘completion’, or total information, is the sole, unrelenting goal. Warning: if you’re mildly paranoid about privacy, this book will push you over the edge. Back in the here and now, Alexis C. Madrigal puts things perfectly in his article, 2013: The Year ‘The Stream’ Crested:

    “Nowadays, I think all kinds of people see and feel the tradeoffs of the stream, when they pull their thumbs down at the top of their screens to receive a new updates from their social apps. It is too damn hard to keep up. And most of what’s out there is crap… I am not joking when I say: it is easier to read Ulysses than it is to read the Internet. Because at least Ulysses has an end, an edge. Ulysses can be finished. The Internet is never finished.”

    These are not crackpot Luddites frothing at the mouth about the evils of technology or, for that matter, New Age Cassandras prematurely worrying about the End Of The World As We Know It. These are people who have helped conceive the best products and thinking in the corner of the web we traverse daily; people who consistently, visibly and tangibly crank open their minds in the pursuit of making things better.

    By the end of 2013 our unease has become a dull roar of disquiet. A palpable sense that the exhilaration we experienced a few years back has passed, to be replaced on a bad day by a mixture of exhaustion and that worst of all things, ennui.

    When something is ‘under your skin’ it’s an itch that needs continuously scratching: addictive but never wholly satisfying. And after a while, it’s finally dawns on you that you need to stop doing that and move on. I don’t mean ‘embrace continuous change!’ in a brace-yourselves-through-gritted-teeth-for-more-new-stuff sense, I mean: some things need to stop, in order for new things to start.

    So 2014 is going to be different. But it won’t become different on its own: we have to make it so.

    At Labs and BBH, we’re taking some steps to balance things out a little. Here are just a few:

    1. Valuing both ‘stock’ and ‘flow’.

    A master metaphor for media today coined by Robin Sloan back in – jeez! – 2010, also via Madrigal, ‘stock’ is the durable content and behaviour that stands the test of time, whilst ‘flow’ is a continuous feed of updates. Both are modern necessities, but, as the sheer newsiness of nowness deflates (see what I did there), the importance of more contemplative content bubbles back up.

    We’re seeing evidence of this in the lovingly created, more durable digital publishing evidenced by the likes of the NYT Magazine’s ‘A Game of Shark & Minnow’, the oft-mentioned Snowfall, the Guardian’s brilliant ‘NSA Decoded’ (for more of this ilk, see this helpful spreadsheet via @neilperkin) and closer to home, the likes of Toshiba and Intel’s Beauty Inside and Complex Media’s The New New for Converse Cons.

    A Game of Shark & Minnow, NYT Magazine, October 2013 - http://www.nytimes.com/newsgraphics/2013/10/27/south-china-sea/

    A Game of Shark & Minnow, NYT Magazine, October 2013 – http://www.nytimes.com/newsgraphics/2013/10/27/south-china-sea/

    2. Looking inward for a while.

    This year, we deliberately reduced our external focus and instead designed an end to end New Skills training course for BBH and our clients. At BBH London it began with a #bbhexpo in November and continues with a series of 2 day workshops throughout the first quarter of 2014.

    'How To Do An Awesome Project At BBH' - one element of a New Skills training course for BBH beginning in 2014.

    ‘How To Do An Awesome Project At BBH’ – one element of a New Skills training course for BBH beginning in 2014.

    We’ll publish the assets and what we learn here once it’s completed end of Q1 2014.

     

    3. Switching up the leadership of Labs in London.

    Agathe Guerrier, or AG to her friends, formally took over the leadership of Labs in London alongside @Jeremyet from me a few months ago. For those of you who don’t know AG, she is the perfect leader for a new phase in Labs’ development: her name translates as ‘the warrior’, yet she is a practicing Yoga teacher and has a Tumblr aptly named ‘Wegan Wednesdays.’ She’s also a peerless Strategy Director & Partner at BBH and the brain behind the New Skills training course above.

     

    4. Taking a lighter, more open source approach to Labs Experiments.

    It isn’t all about depth, contemplation and stopping to smell the flowers. Historically at Labs we’ve tried, failed and sometimes succeeded at lots of different approaches to experimentation: amongst other things, crowdsourcing our own logo, attempting to reinvent street newspapers, providing a useful catch-up web app and also an entertaining little service that displays your social data as a personalised robot unique to you. A lot of the above took blood, sweat and tears carefully collected in our downtime. In 2014, we’re deliberately adopting a lighter, more open source approach to experimentation instead, opening up the Lab and its resources beyond the core Labs team. More on this from Jeremy and AG in the New Year.

    In the meantime, we’re biased, but check out the excellent work BBH Zag have been doing this year co-designing new digital products and services like Autographer and Money Dashboard.

     

    5. Less, but Better.

    More individual time spent on fewer clients. It’s not radical but it is profound. We hope it will help everyone regain a sense of equilibrium and clarity of focus, making our work better along the way.

    Finally, what about the intense experience Doris Lessing reminded us of, the thing we long for, despite ourselves? Patently, it doesn’t go away. It’s simply about a concerted effort to get some balance back. In 2014 there will still be flow: of course there will be a multitude of memes, ideas and products that catch fire and light up the Internet for a day or two. But I’d wager we will recognise that we need both durable stock and the adrenaline rush of flow in our lives.

    Perhaps the most ‘now’ thing we can choose to do next year is to do this: remember to take stock.

    ***

    A huge thank you to everyone who’s written, shared, commented and generally made the BBH Labs world go round this year. And a particular thank you for the thoughtful writing, links and provocation that have directly fed this post (whether they knew it or not) to the following people inside and outside BBH: Agathe Guerrier, Jeremy Ettinghausen, Adam Powers, Yuri Kang, Chris Meachin, Alex Matthews, Simon Robertson, Nick Fell, Tim Jones, Jim Carroll, Tom Uglow, Ben Malbon, Tim Malbon, Neil Perkin, John Willshire, Amelia Torode, Anjali Ramachandran, Pats McDonald, Alexis C. Madrigal, Nathan Jurgenson, Saneel Radia, Len Kendall, James Mitchell, Ben Fennell, Charlie Rudd, David Spencer, Jon Peppiatt, Sarah Pollard, Heather Alderson, Kate Roberts, Dan Hauck, Kirsty Saddler, Jonathan Bottomley, Ben Shaw, Helen Lawrence, Sarah Watson, Olivia Chalk, Dav Karbassioun, Tim Nolan and last but very definitely not least, Jason Gonsalves.

    ***

    For a more straightforward look back at some of the themes of 2013:

    - Our own round-up of the 2013 technology year, written for Marketing magazine

    - Maria Popova’s excellent ‘The Best of Brainpickings 2013

    And for more on looking forward to 2014:

    - JWT’s 100 Things to Watch in 2014

    - IBM’s ‘5 in 5’ (5 innovations in technology that will change our lives in 5 years

  • Robotify.me – what Labs are making next, and why.

    26th April 12

    Posted by Jeremy Ettinghausen

    Posted in makings

    Author: James Mitchell, Strategist, BBH & BBH Labs

    Every once in a while at Labs, we like, no, need to get our hands dirty. Oily, even. We like to make stuff that we can learn from – learn from the making of and learn from the interactions with. Robotify.me is one such experiment. And unlike most of our output, we’re going to share its whole gestation with you. Partly because we’re too excited not to, partly because we want you to shape the product.

    Product? Yes. With robotify.me, we want to put a personal digital robot into the hands of every person who wants one.

    Of all the companions you could make, why a robot? Why not a plant, an animal, even a pet rock? Because of the line robots walk (or fly), between the artificial and the human. They are not alive, but in the way the act we try to give them life. And this has bearing on the other half of the project.

    Since our first aol email addresses, our first Second Life avatars, our geocities and myspace profiles, our first (and second) anonymous twitter accounts and our weavrs, we’ve been talking about the difference between a person, and an online persona. Is there one? We hope robotify will tell us, because the other trick is this: the characteristics and features of your robot will be determined entirely and exclusively by  your social network data. So if you post lots of pictures on instagram, your robot might grow a telephoto lens in its belly. If you click lots of odd links, you might develop tank tracks – negotiating rough digital terrain, you see.

    That’s the simplest version. Gradually we want to progress to a version with a robot that changes and grows as you do – a living marker of your data journey. We’re even hoping that, over time, robots will be able to interact. Robosociety, if you will. But that’s the nature of the agile process we’re using – aside from the vision, there are lots of assumptions layered on top of each other, and we’d like a willing army of beta pioneers to help slice through these assumptions and get to the robotify.me that you want.

    At the same time, we’d like to experiment with a slightly altered way of communicating – so for the 50s radio-style version of the Robotify story, just slip on some headphones and click play.

    Hang on. You said something about beta users?

    Yes, labs reader. That’s you. We’re making the beta right now – signup at http://signup.robotify.me. If there’s anything you want to see, anything you’ve always wanted to know about your social data, or anything else you think we should look at, let us know below…

  • Tech interns, we need you.

    28th October 11

    Posted by Mel Exon

    Posted in BBH Labs, People

    Authors: Gabor Szalatnyai (Creative Technology) & James Mitchell (Strategy), BBH London & BBH Labs

    Here at Labs, we make a lot of stuff for other people and brands, but, now and then, we like to build experiments – additional stuff we love so much, we take extra time and pull late nights to see it done. We do this because sometimes, we want to test a theory,  because we want to test our capabilities, and because we want to make something cool.

    With one very special project, we’re ready to begin the making and we’re going to spend the next three months doing just that.  Which is why we we’d like some inspirational new talent to come and intern with us in London to help out.  We are embarking on a project with Rails and MongoDB on the backend and HTML5 on the front.  We would expect you to have previous projects using these, and if you are confident with CoffeeScript, Sass and Javascript game engines (craftyjs, gameQuery, renderEngine,) you’ll enjoy the coding even more.  We are managing source code with git on GitHub, so prepare your branching and merging skills too!

    But this role is about more than the build.  We’ll work iteratively on this, so we’ll be testing and learning as we go.  This means you’ll be working with the team to prototype, test, bend and break – modifying and bettering the experiment at every stage.  We’ll expect you to have a major impact on the idea itself.  You’ll have the freedom to implement any technical solution that solves the problem, to work with the entire team to make sure the thing doesn’t just happen, but happens better.

    Why work with us? Because we hope you’ll agree the project is cool, the team is a diverse and interesting one, and the use of data is, as far as we know, something that’s never been tried before.  And, at the end of it all, you’ll get to put your name against something very special.

    To apply, please send a nice message (with your GitHub username and/or some work) to **labs.intern@bartleboglehegarty.com**, and we’ll have a chat about what we’re trying to build.  If you have any more questions, drop them in the comments.  Thanks!

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