Category: Public notebook

Work is the signal

I like this Tweet:

Reminds me of Caroline Webb’s saying that “email is procrastination in disguise”.

Sure, email is a vital tool. Yes, it is a powerful communication platform and sometime the  most  important thing to do is send an email.

You know what he’s getting at though, don’t you.

Via Impossible.

SLR screening and a debate on the web, voyeurism and selfies

ZZ7F6C1F25

Last week I attended the screening at Lighthouse of a BFI short film, SLR – a dark, troubling thriller about voyeurism, social media, selfies and hypocrisy. A heady mix.

Afterwards I chaired a panel with Wendy Grossman, Georgina VossChris Pinchen and the director, Stephen Fingleton.

SLR is a really interesting film – the director described the experience he was trying to create for the viewer as  like “being Cybil Shepherd on a date with Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver”. If he meant uncomfortable, tense and gripping, he got a direct hit on my amygdala.

ZZ42C4D149

 

Image: Stephen Fingleton at the panel. 

I was surprised to learn that few short film directors agree to put their films online, preferring the slower, more rarefied audience that distribution via film festivals allows. Stephen Fingleton, the director had gone for reach, he said, wanting to get SLR seen by as many people as possible.

With 218,000 views and rising when I wrote this, he’s definitely getting a bigger audience for SLR than most short films.

Stephen Fingleton, is an engaging, impressive, talented chap. Speaking with him beforehand and during the panel he was first and foremost impressive as a deep thinker. He’d made a difficult and provocative film about this subject, but was continuing to consider the issues around it.

One of his scripts featured on the Hollywood Blacklist last year – a list of the best screenplays not yet in production. He’s now working on his first feature film – I’ll look forward to that.

The twenty minute film is available to watch online (and is embedded below).

SLR from Stephen Fingleton on Vimeo.

And, if you’re interested in seeing the panel discussion that followed – here’s the video.

Image credits: Still – Driver Films; Photo of Stephen Fingleton, Lighthouse Arts

More new and old media pairing

ZZ03FF51C3More from Writing on the Wall, by Tom Standage, on how old media is often – for a while – enhanced by the new,  rather than being replaced. 

In England in the 1600s, newsletters were distributed about parliamentary and Royal news by mansucript subscription “news letters”. They literally began as letters, which were copied by teams of scribes and sent out – often to be shared in groups, read aloud or copied and passed on again.

Printed newsletters (called “Corantos“)  were largely, at first, about foreign news – partly as a consequence of strict censorship laws. However, some bright sparks in the manuscript trade started included the printed foregin news – the first newspaper supplements, apparently:

But rather than competing, the two forms proved complementary. Corantos could be enclosed within manuscript news letters as they circulated, providing printed foreign news alongside the handwritten domestic sort. Letters from this period contain abundant references to printed material [...] entire transcribed copies of them and, on several occasions, the printed corantos themselves. Coratnos were printed versions of what were originally manuscript documents, and the information they contained was in turn recycled into manuscript news networks.

There have always been news networks – and there have always been social networks bound up in them.

Image credit: (cc) Wikipedia 

Who can see what you are doing on the internet right now?

Yesterday’s cryptoparty was fascinating in so many ways. A two hour-ish session took us through online privacy issues, behaviours and tools.

Particularly useful was an interactive diagram from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which campaigns for internet freedom, showing who can see what you are doing with your web browser – from a hacker sitting in the same coffee shop, to your ISP, the hosts of the website you are using and government agencies tapping into the internet backbone (as the NSA and GCHQ in the UK have been doing) or contacting the ISP or website for their records. 

Click on the image below to try it for yourself.

ZZ55706B45

 

I knew some of this previously, but this diagram is really helpful in clarifying the situation. You can see who see how of your online activity is blocked by using a secure plug in (the HTTPS Everywhere extension for Chrome and Firefox browsers will do this) or a super-secure browser like TOR (which encrypts and hides users’ location, identity and web use). Fro the most part, the former blocks people seeing who you are and your data, the latter almost everything except your location and the fact that you are using TOR.

On the last point, using TOR presents what my colleague Jason Ryan calls “the cryptographer’s dilemma”. While it means you have a huge amount of privacy online, it also holds up a metaphorical sign saying “I am doing secret things! Over here, mass surveillance agency – me! Me!”.

Recommendations for using TOR for people like activists or journalists who need to keep their online activity away from prying eyes include:

  • Don’t use it too often
  • Don’t use it at home
  • Don’t upload files on it
  • Don’t log in to your email

There are more in an exhaustive – and, frankly, exhausting – list called Want TOR to really work?.

Online privacy and mass surveillance are very complex issues, as are the solutions. I’m very grateful to Chris Pinchen and his cryptoparty friends for helping me to begin to think these issues and ideas through.

Against mass surveillance – what will you do today?

ZZ6D612BDC

Today is a day of action and protest against mass surveillance by our governments: The Day We Fight Back.

Aptly, the first thing in my Twitter stream when I opened my laptop this morning  was the inventor of the Web re-tweeting the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s message…

ZZ52E6FBD6

Things move quickly, our lives are busy. Today, though, take the opportunity of The Day We Fight Back to stop and ask – what kind of a world do you want to live in? What future do we want to choose? What kind of Web do we want to live with around us?

Then do one thing – or a few things – to mark your intent, to take small steps toward the future you want.

Here’s what I’m doing:

  • Adding my voice to the chorus of dissent –  by signing the EFF petition and adding their banner to my website.
  • Supporting those who are fighting for our online freedom every day – by  re-joining the Open Rights Group in the UK, that campaigns for internet freedom and making a donation.
  • Learning more about how to take control of my data and security personally – by attending a Cryptoparty this evening where people will be learning how to lock down their devices and manage their online data. I’m hoping to help hold more of these for friends, colleagues and clients in the future.

Spread the word. Tell others what today means and what you are doing to support it…

One of Microsoft’s new CEO’s strengths? He doesn’t finish business books…

ZZ4B8D3F47

When Microsoft’s new CEO was announced last week, there was a great deal of commentary about his  - doubtless very carefully crafted – introductory email to the company.

Part of Satya Nadella‘s description of himself made me immediately empathetic:

Many who know me say I am also defined by my curiosity and thirst for learning. I buy more books than I can finish. I sign up for more online courses than I can complete. I fundamentally believe that if you are not learning new things, you stop doing great and useful things. So family, curiosity and hunger for knowledge all define me.

There are two things that make me like Mr Nadella a bit from reading that quote. First: I do that too. Last night I flicked through the books on my Kindle – there are  so many interesting ones there that I’ve barely started or not started at all. It’s a teetering, digital monument to curiosity and to having an appetite for learning that is beyond my current means (in terms of time, mainly) to support. 

The second thing that warms me to his statement is its echo of what I was talking about in my post last week, Finishedness - realising that you can’t, and often shouldn’t, finish everything that you start. This ability is strength, contrary to the puritan work ethic/completer-finisher fallacy.

Mr Nadella’s email  was a positioning exercise – mainly in distancing himself from the style of his predecessor, the bombastic Steve Ballmer. The latter didn’t talk much about his reading habits – and would be more likely to reel off the number of books completed – a PB roll-call of reading velocity.

In the age of digital superabundance of information, leaders must be curious and hungry to learn, but also mindful that they cannot hope to read everything, to learn everything that they would like to. It’s the larger scale version of FOMO (fear of missing out) - applied to thinking and knowledge rather than social network updates, but the same in essence.

Mr Nadella’s statement shows self-awareness, acceptance of his limitations and a desire for continual learning. Whatever he does with Microsoft in the next few years, in this aspect he has the right stuff to be a digital leader.

Image credit: (cc) Official Le Web photos

New technology boosts the old

ZZ2564D376

As cheerleaders for incumbent media often point out, the old is rarely replaced by the new. Newspapers weren’t killed by radio, radio wasn’t killed by TV, TV wasn’t killed by online video – etc., etc.

Sometimes new technology boosts the old.

Dipping in again to the excellent Writing on the Wall: Social Media, the First 2,000 Years, I read:

Printing pushed up demand for paper throughout Europe, encouraging production and making it cheaper (its price fell by 40 percent during the fifteenth century) and more widely available. Printed books promoted literacy and writing manuals could be produced in quantity.

We can see a similar effect today with writing and books. Earlier in Writing on the Wall, Tom Standage notes that book writing was a serious undertaking in Roman times. You had to be literate, rich enough to have a dedicated cohort of slaves for scribing and couriering purposes during the research, notable enough to throw a top-notch launch party and – by some advice of the time – spend about nine years perfecting your manuscript before releasing it into the network of copyists (all reproduction was by hand, of course).

Now writing – and publishing – books is within the grasp of anyone. A cynic would say that you don’t even need that high a degree of literacy.

In the US, 391,000 books were self-published, only about a third of these were e-book only titles. In fact, an article in the Guardian notes, this figure is conservative:

The exclusion of hundreds of thousands of titles published without an ISBN, including many titles on Amazon’s Kindle store, means that the increase of 422% since 2007 this represents is likely to be an underestimate of the size of the self-publishing sector.

Rather than reach for the pessimist’s fall-back of the monkey-typewriter paradigm, recognise this for what it is – a golden age of reading and – even more – writing. New forms of media are making old forms easier for everyone to access and work with, once again.

The market with no name (yet)

ZZ649F5EFBThere’s a gap in the market for agencies and management consultancies. Or rather, there’s a gap between their two markets which is growing.

Last year I talked about the need for marketing agencies to “become McKinsey faster than McKinsey can become us”. Since then we’ve seen both industries begin to encroach on one another’s territories.

Witness the big management consultancies efforts to win in digital:

Is there any action in  the other direction? Well, we’ve not seen WPP or Omnicom buying management consultancies just yet, but there are plenty of people who would have been seen as belonging to the marketing-advertising complex taking up positions in management consultancy-land:

  • Econsultancy offers training and consultancy on digital transformation.
  • Fluxx’s positioning as a “product and innovation agency” is also interesting. Formed of people from a digital agency background, and EMC’s consulting wing, it appears to be a management consultancy that works with a tech-savvy, agile method.
  • Brilliant new ideas like Adaptive Lab’s positioning as “start-up as a service” or a “skunworks-for-hire”. This can be used to develop apps and experiences for marketing – but products are about more than shiny-thing to grab the consumer’s attention – they can be businesses in their own right.

And, of course, Brilliant Noise, my own agency, with our “Customer First, Earn Advocacy, Transformative Digital” mantra – a year ago we saw ourselves as marketing spilling out into the rest of the organisation, an outcome of the need for marketing to be more connected to succeed, and of the disruption of ideas about how organisations work that the web is causing.

Digital transformation

Let’s take a closer look at this phrase – arguably a re-badging of the clumsy “social business” tag, following on from whatever it was before. A bit clue-trainy, very tech-savvy.

Poor old advertising

 

Nationwide

Image: Are brands are looking tatty?

The Economist asks us to “spare a thought for the poor admen”, whose industry is suffering “a difficult time”:

Not only are they confronting a proliferation of new “channels” through which to pump their messages; they are also having to puzzle out how to craft them in an age of mass scepticism. Consumers are bombarded with brands wherever they look—the average Westerner sees a logo (sometimes the same one repeatedly) perhaps 3,000 times each day—and thus are becoming jaded. They are also increasingly familiar with the tricks of the marketing trade and determined to cut through the clutter to get a bargain. Scepticism and sophistication are especially pronounced among those born since the early 1980s. A study by the Boston Consulting Group found that 46% of American “millennials” use their smartphones to check prices and online comments when they visit a shop.

None of this will be news to readers of this blog. The article is a collection of more or less accepted insights about the way that marketing is working.

A shift from promotion to product.

A focus on “what you do” as the best way to influence “what others say” (as opposed to the advertising-first way of “what you say you do”.

The opportunity lies somewhere between the agency and the management consultancy in all of this – both are moving into the other’s turf. More on that later…

Subscribe to Dan Hon’s email rants

Just do. The couple I’ve read so far have been really good.

A sample from today’s, kicking around things like “Just Good Enough” and digital-as-other…

Siloed organisations, where digital is “over there”, aren’t going to succeed. At the very least, they’re only going to unlock a fraction of the opportunity that’s available to them. At the very worst, they’ll find themselves both slowly (“oh, they’ve only got a few tens of thousands of users”) and quickly (Blackberry, Nokia) disrupted. Runkeeper will come and eat their lunch. Netflix will become the next video network. Uber, much as I hate them for being Uber, will come along and work out that hey, digital actually can make your business of cars that move things from one place to another better for the end user.

 

They’re just not.

 

It’s just a question of how fast we get there.

Subscribe to Things That Have Caught My Attention, by Dan Hon.