Public notebook

While Rome burns…

If you need cheering up in these turbulent days of the Great Meltdown, follow the crowd…


Image: Yesterday’s most viewed stories on the Telegraph website.

Public notebook

e-Published: my e-book, Brands in Networks…


Phew. I finally finished it. At least, I’ve gone far enough for version 1.0 to go up on the iCrossing website. Ladies and gentlemen, geeks, media types and brandistas I give you: Brands in Networks.

It brings together a whole load of different strands of thought that we’ve been working through in the social media and content teams at iCrossing for the past couple of years, includin:

  • The shift from channel to network media
  • Principles of understanding, being useful and being live in your networks
  • Using new analogies for online media strategy, like attention markets

Very excited and not a little nervous about putting it out there – if you download please do let me know what you think.

It took a lot longer to get around to finishing than its predecessor, What is Social Media? (also re-published with a cool new design by our creative supremo Amo Bassan).

Apart from making the e-book a hell of a lot easier on the eye than it it might otherwise have been Amo designed it so that it uses less ink when you print it out, rather than caning a whole cartridge as some designs might. Clever.

Just like What is Social Media?, it’s under a Creative Commons licence so do with it what you will… ahem. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens this time out…

: : OK now just forgive a quick couple of indulgences… Lastly, although there’s no dedication I would of course dedicate it to my wife, Sarah, who had to put up with me disappearing on Sunday mornings to write. I was – and still am – happiest writing at Redroaster, the finest coffee house in Brighton, which as a Georgian hang out must have a fine history of coffee shops of the old school. So here’s a picture of the moment I first saw a finished version of the e-book on the laptop I wrote most of it on…


Public notebook

From the ashes of the macropocalypse?

200809220823.jpg Image: A vision of the macropocalypse?
The credit catastrophe that we’re living through at the moment was not unforseen.

Apart from the level heads that pointed out the uncomplicated fundamentals that gave the lie to the complexity smoke-and-mirrors of the bankers (house prices won’t go up forever, etc.), Umair Haque has been talking for a long time about the macropocalypse. In his latest scribbled post on his Bubblegeneration blog he says:

The real point is this. The time is now.

Now is the time for revolutionaries to step up and build something better, something more real, and something greater.

There will probably never – at least in our lifetimes – be an opportunity for total economic reinvention this tremendous.

Or this meaningful. Because that’s what it’s really about – not shareholder value, money, or “competitive advantage”.

What are thinking about that’s radical?

Why not now?

Boldness. Magic. Boldness. Magic.

Public notebook

Ad-free tube station


Image: Ad-free tube station (cc)

Down in Pimlico tube station the other day they’d taken down all the track-side adverts. All that was left were some big grey squares.

It gave the place a calmness.

I still think (and talk) about the time when Sao Paolo banned advertising and they took down all of the outdoor ads in one of the most populous cities in the world (see Tony de Marco’s Flickr set).

It’s like a modern fable, an allegory for the power people have to “take down” advertising on the web whenever they feel like it…

Public notebook

Someone put this sign out of its misery….


“Parking Imformation [sic] Centre”. Should read: “Ressydent Imebezzlemnt Centa”.

Made me laugh – so there’s some value in ’em yet…

Public notebook

McCracken’s magnificent blog compendium on branding

What a superb idea: A one page PDF that summarises and organises a massive body of blog posts around a topic. That’s what ace blogger Grant McCracken has done:

I have published around 1.4 million words on this blog, and that makes any particular set of posts hard to find. Yes, you can do a key word search. But you still end up with a long list of posts and no clear idea of their relationship one to the other.

How, I wondered, could I do a compendium of posts organized for easier access. Organized in a PDF file, what you get is a single page that gives you a jumping off point for 40 blog posts….

Download branding_now_blog_compendium_grant_mccracken.pdf

Even more to my tastes, it’s in the form of a mind map…


Image: part of Grant McCracken’s mind map “blog compendium” on branding

If you haven’t come across the work of Grand McCracken before this would appear to be a very good place to start. He’s an anthropologist and brand expert who consults for the usual top-of-the-Interbrand-pops brands, like Coca-Cola, Ikea and Kraft.

Public notebook

If you liked the Google Chrome comic…

…then I’ve got a couple of treats for you.

I loved the Google Chrome comic book that the company sent out (prematurely) to press and bloggers to promote its new browser, Chrome.

I basically loved it on a couple of levels:

1. What a perfect way to describe the complex technical features of a piece of software in a way that people other than hardcore techies, that the wider geekery would grasp.

google chrome.jpg

It’s perfect – a thousand more times wonderful and optimised for viral / word-of-mouth, by dint of being original, lovely, something you would want to talk about and pass on. The classic social object, of Hugh MacLeod’s thinking.

2. I also love it because I’d never heard of Scott McCloud, and I now I’ve started reading some of his work online. It’s very good indeed…

Have a look at The Right Number his online graphic novel “about math, sex, obsession and phone numbers”. It uses a really cool format where each frame of the story is embedded in the centre of the previous one, so you click on the frame in the centre to see it.


3. I’d recently rediscovered my love of comics after making a couple myself for friends. Using the incredible Comic Life I’d converted a stack of photos that would have been nice on their own into a fun comic book format. As fun to make as to read, as Comic Life pulls off that brilliant trick of realising a non-expert’s creative idea in no time at all.

In seconds I was able to work out how to start using the templates, the pick-up-and-drop speech bubbles and “sound effect” captions…


It’s incredible and I highly recommend downloading and buying a comic to see if you can’t use it yourself for home or – dare I say it – work. Google may have done its thing with comic artist auteur Scott McCloud, but what of photo stories – there’s something in it I tell you…

Worth a try. What I found is that with so many templates to choose from the language of graphic novels and comics – which I’ve read few of since my very early twenties (I read a hell of a lot before then) – just started coming back to me. Even though I’d never designed one before, it just felt easy and natural somehow. And lots and lots of fun… I will find a way of using this at work sometime soon. Just you wait.

Or maybe start Brighton Daily Photo Story, a companion to m’coleague Dean Harvey’s Brighton Daily Photo?

And the filter that lets you turn photos into graphic novel-like illustrations was the most fun of all…

Anyway, here’s a couple of the less legally challenging pages of from one of them Stag Man: A (Needlessly) Graphic Novel:


Public notebook

Creative Commons: if it wins, we win

I think that there isn’t anything on the web that gets me as dewy-eyed idealistic and red-bloodedly fired up at the same time as Creative Commons.

The Commons is the great hope for the future of the web. The closer that things turn out to the vision of the Creative Commons, the richer the human race is going to be in the web age. It’s that simple: everything else I find interesting and exciting and hope-inciting about the web depends on that.

I was just taking a look at a cool service called dotSUB that iCrossing UK‘s search supremo, Johnnie Stewart pointed me to (adds subtitles in any language to videos you upload – mind-spinningly brilliant) and stumbled across this Creative Commons promotional video.

Two quotes from the video (all the easier to transcribe because of the sub-titling, I get it, Johnnie) stand out:

  • Creative commons is all about trying to “save the world from failed sharing”.
  • “What we’ve done is given you the right to exercise your copyright in more ways, more simply.”

Wonderful stuff – take a look at the video if you want to understand a bit more about Creative Commons, or if you know all about it and just fancy a hit of the future (the good variant of the future where we work all of the potential of this web thing out)…

Public notebook

Wikifiddling and loathing on the campaign trail


The Times* tells a sorry tale of someone who claims to be a lowly volunteer on the McCain Presidential campaign team sprucing up the soon-to-be Republican candidate for Vice President’s Wikipedia profile, or at least it did before they paywalled it (argh).

The Wikipedia entry for Sarah Palin was overhauled substantially for the better in the 24 hours before the surprise announcement of her selection as Republican vice-presidential nominee.

A mystery Wikipedia user — under the name Young Trigg — put in about 30 edits to the biographical article on the website.

Young Trigg got into some spats on the discussion pages of Wikipedia, but its not a simple case of Wikifiddling by a candidate – some speculation makes out that Young Trigg (the name a reference to Palin’s young son) was a fan / political wonk who got lucky – they earned a lot of kudos for their work on the profile from the Wikipedia community, as well as having some of their entries cut back.

The importance of Wikipedia profiles is clear. For millions of people who had no idea who Sarah Palin was before the announcement late last week that she would be running for Vice President of the United Statesthe first place they were likely to turn was Google. And the first place Google is turning is Wikipedia.

Because of services like Wikiscanner and a general growing understanding among the media about how Wikipedia really works, simply giving your or your favourite spokesperson a boost on Wikipedia is not going to work these days. As in this case, it’s more likely to attract scrutinizeny than warm feelings from the people you were trying to impress.

* I actually first read this in a great piece of reporting in the New York Times, but since yesterday evening the paywall’s gone up on the article. Grr. So The Times (of London) can get my link instead.

Public notebook

Post-Gutenberg media

printing letter.jpg

Image: Moveable type. Credit Wilhei55 (CC)

The ever-inspirational Clay Shirky spoke at the Edinburgh TV Festival last Saturday, reports Channel 4’s Matt Locke. It sounded fascinating, but unfortunately the Guardian have decided to keep it as paywalled content so we’ll have to make do with Matt’s thoughts and a the Guardian’s coverage on its Organ Grinder blog (unless anyone has a link to another source?).

Matt explains that Clay is talking about the age of networks as the “Post-Gutenberg economy”, a lovely phrase:

…we are now living in the first post-Gutenberg economy. Although Gutenberg radically democratised the production and dissemination of information with his printing press, the expertise and costs involved were still significant enough to warrant filtering what gets published. The economic risk involved in printing 100s or 1000s of copies of a book, not yet knowing the demand from the public, meant that the role of flitering content fell to those who owned the means of production – the Publishers. This Gutenberg economic model – Filter, then Publish – has held steady for every mass media technology since, including cinema, radio and obviously TV.

In the networks what we need to do is publish, then filter. Nice. Iterative. That’ll work.

Of course the major concern of TV execs listening to the speech can be pretty much summed up as “how much of the older order can we preserve”. Matt’s analysis is harsh but true, especially as he is a content producer at what has been until now a broadcasting company:

This is the single biggest risk facing existing content producers shifting from a Gutenberg model to a Post-Gutenberg model. In seeking to maintain their existing cost structures and ways of working, they miss the real opportunity, which is to find ways of making content that is faster, more flexible, and crucially – cheaper. This doesn’t mean that it can’t have impact or quality for its audience – Clay said that content producers need to focus on making content that creates passion amongst its audience, rather than focusing on scale.

Publish, then filter; Passion, not scale – these should be stapled onto the walls of anyone interested in creating value – public or commercial – on the internet. And they should be in the DNA of anyone commissioning for 4iP.

I left a comment on Matt’s post which I’ll put up here too:

Content and the connections that come from creating a network around it, or creating value within existing networks, may just turn out to be the permission to have a shot at creating some revenue generating business models at all.

I think it comes down to understanding the value in understanding networks. If you know where people are and what they want from you above and beyond the content, what some of them may be prepared to give you money for, then you

There were a couple of dominant business models in the Gutenberg age: advertising alongside the content, or sponsorship (be it semi-benevolent state funding, or the oevrt branded content that brought you say, soap operas or the super rich-man’s version of football that is the modern Premiership).

I think the way that it may turn out is that these will be one of a “spectrum” of business models which will be tried in various combinations and iterations around a franchise or content brand to what works.

And the smarter we get about understanding our networks, the faster and more efficient that revenue portfolio management will become…

: : Matt’s post is on the new 4IP blog (tagline: “Rethinking public service media”) which looks like its worth following. 4IP is a fascinating project:

The 4IP Fund aims to deliver publicly valuable content and services on digital media platforms with significant impact and in sustainable ways. It represents one of the biggest and most exciting calls-to-action for new and emergent digital media companies in the UK.

Tom Loosemore, a real live digital revolutionary who was a prime mover in the BBC’s digital efforts before heading off for a stint at UK comms regulator Ofcom, was recently appointed as head of the fund. Definitely worth keeping an eye on what they get up to then…