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A week in links and pictures.

I thought I’d try out reflecting on some of the places me and my thoughts have been this week in links and images…

Stateside odyssey

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Image: MIT WiFi.

First off, I’m in Boston ahead of a workshop on blogging tomorrow, then a series of meetings with clients and colleagues that will se me in Charlotte, Chicago and New York before returning home. Hopefully I’ll busy enough to keep my mind off how much I miss home already.

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Image: MIT bookstore display.

I just took at a look round the MIT Press Bookstore which is across the road from my hotel. I could have filled my case with books, but I managed to restrain myself to a copy of Brain Rules (which I’ve wanted ever since I posted that video of John Medina talking at Google) and Extreme Toyota (what looks like an interesting addition to the canon of business books analysing that company). Looking forward to tucking into them (just as soon as I’ve finished David Brain’s Crowd Surfing – I managed to make it to the launch party last week, video on David’s blog here)

Can’t get The Wire out of my head

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I won’t be stopping in Baltimore on this trip, but that city’s very much on my mind having recently finished watching the final season of The Wire. Beeker sent me a link to an excellent 43 Folders post which uses a discussion of the genius of The Wire to talk about arcs in writing blogs and creating all sorts of things. Well worth a read, but only if you’ve finished watching all five seasons.

If you’re in a similarly reflective mood about the genius of The Wire check out this Museum of the Moving Image podcast of a discussion between “David Simon, the series creator and co-producer; novelist and screenwriter Richard Price, who wrote several episodes; and four of the show’s stars: Seth Gilliam (who played Ellis Carver), Clark Johnson (city editor Gus Haynes), Clarke Peters (Lester Freemon), and Wendell Pierce (“Bunk”), moderated by David Schwartz, Chief Curator.”

How all web agency websites should be…

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I stumbled across the website of The Barbarian Group, a very interesting agency in NYC. Certainly, I think it has the best looking (and functioning website of any digital agency I’ve seen).

I especially love the way the most frequent bloggers on the company blog get front page billing (the Active Barbarians section. Also the Barberipedia’s layout and the fact that all of the people who work there have their bios on the site feels very open and very real. It makes me feel well disposed to the company before I’ve even met anyone who works there, intrigues me to find out more and with the showcase portfolio front and centre makes it clear they are a credible bunch.

It’s a nice change from agency sites that make a lot of noise about understanding the social web all the while throwing flash animations in your eyes… arrgh… eek… get back you… carpetbaggers…

Peter Kim’s big list of brands in social media

Peter Kim’s been worth listening to for a long while. It was he who, while at Forrester wrote the seminal Connected Agency report on the future of digital agencies. Now he’s off with the founder of Razorfish and some significant funding to create a “strategic consulting practice and an enterpriseclass Social Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) suite“. Anyway more practically, he posted an updated list of social media marketing examples on his blog this week – well worth a peruse…

Social media opinions aggregator

Take a look at Swotti. This aggregator looks incredible and seems to offer a massive amount of analysis functionality that you normally only see in industrial strength web monitoring/analysis software, such “adjective clouding” and news clippings. Billed as an “opinions analysis” it claims a “web 3.0” (whatever the hell that is) and says it is analysing 500 million opinions. I’ll be taking a closer look at this…

Here’s the Swotti review page for the iPhone.

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And finally…

A funny sign I saw today near Harvard Square. Rearrange these words to form a well known English insult:

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And and advert which may become my Twitter avatar:

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Public notebook

Top iPhone app

Expenses are the bane of my life and I am the bane of my long suffering colleagues in my company’s finance department doubtless sometimes feel like post-trauma stress counsellors, helping me piece together a meaningful narrative about my recent business travel past based on a few shattered fragments of receipts and tatty tickets…

But JetSet, an application for the iPhone seems like it may actually turn me into someone who can cope with normal executive life. It quickly lets you enter the type of expense, take some notes, enter the amount and take a photo of the receipt… so you won’t lose it…

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And then export the results to a Google Docs spreadsheet all ready to email to accounts – woohoo!

The brilliant thing for someone as logistically challenged as myself is that it almost turns getting all your receipts logged into a game. Although I do appreciate that the aforementioned colleagues in finance may not appreciate me going for ever greater high scores on each trip… Needless to say it also appears to be a massive time saver and stress reducer, by making sure that expenses neevr build up.

I think it’s on special offer at the moment for less then a couple of quid. Given how many receipts I suspect I lose on an average business trip, this thing has probably paid for itself already 1.5 days into me latest journey…

Via The Unofficial Apple Weblog

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Ideo labs blog & multi-touch for everyone

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I had a near-IDEO experience earlier this year when I was in California talking about social media and innovation to the same people that they were talking to about design thinking and innovation. I’d heard whispers of them before, but this closer glimpse left a big impression. It’s a fascinating organisation that generates incredibly interssting ideas…

Now via Chris Hand (via the very cool Design-Feed.Net aggregator) I see that IDEO has a new blog:

IDEO Labs is a place where we can show bits of what we’re working on, talk about prototyping, and share our excitement over the tools that help us create.

Worth checking out for the series of recent posts on how to build your own multi-touch screen (you know like that Jeff Han multi-touch screen). I want one, I want one, I want one.

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Image: Jeff Han demonsttrating a two person multi-touch screen (see the video for more).

: : Bonus geekery. Also via IDEO Labs, check out this video by Johnny Chung Lee of how to make your own interactive whiteboard on any surface using a Wii controller , a PC and a couple of components… Exciting to see these new technologies being made accessible so quickly…

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Ford-ist art and marketing usefulness

I really like this collaborative art project that Ford is sponsoring, called This is Now

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Here’s how it explains itself:

The project has four stages:

1. Noah Harris, famous for his modern take on stop-motion animation (and director of the Ford Fiesta TV commercial), was asked to commission a series of pieces from some of Europe’s most promising young artists.

2. Contributions were then sought from some of Europe’s most promising art students, who were asked to submit their own interpretation of ‘now’.

3. With professional and student artist works now completed the general public are offered the chance to participate. This is your chance to capture images that define ‘now’ for you and take part in the project.

4. Starting in October, people throughout Europe will be able to visit the Ford website and collate their own definition of ‘now’. They’ll be able to browse the project’s entire collection of images, create a unique mash up and share it with the world.

The project has been made possible with the generous help of Ford, who provided the funds for all of the project stages. As part of their advertising campaign for the Ford Fiesta, they’ll be encouraging people to participate and showcasing a selection of the images to the wider European public.

This is going to be interesting to watch unfold…

There’s a fine line between cheesy brand-promotion and actually doing useful things, seeing where they’ll take you once you’re engaged. It’s great to see projects like this where brands are – for now – on the right side of that line. Just out-of-control enough, just the right tone of voice (helps having someone like Kai Chan Vong, an apparent web renaissance man) curating the blog too…

: : Robin Grant told me about this a little while back, but it’s taken a trans-Atlantic trip and jet-lag induced early-morning-ism to let me have the time to have a good root round. Robin recently(ish) started We are Social, a “conversation agency” by their own description, and are starting / encouraging conversations around this project.

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Public notebook

Carpetbagger brands

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Shame, shame, know your target demographic…

Gamer comic Penny Arcade takes some strips off a brand clumsily concocted for gamers in a post entitled “This is why they hate us”:

In the Tom’s Hardware interview, we learn that the snack’s creator is a “sometime gamer,” which is a bizarre turn of phrase. One either plays games or they do not. If they do not play games, but have instead discerned that “gamers” are a discrete “target demo,” there’s a word for them: carpetbaggers.

That’s a nice turn of phrase. Sums up nicely what people who include “being authentic” in a list of brand objectives, or worse positioning will end up being. Whether people call them out or just ignore them.

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Have a look at the strip that goes with the post. I’d say Gamer Grub just lost its target demographic? There’s a link on the GG website inviting you to tell them what you think on its blog. It was down when I went to take a look…

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Thanks to Ben…