Public notebook

Getting an Autographer


We’ve ordered an Autographer for the Brilliant Noise office. I’m really looking forward to trying it out.

Three main things I’m interested in…

  1. A new kind of camera: It will be great to experiment with the Autographer in situations where taking photos is difficult. I think especially of running – there are so many interesting scenes you come across when distance training (I’m about to start my 2014 marathon training) and stopping and using your phone can really disrupt your run. I think that it will be interesting to use it when speaking at conferences and capturing other moments where I’m usually focused on something else.
  2. Creating new kinds of stories: Documentally’s* inspired me a bit with his Autographer films earlier this year – like this one about a Storymaking event at the Guardian. It strikes me that there are all kinds of behind-the-scenes, day-in-the-life stories waiting to be told like this.
  3. Seeing how it works socially: In Documentally’s review of the Autographer he talks about both forgetting he was wearing the device and having to consciously make decision to turn the camera off…

I found myself suddenly and understandably concerned by the privacy of those around me. Another time was when I thought other peoples kids were identifiable in a playground.

What might happen when I walk through airport security and inadvertently break the law? What does all this mean for privacy in general?

Like every other piece of social technology we will need to invent the rules and behaviours for devices like this one. I’m curious about how it will feel and the questions it will prompt me to ask myself.

I’ll let you know how I get on…

* He’s actually called Christian Payne, but I always think of him as Documentally. 

Public notebook

Samsung’s massive ad spend

This year Samsung spent a lot on advertising.

US$14 billion.

To give you some perspective, Coca-Cola spent about US$2.5 billion in 2012, across all of its brands, globally.

Want some more perspective? US$14 billion is more than Iceland’s GDP and more than Google paid for Motorola, according to an article from Reuters, which goes on to suggest that Samsung is spending a lot, but not necessarily seeing a return. It quotes Oh Jung-suk, a business school professor at Seoul National University.

“Samsung’s marketing is too much focused on projecting an image they aspire to: being innovative and ahead of the pack. They are failing to efficiently bridge the gap between the aspiration and how consumers actually respond to the campaign. It’s got to be more aligned.”

Apple spends a fraction of Samsung’s budget (about US$1 billion). Horace Dediu, an Asymco analyst says the lower spend is down to product strength:

“The stronger, more differentiated the product, the less it needs to be propped up by advertising.”

We’ve heard that before, haven’t we? Designer Yves Behar said “Advertising is the price companies pay for being unoriginal.”

To borrow from football, you could say Samsung is trying to do a Man City rather than a Manchester United – short-circuiting its rise to tech brand royalty with brute force spend. Following that logic, it won’t be concerned with the odd frosty reception for product placement or sponsorship.

Public notebook

Is your digital strategy in the past, present or future tense?

In April this year, a Gartner survey asked exectuives “what is digital strategy?” – the analysis they developed from the answers is interesting. 

According to an article in Information Age, the study found that people were using the phrase to describe three things, or three times – 

The recent past: Some are fixed on e-commerce and e-business (a 90s term) . These are driven by a fear of failure 

The now: Concerned with social, mobile and the cloud. These executives are driven by wanting to appear up to date, on top of the latest developments. 

The near future: People thinking about digital strategy in this mode are concerned with what is about to be possible, as “products and services themselves become digital”.  

 Especially interesting to note the three definitions of digital strategy.

Much more useful than the “whee! No need for digital any more” sentiment.–digital-strategy–

What a business means when its says it has a ‘digital strategy’ therefore depends on whether they are trailling the pack, engaged in the present, or looking to the future, Raskino says.

Eventually, though, all business must look to the future, in a way they haven’t had to for the last 15 years, he adds.

“Businesses have had a decade and a half of packaged innovation,” Raskino argues. “They’ve just said to the IT suppliers, sell me the next thing I need to install to upgrade my business, whether it’s supply chain optimisation or customer relationship management. But that’s finished – there’s nothing left to sell at that level.

“Now businesses have to invent their own future.”

 I wonder what type of digital strategy your and your clients’ businesses are concerned with? 

Public notebook

Crocombe’s postcards from WPP Stream

Marketing services giant WPP holds its own tech events  looking at what’s coming next in digital – WPP Stream

Ian Crocombe, head of strategy at Possible – has posted a nice, concise account of his favourite bits from the October unconference – a kind of set of slide postcards… 

Well worth a read for the Kit Kat/Android case study, insights on wearable fashion and other nuggets such as “building YouTube subscribers today is being attacjed with same vigor as a brand manager trying to get a million Facebook fans in 2008.”

WPP Stream Turkey 2013 – Personal highlights from Ian Crocombe
Public notebook

Computers are extensions of our nervous systems, not the other way around


In my previous post here I wrote about outliner tools and thinking. The article by Paul Ford I refrences talks about internet pioneer (also creator of the computer mouse, among other inventions) Doug Engelbart, who – as well as inventing the computer mouse – developed one of the first outlining tools, NLS or oNLine System in about 1968.

After Engelbart died in July this year, his friend Ted Nelson wrote about his outliner software and draws our attention to an insight of huge significance to anyone who thinks for a living and uses the web and other machines to help them do it:

“If you attempt to make sense of Engelbart’s design by drawing correspondences to our present-day systems, you will miss the point,” [Nelson] wrote in his own remembrance, “because our present-day systems do not embody Engelbart’s intent. Engelbart hated our present-day systems.” The mouse was only a means to an end: a tool for navigating the two-dimensional space of NLS, which offered the world then-barely–fathomable concepts such as teleconferencing, hypertext, and real-time collaboration—all in order to “augment human intellect,” or make it possible for human beings to think new kinds of thoughts.

Engelbart’s demonstration of the early outliner software in 1968 was part of “the Mother of all Demos“. It was filmed by Stewart Brand, who, Paul Ford tells us

…went on to found the Whole Earth Catalog. In the 1984 Whole Earth Software Catalog, Brand wrote as clear an explication of the power of software as ever has been offered: “Software, when it is used at all intensely, comes to feel like an extension of your nervous system. Its habits become your habits. The reason the term ‘personal’ got stuck to these machines is, they become part of your person.”

Then, almost as a postscript, he added: “Buyer beware.”

It’s another – and more immediate – way of articulating that Marshall McLuhan axiom “We shape our tools and then our tools shape us.” When we think in slides, or spreadsheets, or on a whiteboard, or with Artefect cards, or in a mind map, or in an outliner – we think differently – the possibilities, the ideas, the shape of our thoughts is affected by the tools we are using to to explore and express them.

When I see people who think for a living uncritically using whatever tools are put in front of them to do their work I think it is a kind of tragedy. It’s as if a team of athletes were just using standard issue mid-range kit and gear – or if all artists were only allowed to work with HB pencils and A4 printer paper.

Organisations should not expect their people to use the same black box and standard issue “productivity suite” tools to work with. They need to encourage people to seek out, customise and even build or duct tape together their own software, the “extensions of their nervous systems”.

We all need to think about, challenge and play with the tools around us – there are so many – to get our work done. Then we will be able to think further and faster, think new thoughts in new ways.

Buyer beware, indeed…


Public notebook

Outliner thinking

In this MIT Technology Review article about different writing and blog authoring tools – As We May Type –  Paul Ford describes a tribe I wasn’t aware existed, but once described I knew immediately I was a part of – “outliner people”.

Outliners were one of the first writing tools available on computers and they continue to be very important. Ford defines it as…

…a kind of mental tree. Say level 1 is a line of text. Then level 1.1 would be subordinate to 1, and 1.1.1 subordinate to 1.1; 1.2, like 1.1, is subordinate to the first line. And so forth.

Personally, I use Omnioutliner Pro, CarbonFin’s excellent Outliner app for IOS, as well the outlining functions in Evernote and Curio on occasion. I picked up the practice from Jim Byford and my now business-partner Jason Ryan, who conjures major projects, intricate strategies and complex plans on a screen, turning an interesting conversation into an action plan and the beginning of a briefing document or proposal.

I like mindmaps, but outliners suit my needs more often. Sometimes an idea will be developed in a mindmap and then be transferred (as an OPML file – Curio does this automatically very well) to an outline and later that outline will turn into a Google Doc, Pages or Word file that can be made more beautiful and complicated and ready for sharing with the world outside the project team.

It’s a case of the right tool for the way you need to think in a given situation. But also, the right tool in chain of tools that can become a workflow that means you move from idea, to concept, to model, to prototype to plan in smooth transitions, with as little friction and cognitive costs between each step as possible.

More on that thought in the next post

Public notebook

The Dehumanised Moment

Paying attention to a device while you are in conversation robs you of your ability to create a “human moment” reflects Daniel Golemanthis LinkedIn post:

An article in the Harvard Business Review calls this kind of interaction a “human moment.” How do you have a human moment at work? You have to put aside whatever else you’re doing, and pay full attention to the person who’s with you. And that opens the way to rapport, where emotional flow is in tandem. When your physiology is in synchrony with someone else you feel connected, close and warm. You can read this human moment in terms of physiology – but you can also read it experientially, because during those moments of chemistry we feel good about being with the other person. And that person is feeling good about being with us.

It’s an interesting way of thinking about these bad habits of distraction – what the checking of smart devices gives us is clear – we just need to be aware of what they are taking away. There’s a trade-off when we choose to focus our attention on one thing and not another. And not choosing is of course a kind of decision as well – though usually the worst kind…

Public notebook

Give away your audiobook to sell your book – with BitTorrent Bundle

With some non-fiction books that I have found especially useful, I’ve coughed up for the audiobook, e-book and even the paper version. I read mainly on the Kindle, if it’s heavy going I love to listen to it as an audiobook, and then if I want colleagues to share and read the book, I buy one for the office.

I’d love to be able to buy triple-play books – all three formats for a reasonable price.

Today I saw an interesting idea, by one of the undisputed pioneers of self-publicity and publishing – the relentless Tim Ferris. Giving away audio versions of his new book free in BitTorrent Bundles

What’s a BitTorrent Bundle? I’d not heard of it before either, but it sounds great.

BitTorrent Bundle is an Alpha project, made with and for the web’s creative community. Our mission is to help artists connect directly with fans, inside the content they share.

Basically the Bundle lets you share some content and then give people a key to unlock the rest. In the case of Ferris’s promotion for his new book The Four Hour Chef giving him your email was enough to get the whole audiobook for free.

A quote from Ferris paints a picture of an unbridled success…

BitTorrent Bundle is possibly the fastest way to find new fans online. By releasing the 4-Hour Chef audiobook as a BitTorrent Bundle, I was able to give potential readers an in-depth, multimedia intro to the world of the book. As a result of the campaign, sales of the print and e-book versions of the 4-Hour Chef doubled, and sales of my previous books jumped.

It’s an interesting idea – give away one format to sell another, but it makes sense to me. When you’re trying to get people to buy your book, you want them to engage deeply with your content, but it is hard to tell exactly what a book is like until you’re reading it. We take it on faith that it will be good – a recommendation from someone we trust, a new book from an author we love. If a book – especially a non-fiction book, which begs for re-reading, quoting, sharing – hooks us, then we really want to own it.

This is a case study of one – and from a very popular author. I’ll be keeping an eye out for more examples though – especially from lesser known writers.

Public notebook

You’re ready… when you have the courage to act

In a post posing the question “Do you need a Chief Data Officer?” I had a involuntary twitch of recognition and agreement with the sentiment in the following…

Finally, you’re only ready for a Chief Data Officer when you have the courage to act. Seeing the opportunity that such a statement offers and seizing it are very different things. It’s plain enough that everyone makes decisions, just as everyone creates and uses data and so can impact quality. It will take real courage, over a long period, to drive data into every nook and cranny of the organization.

Could say the same for digital strategy… or “strategy” as we used to call it…