Monday, 28 July 2008

ipint + the global spirit level

The iPint, the stonkingly popular download for the iPhone. Apparently "the best example to date of mobile advertising" according to Clare Beale. I'm inclined to agree, even though, according to Faris, the idea seems to be lifted from here:

Although fun, it is quite shallow. It needs more depth to win my vote.

The next best example of mobile advertising from Carling would be if you could add some sort of value in beyond a neat trick, like actually having your pint waiting for you at the bar or brought to you if you order on your iPhone so you can avoid a ten-deep human barrier between you and your cool, refreshing beverage. Probably would get more Carling sold too, which would "stretch the definition of what advertising is" even further.

[It's the accelerometer in the iPhone that Carling has exploited. The accelerometer is the interesting bit. And for no reason other than it's possible it would be cool to know the tilt of every iPhone user on the planet. Making the half-decent assumption that facing up and moving a bit equals movement and down flat equals inactivity it would provide an interest peek into people's activity.]


According to the blurb, "pulse is a live visualisation of the recent emotional expressions written on the private weblogs of". It's interesting because stuff online is being used to create art offline.

It's kind of a mashup of Julius Popp's intriguing Bit.Fall (below) and and also the 'feel map' that I blogged about here.

Also reminds me a bit of the plant in E.T. which seems to respond to E.T.'s health.

I really, really want time and location to be factored into these things, especially as mining the emotions gets better. It would be such an interesting insight into people's expressed emotions as news stories ripple through a population or more generally what a particular population is feeling in a year.

Sunday, 27 July 2008

gardens and the human condition


Insomnia and the BBC World Service coupled up to draw my attention to this beguiling, offbeat little essay, Gardens: An Essay on the Human Condition.

It's not a book about gardens; it's a book about humans through the lens of gardens.

One of its most interesting ideas is the paradox that while we consider gardens cocoons of respite they are, of necessity, also places of care, places where "longing for repose is pitted against a deep restlessness".

It is, in horribly bland modern terms, an idea about work/life balance. The metaphorical garden must be a place where neither continuous labour nor wanton abandon can exist but instead a rich combination of the two.


This stunning image comes from the inside of a transgenic mouse's head (hippocampus I think). Each neuron is expressed as a different colour. More here.

the girl effect

Incredible work from W+K & Grow Interactive.

cloud anxiety


"despite my head being firmly convinced that my data belongs in the clouds, my heart just doesn't feel quite right scribbling into a browser window."
The whole cloud thing just means moving your data from the box sitting by your legs to a box probably somewhere in California. Both places are vulnerable to attack and both places can be secured. It's just about having it tucked away behind your walls that feels safer in an odd way. I wonder when banks first started if people felt weird handing over their cash to be looked after?

loving novelty, craving depth

“I feel that much of my life is ebbing away in the tide of minute-by-minute distraction . . . I’m not certain what the effect on the world will be. But psychologists do say that intense close engagement with things does provide the most human satisfaction.” The psychologists are right. McKibben describes himself as “loving novelty” and yet “craving depth”, the contemporary predicament in a nutshell.

What a great way of nailing down that very modern way of operating, 'loving novelty' but 'craving depth'.

What's most annoying about this duality of motivation is that the former usually comes without the latter. The new attracts us and the emptiness of its reality sets us hunting again, more sullied and poorer of time.

(Or in T.S. Eliot's better words the new arrives “Filled with fancies and empty of meaning / Tumid apathy with no concentration”.)

This is almost certainly due to the dopaminergic system in the brain. Newness and the promise of reward fire up areas of the brain rich in dopamine (Knutson, Westdorp, Kaiser, & Hommer, 2000).

When expected reward fails to arrive dopamine levels plunge - and the pleasure drains away - but the brain wants its hit so carries on seeking. It carries on trying to find the new. (Read Panksepp's great book on this sort of thing for more)

Digital experiences are very much like this. Newness. Excitement. Reality. Disappointment. Seeking newness again. 30 minutes on YouTube should be enough to elicit this gamut of emotions in anyone with an intact dopaminergic system. And it leaves you feeling grubby.

We can't help but be magpies to novelty. It is hardwired. We can, however, try to build digital experiences that supply real depth that don't feel like cheap distractions.

This is one reason why I think gaming should be bigger in advertising. And others do too.

More depth please.

beatbearing demo

I like.


In the 15 minutes it took me to write the last post, the idea inside - that fitting rooms should be digitised - hadn't really crystallised. It was a sloppy half thought and blogging about it helped it grow a little beyond that. That's one reason I really like blogging because it forces me to get my untidy slew of thoughts neatly bottled.

Another reason is that at weird times (it's 1am) ideas will pop into my head that I want to get down. So the post was written in a vacuum, save for the various links out to supporting stuff. I didn't check to see if such a thing existed beforehand. That's bad because it could have been and I would have possibly wasted some time and it's good because I am - as we all are - infected by the thoughts of others. It was fresh.

Since writing it, I have had a look around and similar ideas do exist. It's hard being original.

Saturday, 26 July 2008

the digital fitting room


What is the point of a fashion model? Aren't they there to help present clothes in their best aesthetic and proportions and ultimately elicit the reaction 'ooh, I would like that' or 'that brand'?

I think so.

After desire comes pragmatics. Does it fit? Does it look good?

If everyone were the same size as the models then all you would do is go and buy the item in that size.

But, of course, everyone isn't the size of a model. Dove niftily profited from that insight with their Campaign for Real Beauty.

Plus, it is one thing to see a model wearing something, another to imagine yourself in it and quite another still to see yourself in it.

It is for this reason fitting rooms exist: so people can test clothes in front of mirrors while trying to look effortlessly blasé about it all (this most bizarre of states is in desperate need of a label. Do the Germans have one, they normally have wonderful words for things like this?)

I would argue that if it weren't for the liberal return policies that e-retail sites have, (which are roughly double the shop rates) clothing would be no way near the second most purchased item online after books. The internet just turns people's homes into their fitting rooms.

Now, no digital experience can recreate the real thing, but I think clothing companies haven't quite got it right online yet.

Just from having a browse around the sites of H&M, Diesel and TopShop it is clear that their digital spaces are sparkly brochures, nothing more.

Even Uniquo's Grand Prix winning Uniqlock - as fresh and tasty as it is - doesn't add a whole lot of value on for their customers. It is not useful to actually buying clothes. Maybe it's not supposed to be. But I think it should.

What would be better? I reckon if people are interested in how clothes look and if they'll fit then all that's needed is a digitisation of the place this happens in: the fitting room.

The Digital Fitting Room can be online, on-phone or on-wall. It simply takes a high-res avatar of you based on either a scan or supplied key dimensions and matches it to the known dimension of clothes. I think the technology is good enough to do this and the demand is certainly there if virtual communities are anything to go by:
"I've also been fascinated to discover how important fashion is within virtual worlds, in which people can dress up their digital avatars and enjoy the benefits of a new outfit or hair-do at a fraction of the cost of the real thing. This is a kind of theatre of virtual consumption, which works in exactly the same way as consumption in the real world – people lust after objects, save up to buy them, and display them with the same pride they would an analogue object....trying on outfits and shopping is one of the great pleasures the world affords its residents, and one of the reasons why Second Life is used by so many women."
And it opens up whole new swathes of applications for things like the iPhone (e.g., point it at an item's bar/QR code in-store and see what it would look like on you) or gaming where you get to dress yourself digitally inside of an interesting little game.

The first steps don't have to be as grand as these. They just create engaging and useful interfaces for people to dress themselves and ride off the back off the the popularity of personalisation in the marketplace.

I'd find it useful anyway.

more radioheadness

Just discovered this beautiful little baby created by flight404 and midwifed by the Radiohead/Aniboom video competition. Everywhere I look Radiohead is innovating, which includes getting other people to be innovative for you. Check out the high res version here.

muphry's Law


Thursday, 24 July 2008


<span class=
Knol is Wikipedia with three important differences.

1. It adds reputation/authorship more fully into the mix, which improves reliability and drives motivation.

2. It pays you, again, providing more motivation.

3. It is much, much easier to edit unlike that horrible Wikipedia editing interface:

Good move Google.

the future is streaming, not downloading


The news that major ISPs in the UK have agreed to smack the wrists of hardcore file-sharers is, ultimately, not really news.

This is because film, tv and music - the most popular shared content - is increasingly available in streamable form obviating the need to download at all. It's all going to be in the cloud.

The likes of LastFM and Pandora could take care of the music. iPlayer is already taking care of the BBC's output phenomenally well. Other places like TV Shack, Videostic and, legally, Hulu, are providing the rest.

It does tickle me a bit that just as the industry catches up, the ways in which we can consume music has moved on. Instead of owning content - and all the problems that brings if you have acquired it illegally - you just own links to that content and get served with ads or pay a small subscription fee for it.

This shouldn't be a new problem for the entertainment industry, it's a better solution.

local cloud dj

no more radio

In this interesting AdAge article Steve Rubel talks about how new media do not usually supplant old media, they add to it. That is, with the possible exception of mobile internet and the radio. The radio has a few problems, some summed up in The use of conventional and new music media: implications for future technologies;
"Due to its broadcast nature, the only way to control the mix of music played on the radio is to change stations. Participants came to know what shows would be likely to play music they might like, and not have heard, but found it difficult to fit their time around these programs. Moreover, they might miss or forget the name of the song or band before remembering to buy the music."
That is all magically fixed by 'Cloud Music':
"With a number of websites offering [music] free (chiefly LastFM from my usage but also Songza, BoomShuffle, Imeem, SpiralFrog, Qtrax and Pandora), iTunes may even become redundant and the idea of owning a track may be history. Instead, all your music would be within the LastFM (or equivalent) 'cloud', accessible and streamable on whatever your hardware, whenever you want, as long as you are plugged in."
In February - when I wrote that - there wasn't really a way to do this. Not easily anyway. However, with typical Apple aplomb democracy has been brought to a previously difficult task with the iPhone 3G. As I went on to say,
"I think 'cloud music' spearheaded by LastFM and others amounts to nothing less than a quiet revolution in the way we consume music and lays down a first draft for the future of music."
Sounds a bit grand but I think the shift will be quite grand. Radio might be one of those things that goes, a medium that is replaced by something genuinely better.

Still that leaves the problem of what to listen to; choice can be crippling.

From experience (and research in this paper) it seems most of the new music people get comes their way from a few seriously keen musicologists in their group of friends.

The tyranny of choice places like LastFM offer up may be solved by people like this, as they become curators of the massive databases with constantly morphing playlists, which their friends can tune into. Of course big DJs will still exist - and should move into places like LastFM now and get curating - but the rise of the 'local cloud dj' should happen if 'on-demand' music with 'effectively infinite choice' goes ahead.

As Steve Rubel has said in another article:

<span class=
Aye to that.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

digital bites

I like making pictures. And anything to do with digital. So I married the two together in a Flickr group.

It started off as just a personal stash of interestingness for someone entering the world of digital to get their head around things.

Then I wondered if (and how) it would spread on the Internet without me promoting it at all. It was an interesting wee experiment just watching various links organically popping up all over the place, the odd twitter/friendfeed/blog mentioning it.

Anyway, people seem to like it. So now I'm moving onto the second part of the experiment: promoting it, which starts with this, a playful little app where all the 'digital bites' can be explored:

Let's see what happens now.

Sunday, 20 July 2008

futureworld 1

14th January 2009: A couple breaks up because Google Street View reveals he is seeing another woman.

Saturday, 19 July 2008

that's how I roll

From the rut.

Friday, 18 July 2008


Pink Shoes | aswirly.

"Online shoe sales surge 17% ahead of Sex and the City premiere" (IMRG)

Monday, 14 July 2008


Radiohead seems bigger than the sum of its parts. I happen to think their music is fantastic but I have just got this niggle that their music alone shouldn't be so big. Isn't it too drony for most people?

With The Tipping Point still kicking about in my mind from a recent re-read I can't help but feel some of their success can be attributed to their seriously innovative activity away from their instruments, like the video above where instead of capturing light bouncing off them (like a camera does) they have captured something else bouncing off and played around with the data. Then there's the web-only free album and all the remixing possibilities they create, like the video above, which comes with Google Code to make your own visualisations. This remix property is something Kevin Kelly predicted:

kelly on fluidity

"Once music is digitized it becomes a liquid that can be morphed and migrated and flexed and linked. You can filter it, bend it, archive it, rearrange it, remix it, mess with it." Radiohead seem to be pushing people into this stage; other bands are still coming to grips with stage two, freeness.

Perennially operating on the edge lends a serious ding to the band's cachet. For one, it acts to get the attention of early adopters. It also may create a 'Coke effect'. In blind taste tests most people rate Pepsi as tasting better. When they see the labels Coke is preferred. Brand associations literally change taste perception. Radiohead's associations might literally change music perception or force people to give it 'more of a try' because cool early adopters, people who are serious about music, are serious about Radiohead.

Or maybe the slightly drony alienated sound is just what people like.

(Thanks very much to Faris who mentioned this post on his blog)