Strangely the thing that I came away with most was a weird kind of nostalgia for the village where I grew up.
I’ve only met a couple of people in my adult life who actually know where I grew up. I normally have to say, do you know Birmingham? Do you know Nottingham? (Most people sort of say yes to both, but you can tell they don’t really know where either of them are – and why should they). Anyway, I grew up in a tiny village called Barton-under-Needwood, and it’s not really very close to anything.
But, not only did Russell know the exact village where I grew up, he’d been to one of the pubs there. And being an fellow East Midlander was familiiar with being called ‘duck’ and all those other strange things I’d not considered for ages. I’ve not been back there for nearly 15 years.
So yesterday I thought I’d go back there. Not in reality, but via the teleportational qualities of Google Maps. So I put in the name of the village. And got a nice map. Then I refined it down to the last postcode I could remember living at.
On the satelite view I could see my house at the end of the row of terraced houses. And I could see the cow field where me and my brother used to play. Then I started playing around, zooming out, looking at street names. And I started to remember other things, like the route of my morning paper round.
Then I remembered something I’d seen on Flickr a while ago: Memorymaps.
Memorymaps are an interesting mash-up between Google Maps and Flickr. People screengrab a meaningful map on Google, then they annotate them with memories, so when you move your mouse over the map you can see points of personal interest. OK, so it’s quite self indulgent. But at the same time I quite liked it as an idea: so I made my own.
By connecting sports shoes and iPods (using a tiny plug-in receiver) they’ve come up with something pretty sci-fi. Your shoes talk to your iPod, then your iPod talks to you, tells you how fast you’re going and all that jazz. Plus some nifty playlist / workout jiggery pokery.
Is it going to get geeks running? Or are we just going to hear a lot of:
“My average speed between my desk and the printer is 3.2mph”
It’s taken me a while to put together this post. It’s been sitting in my drafts folder since early last week, and in the meantime lots of you have probably seen wefeelfine.org.
I’ll try to summarise why I think it’s such an important site. The most important reason is that it’s a site that’s built of user generated content. But without anyone generating content for the site. What the site does is to go and ‘scrape’ lots of other websites and pull out sentences where people have said “I feel…” or “I am feeling…”. It then categorises and processes the sentences (and associated images) so that they can be displayed and interrogated in new and interesting ways.
For example, if on a MySpace page I’d said “I feel like I’m coming down with flu”, it would pull this sentence into the database. Then it would look at my profile and say, OK, a 33 year old male from London says he feels like he’s coming down with flu. It would also look at the date and location on my post and use this to figure out the weather. So it would then be able to add the fact it’s raining to the context of my words.
It’s so clever. It’s recycled, repackaged and re-ordered loads of human content from around the web. And by doing so it’s created something much more interactive and compelling than the original words themselves. But the real feat, is that for all it’s cleverness, the site itself feels simple and easy to use. And it looks beautiful too.
The marketing strategy talks to the consumers; but we are not consumers! The only place and moment when we think like a consumer is when we are in the supermarket. The rest of the time, we are not consumers. We do not think like consumers. We are not Targets; that is even more stupid. We are an audience. We are viewers. We are spectators of a huge media show.
But for me it was this quote, by Howard Gossage, that really stood out from the whole essay:
Nobody reads ads. People read what interests them. Sometimes it is an ad.
In a post-schedule, non-linear world these are some of the truest words I ever read. Have a read of the essay, there’s definitely some good bits.