Experiments in Medium-ing

medium

Why am I interrupting the deep slumber of Crackunit to talk about Medium?

I think it’s about time I gave it a go. I’m reading Medium content more and more every month. And over the last couple of years I’ve started to feel like I’m missing out by not being a contributing participant in the Medium community.

Why Medium?

It’s kind of like what blogging used to be back when I enjoyed it. There’s a genuine community of people engaging with each others’ content. And it seems to welcome longer-form content with ideas in it – not just click-baity pro-blogging nonsesne.

When Google Reader went away my blogging network almost disintegrated overnight. At it’s best Medium is like the best bits of blogging, with the essential bits of Google Reader plumbed-in round the back.

Why now?

I’m working on a bunch of new stuff that I think might be interesting to share. There some things that I’d like to put out in the world and see how people react – to see if I can get smarter through sharing stuff with a community of good people.

Watch these spaces…

I also have a bunch of draft pieces that have been sitting there gathering dust in the Medium back-end for a couple of years. It’s time to wipe them down and put them out.

Is Crackunit over?

Far from it. I’m going to play around with different kinds of cross posting between Crackunit and Medium and see what happens. I’m interested in how the two things can co-exist. And to see where traffic and conversation happens. Who knows maybe I’ll even managed to eek some kind of post out of it…

Fundamentally I’m still a bit old-fashioned and I like having my own place on the web. A spot that I ‘own’ that can’t be messed up through corporate acquisition or whatever. So Crackunit is here to stay, for now.

See you there. And here.

Advertising Has Grown a Penis on its Face

I did a talk the other day at Here London. I had a truly lovely time. The other speakers were all – without exception – amazing, talented, interesting and passionate. I felt spectacularly un-worthy.

I whanged-on about what I reckon might be wrong with the world of ‘advertising’. (The same thing may also apply to other types of commercial creativity. It’s just that advertising feels like the canary in the coal mine of fucked-up-ness).

In one bit I drew an odd parallel between nightclubs and communication. And how, in the good old days, you’d have moments when a big tune dropped. And you’d get a reaction like this:

But now there’s so much music out there, no-one ever plays the same tune twice, for fear of appearing out of date. Everyone wants to be cutting-edge.

And it doesn’t come much more contemporary than DJ Anklepants. Seen below performing a set for Boiler Room in Berlin. You might notice that the crowd do not seem to be experiencing outpourings of ecstasy, there’s just a strange sense of bewilderment.

I’m not saying there’s not a place in the world for DJ Anklepants and his animatronic cock-nose (I’m actually a closet fan).

But there’s too many people in our industry spending too much time worrying about appearing unique, innovative, and disruptive to their peers. Instead of focussing on making things that are actually great, and might one day be seen by a actual real people.

I suspect that the current spate of ‘innovative’ advertising exists because it’s harder than ever to make a dent in mainstream culture. And perhaps it’s also why so many of these projects end up immortalised as: ‘look how what we did really moved people’ videos.

You know the videos I’m talking about. The ones where a brand does something surprising (typically on a sunny day, and often in a town square, or equally universal venue). We see people looking thrilled, entertained, helped, inspired, weeping, or whatever.

case_study_people

And we can’t help but think to ourselves: “Look! Real people, being emotionally touched by an advert”.

We’re all suckers for these images of collective joy. Because we spend our time glued to screens, physically separated from each other, these ‘experiences’ appear tantalisingly ‘real’ and joyful.

Especially when most of us struggle to imagine the feelings that people experience individually at computers or on phones around the world when we do something that appears on a screen.

So instead we make ‘happy people’ videos. To remind us that people really really love advertising, in all it’s glorious forms. And, because the video makers are experts in making stuff look great, we can’t fail to be impressed by how innovative, clever, and genuinely touching the work looks. But it’s also impossible to see what’s actually going on.

If the cameras were fixed, and the footage was honest and unedited, I suspect that much of today’s celebrated advertising work would capture audiences as bewildered as a bunch of clubbers faced with DJ Anklepants.

We’re at a unique moment when it’s possible to engage vast quantities of people on massively exciting platforms. And it’s up to us to use those platforms to reach people in meaningful and lasting ways. So let’s not be suckered by the shiny happy people enjoying mini-spectacles in the sun. Let’s stop faking togetherness and get some more Hardcore Uproar on the go instead.

Tom Goodwin’s excellent piece in the Guardian says something similar in a much clearer way. As does John Owen’s great follow-up on Medium.

Waiting in Line 2 Hack You

I was chatting to Jordy van den Nieuwendijk at Here on Friday. And he mentioned that he’d worked with a guy at W+K NYC who was responsible for Waiting in Line 3D.

WIL3D is one of my favorite things of all time, and having the warped mind behind it working for the same company is beyond thrilling!

So like a proper fanboy I sent Rajeev a message of love and admiration. Rajeev send a nice message back, and pointed me at a recent project called Nice2HackYou which is also for a band, and also mind-bendingly awesome.

I installed the Chrome Extension and held my breath. Thankfully I installed it on a ‘clean’ machine. So I’ve got very little Fox News or other disgusting items in my browser history…

Nice2HackYou

Smashing!

The Small Things That Make the Difference

I’m visiting a mix on SoundCloud (this one if you care).

The top of the page looks like this:

R_co%20-%20Ivan%20Smagghe%20vs%20Andrew%20Weatherall%20-%20Get%20The%20Curse%20Podcast%20-%20May%202010%20-%20SoundCloud

Then I start playing the mix, and look what happens to my tab:

%E2%96%B6%20Ivan%20Smagghe%20vs%20Andrew%20Weatherall%20-%20Get%20The%20Curse%20Podcast%20-%20May%202010%20by%20R_co

Spot it? If not let me make it clear…

%E2%96%B6%20Ivan%20Smagghe%20vs%20Andrew%20Weatherall%20-%20Get%20The%20Curse%20Podcast%20-%20May%202010%20by%20R_co

SoundCloud have always been very good at attention to UX detail and this might seem like just a tiny little thing. But it’s actually really very good. It means that you can spot in a multitude of tabs which one is playing. Love it a lot.

Microsoft and Yahoo! Ads

In under 24 hours I’ve noticed these 2 ads for what I suppose are Google’s nearest competitors in a bunch of things.

First this Yahoo! ad.

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Now I’m not crazy about the chick with the Social Media Tattoos. I’ve seen her around a bit and I find her a little bit, um, contrived. Especially when you put her outdoors in the middle of Tattoo-town (Portland, OR).

But then as I walked closer to the ad I noticed…

IMG_0549

Holy shit, it’s hand painted!

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At the very least this deserves an A for effort. Even if the ad is a bit horrible.

Then, this morning, I noticed this Microsoft Bing ad for the Portland Foodcarts Map.

IMG_0555

You can view the map here: http://www.bing.com/foodcarts. The site takes a while to load and it’s not the best experience ever (and it only works in some browsers – not Chrome). But they have gone and made a theoretically useful map of Portland Food Carts. So again, A for effort.

It’s good to see these guys making an effort.

Blogs is Back

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I got inspired by Ben writing this piece about good old fashioned blogging and how we should all try and make it good again: http://noisydecentgraphics.typepad.com/design/2010/09/lets-make-blogging-good-again.html

It made me realise just how lazy I’ve been with blogging. And of course I have excuses for that. But there’s a part of me that genuinely misses the whole blogging thing. For a while I was thinking about just jacking it in. Especially after the whole hacking episode.

But then I started to think about what I love about blogging and how much it’s done for me, things that not-blogging platforms like Twitter never can or will. Things like the weekend where I took the challenge to do a bunch of stuff and had a really great time, (like making butter…)

Plus I got a lovely mail from someone the other day about how much my post on Mental Detox Week had inspired them. Which made me reconsider blog-retirement.

And screw Posterous and all that jazz, I’m just going to do it old school. Me and the blog against the world and all that new fangled Tumbleration and stuff…

My Talk at Under The Influence

Here’s the talk I did at Iris’ excellent Under the Influence day. It’s basically about digital experiences and magic and how the two are interconnected.

Hope it’s OK – from my perspective I think it wanders a bit at the end (I sort of ran out of preparation time). As usual I can’t bear to watch it in order to tell if it’s rubbish or not. I need to get over my fear of seeing and hearing myself, it makes it impossible to do anything on YouTube or the like.

I wish I’d got to see more of the day’s other talks but I was busy writing my presentation and doing other work. But now thanks to the magical internet and the generosity of Iris I can see them all online. Hooray.