Google Visualisation Gadgets – Cool

I discovered the world of visualisation gadgets through this excellent blog: http://digitalurban.blogspot.com/

They’re things that can basically turn a table full of boring data into interactive gadgets that you can publish and share as you like.

I thought it looked easy. So I tried it out.

I grabbed some European Internet Population data from here. Copied and pasted it into Google Docs (via an Excel html import). Then added a column of country codes from here.

Then just clicked insert gadget and bosh…

It took about 15 minutes total to create something mildly useful. I’ve probably not picked the best information to display in this way – and the data is incomplete. But I was impressed with how simple it was.

There’s lots more types of gadgets – timelines, charts, and all sorts…

You can read documentation of the heatmap gadget here.
The data source is here.

The Single Most Brilliant Single Web Page in Recent Memory

Artist David Horvitz has a load of really great things on site site. Really do go and have a poke about it’s great.

The best bit is a page of things called FOR YOU…

It’s a list by the artist of “THINGS FOR SALE THAT I WILL MAIL YOU”

For example:

If you give me $10 I will take a photograph of the sky just for you. That means I will go outside, shoot a photograph of the sky, print it as a 8.5″ x 11″ full color laser jet print, write the date on it, fold it into an envelope, and mail it to you. Oh, and I will also delete the file so that you will have the only existing copy of that photograph. It’s just for you.

Or:

If you give me $630 I will give it to my landlord for the month’s rent. I won’t work for one month and I’ll send you an email everyday of what I did and why it was important (unless I am away from a computer). Actually, I am going to need some more money for food and utilities. I am going to raise this to $1000. (NOTE: this is one person a month, if you buy this you will be given a specific month). I will also print out the emails I sent you everyday and mail it to you as a small edition of one artist book.

Honestly it might sound a bit odd, but go and have a look at the list. It’s really compelling. The values that he’s given to things and hist notion of ownership and limited-editionness are really interesting.

You can also subscribe to get a picture of the sky every day for a year sent by email. Which seems to be part of his project to take a picture of the sky every day for the rest of his life.

Thank you Ze Frank for the link!

If you’ve not seen Ze Frank’s ColorWars – you really should. It’s incredible.

Judging Viral – Viral in 5 Words

I’ve been doing some bits and pieces of awards judging for various folk this year. It’s all been interesting so far.

The one I’m most worried about is the D&AD Viral Category. I’m the chairman of the jury and I’m guessing that there’s going to be loads of debate around ‘what is viral?’. There always is at this kind of thing. There’s also going to be loads of fighting about whether specific things are or aren’t viral. Is a TV ad that went viral ‘a viral’? Is something that got passed round because it was really beautiful a viral? Does a viral have to have a farting squirrel in it?

I used to be of the opinion that you couldn’t really judge something as being viral or not unless you actually know whether it did or didn’t become viral. In which case you’d need to know the results. And how they’d managed to achieve the results. For example if a video has been seen 3,123,826 times, but they’d achieved that purely through paid media I’d have said ‘not viral’. Conversely if a clip was great, but had only been seen by 5 people I’d also have said ‘not viral’.

Basically the old me would have said something is viral only if it has been seen by a disproportionately high percentage of its target audience purely as a result of peer distribution (email, blogs, forums, mobile pass on, IM, etc.).

But now I’ve chilled out a bit ;-)

Having looked at 100s of supposedly viral things (I say supposedly only because they’ve been submitted into viral categories in awards) I think one has to be a bit more relaxed about the definition of viral. I’m not sure I can exactly describe what I mean here. But I’m going to give it a go.

I guess I’ve started judging stuff based on:

Has this thing been conceived and created with a set of qualities that might make it ‘viral’ to its target audience. And is it actually any good.

Quite often when discussing work in a creative forum you’ll find that people don’t want to talk about things like target audiences or results. But when you’re talking about something peer distributed those two things absolutely have to be considered. Don’t they? There’s still far too much viral stuff that relies on bad knob-gags and nudity even though it’s totally inappropriate for the brand and the audience (and don’t get me wrong I love a good knob-gag, in the right setting).

Anyway as you can see the whole debate gets very wordy and waffly and ultimately tied up in its own entrails.

So as I was trundling off to sleep last night I set myself a challenge. Could I come up with 5 words to describe whether or not something is viral. The three I can remember are:

conceived with talkability in mind

designed to make right noise

peer-to-peer distribution optimised

I’m sure most of you can do better. Please do…

Adobe Downloads Cost More Than Boxes – WTF?

I feel bad posting bad stuff about Adobe being as they’ve just launched 2 really cool things:

Buzzword.com is an amazing online word processor (the export functions are dead tight and you could almost survive without MS Word), and Photoshop Express (the free online Photoshop version) is pretty cool as well.

So those are good things. Here’s the bad thing…

I was looking to upgrade Photoshop Elements (on my MacBook I don’t need anything more powerful). When I got to the checkout of the UK online store I selected the ‘download’ option rather than the ‘ship me a box’ option AND THE PRICE WENT UP!

Getting the box sent costs £45…

Downloading it costs £47…

Why on earth would that ever make sense to anyone? It doesn’t make sense to a consumer. It doesn’t make sense to a business surely? And it certainly doesn’t make sense to the planet.

Unless the fundamental laws of atom shifting have changed while I wasn’t looking.

My Balearic Muxtape

Everyone seems to be Muxtaping today.

They’re calling it the easy way to create and share mixtapes. And it is. You just upload your tracks and it puts them together in a nice webpage where people can just click to listen.

They’ve got a blog here: http://muxtape.tumblr.com/.

37 Signals bigged it up so it’s being hammered at the moment (uploading is disabled for the moment as I write this). There’s also obvious issues regarding rights. They do say you should used cleared tracks – but if you look at any of the muxtapes on there most of them aren’t. Including mine (sorry).

My afternoon’s balearic listening can be heard right here: http://baleariciain.muxtape.com/

One of those brilliantly simple sites that does one thing very well.

URLs Out – Searches In

I was watching TV last night and an ad came on for continuing education. It’s one with fingers walking around the place. The ad was OK. I didn’t really pay much attention. But at the end of the ad the call to action was – “search for EMA online”. Not visit direct.gov.uk/ema or what you’d normally get, but just search for EMA online.

So I tried it. And it worked.

On Google both top natural search listing and the sponsored link would have taken me to the right place. On Live search and Yahoo.com the right link was the sponsored top link as well as being number 2 in natural search (not perfect, but good enough).

Then a couple of minutes later I stumbled on this article (via: BoingBoing) about how in Japanese advertising the use of search terms in posters is really kicking off. I quite like how they’re integrating a search box with a suggested search term into their ads.

search_jp2
search_jp

Visit http://www.cabel.name to read the whole thing and see more pictures.

It does seem like a potentially smart way to go now that most of the short and memorable domain names with any meaning have been scooped up. But making sure you’ve got the right people looking after your search engine optimisiation / marketing stuff is EVEN more important than it was yesterday.

Make Mine a Builders – Superb Blogger Relations

Make Mine A Builders (Tea)

In the post the other day I got a package of brilliant stuff. You can see it above.

It contained a pack of “Make Mine a Builders” tea and a stylish silver mug with one of those climbing clippy things (I can never remember their proper name) as a handle.

Make Mine A Builders (Tea)

Why did I get this? Well because I’d said I liked their tea once before on the blog.

It came with a hand-written comp slip that was written just to me. They’d spelled my name right and everything.

But the thing that made it super-special is that it was a total surprise. They’d gone out and done all the legwork themselves. They hadn’t emailed me to ask what my postal address was. They’d gone and figured it all out on their own.

So when it arrived it was a genuine moment of surprise and delight. (In case you’re not a jaded industry hack ‘surprise and delight’ is pretty much the thing that everyone talks about doing to make their customers like them better).

Cynically you might say that they’re just trying to get some more publicity. And maybe they are. But you know what, I don’t care. I’ve got a shiny mug and some splendid tea (it is really good by the way).

Things to learn from this: nice, charming, personal, relevant, free stuff, shiny things, no effort from me.