Tag Archives: internet

Creative Similarities?

On the David Elsewhere stuff Tim just commented:

I liked spike’s version from a year or two ago.

With a link to this video:

It’s a different thing doing a different job. But I can see how one would perhaps make you think of the other. For sure.

Now I’ve no idea if Tim’s comment is a thinly veiled jibe or just a simple statement. I don’t know Tim. Or his intentions, so it’s really hard to tell.

He could be saying:

YOU ARE THIEVING FUCKTARDS WHO HAVE NICKED THE IDEA OF USING A GUY WHO MOVES FUNNY AROUND AN URBAN ENVIRONMENT FOR ADVERTISING PURPOSES

Or he could just be saying that he really quite likes this video and there’s just something about it that reminds him of the above Spike Jonez directed ad from the year 2000. But there’s something about the use of the word ‘version’ that makes me think there’s a hint of jibeyness about it. Or I could be suffering from blog-comment paranoia…

Ah well.

But it does relate to something that happened to me earlier on today. I met up with some lovely creative chaps who I’ve known for a while. They wanted to chat about an idea for a project. It just so happened that we’d already done exactly the same thing 4 years ago on the internet. Like totally exactly the same. So we laughed about it and moved on to chatting about some other ideas instead.

But if they’d talked to someone else about it there would be an identical thing being conceived and made at this exact moment in time. And at some point in a month or two people would be saying: “Oh my god, they ripped off that thing from 4 years ago”. And I’d never have known any different, apart from the fact that I really like these guys and I know that they wouldn’t intentionally have done that. But in another time-space scenario I’d have probably been dead cynical about it. For sure.

The Tea Buddy shenanigans a few months ago is yet-another example of a similarish thing being spotted and jumped on.

Even the Orange Balloon Race got accused of being un-original (see first comment here) because someone else had made a Balloon Race Game that existed on the Internet before (in spite of the fact it was just a Balloon Race game that took place inside one bit of flash on one site on the Internet – which seems hugely different to me).

I guess I’m taking a long way round to say:

  • In our line of work there’s doesn’t appear to be enough ideas to go round – have we run out?
  • During development it’s really hard to do global due-diligence on a creative idea (and certainly to check on an execution or production technique).
  • However, once something is live on the internet it’s very easy for well connected and observant individuals to spot similarities in things
  • Or are (un)happy creative coincidences just a fact of life? (I just remembered this great site that groups together ads that have almost identical ideas and art direction)

It’s tough. And it’s only going to get worse as we get more connected and more people see more stuff that they can make more connections between.

I guess the only answer is to try to have seen everything in the world ever. Or perhaps the creative industries should try to set up a global panel of idea guardians who can check all concepts at an early stage and make sure they don’t remind them of something else?

But for what it’s worth, as far as I know, no-one involved in the making of the David Elsewhere stuff has ever seen that Spike Jonez ad (at least not that they’re admitting).

EDIT: I just remembered another thing! My brain must be working OK-ish tonight. This point made by James Cooper ex-of-Dare now of Anomaly NY on Scampblog.

2. Be original. Same rules apply to when all you lot who moan about whether Bravia or Guinness or John Lewis was original or not. Poke’s nice unlimited site looks a little like a Motorola site, our nice Bravia site looks a little like a Pioneer site. The point is it’s not such a leap to imagine that creative brains come up with the same things. An amount of copying goes on, but these things right themselves in the end. No one is going to make a serious career out of being unoriginal – apart from The Chemical Brothers. There are trends in digital in the same way there are in TV. If you really want to stick out then you have to do something different and we all know how hard that is these days.

Well said that man.

The full, excellent, post on ‘how to do digital’ is right here.

Is It Just Me…

Or has the language of dots next to something taken on a meaning that perhaps it didn’t have before…

Gym Graphics

When I spotted this in the window of a hotel I thought to myself: “How odd that they’re promoting the fact that their facilities are only 1/3 as good as they should be”. In my head when I see coloured-in blobs next to words I assume that they’re some kind of rating.

Damn you internet, damn you! You’ve made meaningless graphical circle-noodling into something more.

Email From A Hero

I just got an email out of the blue from Don Norman. He’s a dude. He wrote a great book called the Design of Everyday Things, a book that I love dearly.

Apparently he’s been using the above photo that I took years ago at the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas in presentations and wanted to give me credit for the photo. I’ve no idea how he tracked the photo back to me. But he did.

What a nice man.

I love the internet.

I’m going to get back to posting again soon. I’ve just been a little busy with some stuff recently. More to follow.

The Orange Balloon Race – Playballoonacy.com

Here’s the start of another major thing that we’ve been working on for Orange for a while now…

Registration is now open for the first Balloon Race Across the Internet.

Visit: playballoonacy.com

Basically we’re going to set off loads of balloons across the Internet. The one that goes the furthest in 7 days wins – and the prize is a £20,000 VIP trip to Ibiza including everything that you and 7 friends could hope for, ever. That’s it in a nutshell.

Oh and there’s all kinds of stars and bonus doo-dahs along the way – collect 5 stars and win stuff. Hit rainbows and get warped into the future and all that kind of thing. You know, like they do in games and stuff.

Sign up for the race

Visit the site now and get a balloon. Then when the race starts in 3 weeks you’ll be right up the front. Well you’ll be in the race anyway.

My lovely camel shaped balloon can be found here…

Be part of the race course

The course is made up of sites that have agreed to be part of the racecourse, or are about to agree to be part of the racecourse. That’s right folks. If you’ve got a blog or a website you can add it to the race by simply adding a small snippet of widgety code to your site. You can visit the site to sign up, but if you’re impatient and really want to add your site you can bust straight there using this URL: http://www.playballoonacy.com/account/sites

What’s in it for sites that take part? Well in hard terms it’ll drive traffic to your site. There’s going to be people visiting your site to see their balloons pass over it. And if the race passes over an interesting page people might just stop by to have a look. In softer terms it might just be a bit of fun.

Let Balloonacy commence.

Teabuddy Scandal Alert

teabuddy

Ouch. I really want to nip this one in the bud before it gets out of hand…

George Parker (who’s work and brutal honesty I admire a great deal) has written a rather fruity post about something that I wasn’t going to comment on.

Basically I got an unsolicited blogger outreach email last week regarding a new Tea Making site for Cravendale. I decided not to write about it for a number of reasons. But mainly because it’s a very similar idea to something that we did a few years ago (Teabuddy.com).

Then ‘someone’ sent me a link to the site with an ‘aren’t you pissed off’ kind of email. And I wasn’t massively. However, it is a bit strange when you get unsolicited email about something that so closely resembles a piece of work that you worked on.

Now somehow the story has blown up into this. It should be noted that all the words in the article are George’s own – and he’s not known for holding back…

It’s amazing how word spreads (and gets mutated) around these parts. I’m sure there’s nothing suspect going on at all, as we all know everything decent has already been done somewhere else, mostly. And when something sits this close to home it’s quite uncomfortable to hear people being called names and given a hard time on your behalf.

It feels a lot like someone’s heard a rumour I was being bullied at school, then they’ve gone round and punched some kid in the face really hard for looking at me the wrong way. I’m kind of grateful. But also kind of not.

In the sake of fairness and to show there’s no hard feelings round here, here’s another link to http://www.makethetea.com/, it’s actually a nice site. And is rooted in a really good idea.

Don’t Count Me (dot com)

dontcountme.com

Actually when it says pre-Alpha, I think it’s more like pre-vapourware, but this is an open call to all the inventors and brilliant people out there.

Will someone please invent a web-hit-deleter.

A few times recently (in fact twice today alone) I’ve visited a website and then wished I could retract my traffic figures from its logs. (Maybe I’m particularly grumpy today).

I don’t want to be a ‘unique user’. And I don’t want anyone to mistakenly attribute my stupidly hanging around to see if anything meaningful would happen as some kind of ‘dwell time’.

What I want is a ‘pretend I never came here button’.

Surely The Internet, as the all-measurable media, can afford me such a facility…?

I can’t stand the fact that I leave an unquestioning vapour-trail of ROI behind me. I want to choose which sites feel the benefit of my visits and more importantly which ones don’t.

I also want a feature where I can send on a link to people to tell them to go and look at a site, but put a sort of cloaking device around them so that they don’t add to the site’s ROI either. At the moment if I send a link round the office telling folk about a bad piece of work I know that I’m generating valuable unique users.

So here’s my offer.

If anyone wants to build such a thing they can have the domain name dontcountme.com for free, yes free. Totally free. I own it and to be honest I’m never going to use it.

I’ve got no idea how to build the thing that does what I want it to do, but I’ve had a few thoughts:

  1. It could either be a server installable thing that people choose to add to their sites in the name of fair play and honesty with their stats (like that’s going to happen!)
  2. It could be like an inverse Stumble Upon or Digg – where site owners can proudly display how many people didn’t dig their site ;-)
  3. More likely though it needs to be something that sort of exerts a subtle kind of pressure on site owners to look more honestly at their stats. And we all know we’re a little bit guilty of some subtle stats-manipulation from time to time…

It’s probably a stupid idea. But if someone wants to take it on as a project (even a novelty project) let me know and I’ll let you have the domain name (for free).

I know that what I’ve just written is a really stupid, elaborate, and long-winded way of saying that unique-users, hits and dwell times (especially in the day of the semi-infinite loading bar) are actually a load of old cobblers. But that domain is there for the taking ;-)

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.

10 Things I Learned from Mental Detox Week

If you’ve just arrived here from AdBusters you might also be interested in what I got up to this weekend – I did still use the Internet a little bit – but it’s primarily a bunch of offline stuff that I did started by an online thing… Might be useful if you’re thinking of turning off any time soon…

As some of you will know I took part in Adbusters’ Mental Detox Week last week. This meant I stopped doing screen and computer based stuff as much as possible. I was at work so there were obviously times when I had to check email and things. But I did manage to cut it right down to a bare minimum. Outside of work it was a total no computer, no TV, no iPod existence for me. Which is quite a big thing in my ordinary daily life.

A lot of people made comments about it being just like having a holiday. But I’m not sure it’s the same. On holiday your context is totally different and you’re not surrounded by other people who are doing interesting things with their bits of technology. Also I had to resist massive temptation in my pocket in the form of an iPhone.

I think I learned a few things. Most of them were obvious. A few of them were things that I could have guessed if I’d thought about it. But there were a few genuine surprises in there too. There’s even a few things that I might try and build into my behaviour going forward. Imagine that.

In no particular order with no prejudice towards the obvious or the interesting.

I’ve been scared of the telephone for a while. I feel more confident writing things down in emails. It gives me a chance to formulate my thoughts and arguments a little better. Phones always smack of having to think ‘in real time’ which gives me the fear.

But you know what. Phones are good. You can get things agreed in one conversation. Conversations on the phone can be finished in just minutes! The conversation goes back and forth really quickly and you can get to decisions much faster. Plus you don’t have to deal with any tyrannical cc’ing.

I’m going to keep using the phone for things and stop being scared of it.

Lots of people advocate only checking your email a few times a day. I’ve always thought it sounded like an OK principle. But I’ve become one of those people who hits ‘send and receive’ as often as is humanly possible. Just in case something amazing has arrived in the 38 seconds since I last had a peek. I’ve just realised if I did the same thing with real mail. I’d look like some kind of freakish obsessive-compulsive post lover.

Not much happens in your inbox in a few hours. A load of email might get dropped in there. But most of it’s nonsense and you don’t need to do anything with it anyway.

The other thing I realised is that by not sending lots of emails, you don’t get as many coming in. I realised that my email itch gets scratched by sending stuff as well as checking. I was trying to think of a handy analogy. The best I can come up with is that I’m trying to drink my way out of a sinking ship. But then having to wee on the deck.

Aaaaah. The iPod. My sweet sweet iPod. Insulating me against the noise and chaos of life.

On the train in the morning without an iPod all you can hear is the bloody overspill from other people’s iPods. if you don’t have headphones on you have to endure ‘Holding out for a hero’ blaring out of someone’s leaky headphones from 3 rows away. It’s like some kind of MP3 based arms race. Where defence and attack have become all muddled up.

I’ve always been considerate with my iPod volume. And now I’m doubly so. Also having some time not insulated from the sounds around you is good. Obviously.

I found that doing stuff with pens and paper was really different. It made me think about things in a different way. I’m sure lots of people have written lots of smart things about this. But there’s something really odd that I noticed.

Pen on paper felt like a step on a journey rather than the final ‘thing’. Which is really odd. The fact that something that’s made up of real stuff like ink and paper. Only really feels like a finished thought when it’s converted into bits and bytes and pixels on a screen. The electronic stuff is far less permanent, but somehow it feels more so.

What I learned: switch between computers and pens and papers to make your brain work differently on problems.

Without screens and their flickery content I went to bed and sleep when I was tired (which was about 10pm most nights). When you’re reading a book you notice when you get tired. You start re-reading lines and your eyes feel heavy.

With TV or computer screens I don’t get that so much. There’s something about the light and the flickering that keeps me awake. Or in the case of TV I can fall asleep in front of it in a different way. Sort of drifting in and out of sleep and being vaguely conscious that something is going on.

But perhaps the oddest thing was that I had very very vivid dreams for the first 3 nights. Really vivid and intense. I’m not certain there’s a scientific explanation. But I do remember reading something in a WhiteDot book about how TV can change your brain activity. And I wonder if the fact that my brain wasn’t processing hours of made-up junk but was instead still processing real-life things made me have bold dreams.

This was one of the most profound things for me. Hard to explain to other people though.

The web allows you to fractalise everything. I read a few different books. But instead of doing what I’d normally do and keep leaving the book to go and look something up. I made little notes and just kept on reading.

Normally I’d go and look something up and then find myself drawn into a world of related links and other stuff that looks interesting. Effectively leading me into some kind of infinite worm-hole of stuff. Most of which ends up being completely unrelated to where I started from.

Last week I finished books. Then I had a list of things to look-up. In a much more ordered fashion.

Computers do not help me focus. They help me find lots of other nice things. Or give me infinite distractions. Making sure I have the perfect soundtrack to the work I’m doing. Or changing the typeface in a document so it looks nicer while I’m typing it. Should I be viewing it at 125% or fit to page width. All stuff to fiddle with.

And there’s no end to any of it. Ever.

I thought that I might feel disconnected from people. But I didn’t.

I was still in contact with people. In fact oddly sometimes more connected by using the phone. And I think we’re all used to the fact that we can have gaps in speaking to people and when we go back to them they’ll still be OK with us.

But what happens when you leave ‘stuff’ for a while? Mostly it’ll still be there. But sometimes it won’t. I think mainly the fear was just that there would be too much stuff when I came back to it. I knew that I’d have to just ditch loads of unread RSS feeds. Which effectively meant that I’d missed out on all those things.

I just had to realise that it was OK to miss out on all that stuff. My life didn’t change in a bad way. Really. Or did it? Now I’m not sure. Maybe there was a blog post or a something that could have changed my life irreversibly.

The point is that there’s too much stuff and I have to learn to let it go. There’s stuff going on everywhere the whole time. Most of it I’ll never get to see. Even if it was all on the internet and all being fed into my brain I wouldn’t be able to cope.

I learned it’s OK to miss stuff.

I’m a victim of computers being at the centre of our lives.

Photos, music, writing, etc. It felt like almost all of the tools that I use to be creative had been taken away. I was going to go in the loft and play with vinyl records and stuff, then I realised that all of that stuff gets piped through my computer in order to record.

I learned that I should develop some analogue creative habits. Just in case the power goes out ;-)

I noticed that it’s easy to hide behind a computer. Shut down the laptop and you feel incredibly exposed in an open plan office. Aside from the people whose tools are entirely computer based (coders and designers) I noticed that a lot of the project managers, strategists, etc. seem to do the same as me. Computer on. Looks like you’re working. But if you actually look at peoples screens most of the time they’re doing things that look very much like other stuff.

Of course all the other stuff is important. But the computer is an amazing smoke-screen. As long as you’re typing away you look busy and like you’re doing something important.

Here’s my final thought:

Taking a week off seemed like a silly, reactionary thing to do. Like I was just proving a point. But I think the most important thing was to realise how easy it is to just reach for the laptop and get sucked into a different world. So setting some hard and fast rules was really useful. Rather than just saying, “oh I’ll use it a bit less” – which is almost impossible. The thing that’ll work for me is to set periods of time where it’s just not allowed.

So that’s it. I’m glad I did it. But I’m glad I’ve got all my toys back too.