Trial By Blog

Lending home pageAs I’ve mentioned before, we’re working with Zopa at the moment to do a redesign of their website. It’s a great company and a great project.

I was in a meeting last week when Dave from Zopa said “Oh, I’ve stuck some of the designs on the blog to see what people think“. My reactions were twofold and simultaneous:

  • Wow, that’s great. A client that’s so forward thinking they’re doing exactly the kind of thing we’d have asked them to do had we thought of it first. Brilliant.
  • Holy shit. What the crap are they doing! What if people don’t like the designs. That’s 8 weeks work down the toilet. Ohmygod what a catastrophe.

Suddenly I realised that all this so-called openness, honesty, transparency and dialogue is a whole different ballgame when there’s a big chunk of other people’s work at stake. This namby-pamby play-blogging I do is child’s play by comparison. I’ll never scoff at a client’s blog-fear again.

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Where I work is OK

Poke have just been rated the top Digital Agency in the UK by Revolution Magazine. Actually more importantly we weren’t rated by the magazine, but by clients (as reported in Revolution Magazine).

This is the second time in 2 years that we’ve won this award which is either great news (or proves that their scoring is fundamentally fucked). They basically ask clients what they think of agencies and ask them to score them on lots of different criteria. It’s nice to be recognised by clients rather than peers or ‘judges’. So I’m pretty happy today.

In our ‘School Report’ they’ve misspelled my name in rather an amusing fashion. No longer will I be known as Iain Tait, I’ll now be known as Ian Tart.

Oh well, people seem to think it suits me… I’m still happy.

It’s not mentioned on the: Revolution Web Site

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I Hate Viral(s)

I’ve grown to hate the term viral:

  • I hate the fact that it’s overused.
  • I hate the fact that it’s misused.
  • I hate the fact that ‘viral’ appears as a line on media plans.
  • I hate the fact that people now call them virals. With an (s) as if it’s a genre of film like westerns.
  • I hate the fact that clients can be fobbed off with “if we add a ‘send to a friend’ link to it, that’ll make it viral”. Not all of them. But watch out for it, you can spot it.

star wars kidA wise man (Rei Imamoto from AKQA in San Francisco if you must know) said in a meeting: “Viral is a consequence”. A truer 4 words have I rarely heard spoken.

Of course you can do things that might encourage people to talk about something. Or even send it on to someone else. Or blog about it. Or anything else that ‘spreads it’. But that’s just about making something that’s relevant. Something that I want to share because I love it. Something that ticks the right psychological boxes. It’s not about sex, or shock, or violence, or any other crass ‘too hot for tv’ tactic.

Make something entertaining (sure, it could be stupid, sexy, whatever…), something thought-provoking, something that makes someone’s day in a small way. Just make something good. Your audience are the ones who decide if it’s ‘viral or not’. They’re not dumb carriers of your disease. They’re willing participants in the distribution of your content.

Right, what got me started on this little rant? Oh, that’s it. I saw this: Viral Videos that Swept the Nation. And you know what. They’re right, these are viral videos. Videos that ordinary people have decided are great. I would talk about some of them. Others leave me cold.

But the interesting thing is that only 1 out of 8 of them has any (real) connection to a brand. (I’m not including Star Wars Kid as I don’t think Lucas would have signed that one off).

I’ve changed my mind. In the spirit of positivity I like viral. I like the notion of people sharing great things with each other. As long as we never forget that the audience are the ones who decide what is, or is not, viral. 

Web Dogma

It’s been a while since I’ve read Boxes and Arrows, it’s a very good collaborative blog about information architechture and related jiggery pokery. One thing caught my eye today:

Dogmas Are Meant to be Broken: An Interview with Eric Reiss

It’s a set of ‘rules’ for web design in the spirit of Lars Von Trier’s Dogma Manifesto.

My first thought was that it was going to be a load of luddite nonsense that would get in the way of innovation and advancement. But then I saw this and was encouraged:

The trick with doing a dogma for the web was to avoid the “rules syndrome” (For example, Links should be blue.) for best practices that were liable to change as technology changed. How do you do a set of rules or guidelines that would prove helpful despite the technological advances and would also be relevant as fashion changes?

Cool, I thought. Then I saw the manifesto and thought doublepluscool:

Web Dogma ‘06

  1. Anything that exists only to satisfy the internal politics of the site owner must be eliminated.
  2. Anything that exists only to satisfy the ego of the designer must be eliminated.
  3. Anything that is irrelevant within the context of the page must be eliminated.
  4. Any feature or technique that reduces the visitor’s ability to navigate freely must be reworked or eliminated.
  5. Any interactive object that forces the visitor to guess its meaning must be reworked or eliminated.
  6. No software, apart from the browser itself, must be required to get the site to work correctly.
  7. Content must be readable first, printable second, downloadable third.
  8. Usability must never be sacrificed for the sake of a style guide.
  9. No visitor must be forced to register or surrender personal data unless the site owner is unable to provide a service or complete a transaction without it.
  10. Break any of these rules sooner than do anything outright barbarous.

For a fuller explanation of each of the points visit: Dogmas Are Meant to be Broken: An Interview with Eric Reiss


nike plus

Wow. Nike and Apple have unleashed Nike+

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”

Interview With Me

If logoPiers asked me a few probing questions about Poke‘s Webby winners. I answered them as best I could. Hope it all makes sense. Seemed to at the time of writing.

Inspiration From IF! : Interview With Iain Tait, Poke

Teabuddy – Still on the Boil

teabuddy in the guardianTeabuddy.comPoke‘s solution to teamaking shirkers in the workplace, got a mention in Saturday’s Guardian Magazine. Looks like they’ve just lifted the quotes from an earlier Wired interview that Nik and I did. I still love the fact that Wired used this quote:

Trust the Brits to turn their obsession with drinking tea into a “turnkey b2b enterprise-level web-based tea management solution infrastructure.”

Interesting to see that something a couple of years old that hasn’t been updated for ages can get picked up again right now. I guess it’s all part of that old Long Tail thing.

Webby Awards

This year’s Webby Award winners have just been announced. And I’m chuffed to say that Poke have managed to bag a couple.

One for Talking Point for Orange, and a People’s Voice for Feed Me Better for Jamie Oliver.

I’m personally really happy that Talking Point got awarded as it’s a project that caused me a lot of sleepless nights, and involved a lot of tricky client meetings. [See original blog post here]. As a platform I think we could have done lots more with it, and maybe we still can. Nonetheless it’s nice to see it get commended in this way.

Great to see that the UK is well represented across the board.

Busy not blogging

I’m faced with a daily paradox at the moment: the busier I get (sometimes doing quite interesting stuff) the less time I find that I have to blog about it. I need to get better at putting aside a few minutes a day to keep the site up to date. Or maybe I need to consider a slightly new format for the blog where I can say more in less words? Here’s a few things I’ve done in the last 2 weeks of quiet blog time:

  1. Been working with Zopa. Professionally I’m working with Zopa which is one of the most interesting projects I’ve ever had the pleasure to work on. I’m finding it fascinating and incredibly taxing in equal measures. Taking a inherently simple proposition (which has very very complex underpinnings) and making it work from both a product and a communication point of view. It’s one of the first things I’ve done recently where our work touches so much of their business. If you’ve not heard of Zopa, go check it out.
  2. Been taking swimming lessons. I’ve never been a good swimmer, but always wanted to be better. I read about a method of teaching swimming that uses principles from the Alexander Technique, so I resolved that I’d find out more about The Art of Swimming using the Shaw Method. I did. I signed up, and I’m finding it absolutely amazing. I’ll talk more when I’m finished my lessons.
  3. Had a very interesting meeting with MySpace. I’ve talked a lot on here about MySpace, and I’m going to talk some more in the next day or two, but it was great to meet some people who are actually involved in the business. I still have some reservations about what they’re doing, but there’s undoubtedly some very interesting things we can all learn…
  4. Had a long weekend of going out to parties with old friends. Behaved like an idiot 10 years younger than I am (and had a great time). Feel like an old man now. Interesting to see how 24-hour licensing now means that you can essentially go clubbing around the clock in parts of London now, and people do, and they quite often look like a mess. I’ll say no more.

Anyone got any tips on how to stay blogging during times of stress and heavy workload?

NSPCC – Dream Auction

NSPCC Dream AuctionHere’s a little (in size) project Poke have done for the NSPCC. The NSPCC Dream Auction is aiming to raise a huge amount of money to help to end cruelty to children. There’s a number of ways to get involved, from a huge gala auction at the Royal Albert Hall (that I’m sure I won’t get an invite to), 1000s of eBay lots (which I’m sure I can bid on) through to the sale of rather fetching mobile phone lanyards.