Tag Archives: Web Stuff

4×4 Meme: More About Me

I got tagged by blackbeltjones with the 4×4 meme. So I rolled over and became a part of it. Plus it gives me a chance for some totally self-absorbed and pointless blogging.

It looks like this meme has mutated a bit over time, but I’m going to continue on the branch handed to me by Mr Jones…

So here’s my 4 answers to each of 4 questions:


4 Jobs I’ve had

Work Experience – Some random solicitors firm in Burton on Trent. At the time I really wanted to be a lawyer. I also wanted to drive a Porsche and go skiing. Basically that was my teenage rebellion. It’s what happens when your parents come from the hippy side of the fence. I’m sure they’d have been fine catching me with a cheeky spliff – but a filofax. I knew that’d horrify them.

Boots, Sound and Vision – Burton-on-Trent – When I was 17-18 I worked in Boots. They had a rather natty Sound and Vision department that sold tapes, records, computer games (on cassette), compact film cameras and midi-hifi systems (sad to think that of all those things that only really records exist any more). I was good at selling that stuff.

Principles for Men – Edinburgh. While I was a student I used to do a couple of weekday shifts and a weekend in the basement of the store on Princes Street. During the week the most regular customers were smackhead shoplifters. Their target was generally reversible blouson jackets – they’d realised that they’re great for avoiding detection. If security guards are looking for guys in lemon yellow jackets, they can flip them and be just an innocent guy in a baby blue one.

WWAV Rapp Collins – Edinburgh. My first proper job (after freelancing doing web stuff for the Edinburgh Science Festival) was at a DM agency. The creatives were on a separate floor and used to go and drink shedloads at lunchtime. I was friends with some of them and tried to keep up a few times, it was not good. For the job interview they warned candidates they were going to be asked to demonstrate their Excel skills. So I got the Excel manual and went straight to the back. I learned some bonkers, useless macro skills. They’d never seen anything like it before and I got the job. I never used those skills again. After a few months I went to the MD and suggested that we should look at the Internet as a thing for doing marketing stuff – it was suggested that this was not a good idea. I left soon after.


Four TV Shows I DVR (or shows I would record on DVR if I had a DVR)

(When trying to write this I realised just how little ‘serious’ TV I watch).

Weeds – if you’ve not seen it you should. It’s incredibly dark and incredibly funny. A suburban housewife starts growing weed in order to keep her dysfunctional family together. I still chuckle when I think about the young son’s gangster rap, and any show that makes gags about the Prius being the perfect drive-by car shows a certain degree of skill. Oh and there’s a very odd cameo by Snoop Dogg in series 3. And they have a thing where someone different sings the theme song every episode – and they’re all really cool Weeds is cool.

South Park – I should have grown out of it years ago. But it’s still the satire I enjoy the most. Who else could so eloquently illustrate democracy as making the choice between a douchebag and a shit sandwich and claim that that’s how it’s been throughout history.

Peep Show – nothing makes me laugh like Peep Show. It takes the classic sit-com format and bends it into a dark, painful and twisted voyage inside the brain of modern man.

Heroes – it’s a little cheesy. But it’s really really good. Sophie and I have only just managed to get rid of our sofa-sores after our marathon 23 episode feast over a rainy bank-holiday weekend last year. We’ve not started on Season 3 yet…


Four places I’ve been:

Hamm, Germany. My grandparents used to live there. I remember going there on the coach on my own when I was 13/14. I stayed with my pen pal Aldrik (arranged by my grandma). It was all very pen-pally. On the return trip Aldrik brought me a 12″ maxi single of the Pet Shop Boys. Which was nice.

Koh Pang Ngan, Thailand – I’ve been there a couple of times. I’ve never actually been to one of the legendary full moon parties (probably a good thing). I have however been to an odd detox resort which involved daily enemas and drinking vegetable water. Which was nice.

Northern Italy, Near Merano – An odd bit of Italy where most people speak German. We went there for a summer holiday and it was great. The cable cars take you up the hills and you can walk down. Only downside is being woken up in the morning by the clack-clack-clack of geriatric walkers with their ski-pole-like walking sticks. But they make lovely wine, the air is the freshest I’ve ever breathed and the scenery is stunning. Which was nice.

Las Vegas – I only mention Las Vegas because I think it’s ruined my perceptions of going to lots of places in the world. I noticed it when I was in India. Bits of India didn’t feel quite right to me, and I realised that the reason was that I’d been there already. Well I’d been to the Vegas facsimilie anyway. And the Vegas version was bigger and brighter. So very very wrong.


Four music artists I’m listening to now:

Basic Channel – awesome minimal tech-space-dub. Most of their catalogue was realeased in 1993-1995 and only ever on vinyl – but it’s all just had it’s first digital release through Beatport. I bought the lot. And I can’t stop listening to them. Their releases as Rhythm & Sound are a bit more Reggae influenced but equally storming.

PoleResident Advisor Podcast. Kind of part of the same scene as Basic Channel. This podcast just popped up as I felt ready to go deeper into the dub vortex. The mix fuses reggae, dubstep and minimal sounds into something rather wonderful. The RA podcast is one of the most consistently excellent podcasts I’ve come across (if you like electronic-y stuff). His albums 1, 2, 3, R and Steingarten are all worth a listen.

Justus Kohncke – This chap has been releasing awesome tracks on the awesome Kompakt records for a while now. Pick up hisnew album Safe and Sound to get a good opener. It’s kind of techno-pop-disco. But it’s very light on cheese. I’m jealous that Boomkat managed to end their review of the album with: Justus is served.

Aidan John Moffat – he used to be part of Arab Strap with Malcolm Middleton whose recent albums I like too. But his most recent album I Can Hear Your Heart is a bunch of spoken word poems over the top of audio soundscapes with bits and pieces of music woven through it. His poems are really filthy and most of them involve some kind of sexual encounter. This review explains how I feel about it:

His words, no matter how filthy, are delivered in such a manner that can’t but touch the seedier parts of your heart, and often make you smile. Maybe that’s just my sense of humour, but tales of city life, honesty, misguided love, cheating and general ‘wrongness’ have never been so comforting.

Stories of urban oddness make for a a really strange soundtrack to a commute :-)


Having completed that monster post I am now the meme-master. I tag:

Faris – because I miss the little fellah with the big hair.
Russell – because he was moaning about not getting meme’d anymore (you’ll wish you’d never said that).
Adam – because I’m working with him at the moment and I feel I should know more about him.
My Mum – because she’s got blogs (plural) and I don’t think she’s been meme’d before and it’s about time she posted some new things ;-)

The 7 Deadly Sins of Digital

There’s a bunch of things that people who are just getting into digital always seem to propose at some point or another. I guess they’re things that are part of the learning process. Things that a lot of us have done, and hopefully learned from. I’m not suggesting that anyone is stupid for doing any of these things (I’ve done the majority of them at least once). But I’m hopefully going to explain why they’re not good ideas in most cases.

Of course they’re not deadly. And like all ‘rules’ there’s good reasons to break them. But in most instances these things are not good. I’ve left out the new ‘trendy’ things like Google Earth, SecondLife, UGC, etc. I’m saving those for 7 deadly sins of digital 2.0.

In no particular order…


tamagotchi

Tamagotchis

They say: “A game where you have to feed this little character to keep them alive, and you give them stuff, and they do stuff”

You say: “You want to create something based on an obsolete early 90s toy that wasn’t actually any fun? And you’re expecting people who don’t give a toss about your brand of fake-cheese-based snacks to go though a bunch of meaningless interactions for no real reward why?”

Why it seems like a good idea: prolonged engagement, a ‘relationship’, the original tamagotchis had a certain amount of Jap-cool

Why it’s not a good idea: they weren’t actually fun then, they’re still not now, if you’ve created one in the past you’ll find that the involvement rate drops off faster than a D’angostini subscription after issue one’s free binder. And it’s been done lots of times before.


screensaver

Screensavers

They say: “Let’s make a screensaver”

You say: “When was the last time you installed a screensaver? When was the last time you saw a screensaver on someone’s screen?”

Why it seems like a good idea: screensavers were kind of fascinating when we were younger, at the time they were much richer and more visual than most of the web stuff that was around. They were animated, they had flying windows, zooming starfields, even scrolling text! They’re full screen (so they look a bit like a TV). And the idea of something that’s sitting there in the background, hiding, ready to jump up and surprise you when you’re being lazy has some kind of appeal I reckon.

Why it’s not a good idea: screensavers are a product of a byegone era, people don’t like installing stuff, the only time they actually come to life is when you’re not there. And they’re kind of a beacon that says my computer should be off or at least asleep to save power, but I’d rather show off some fancy graphical nonsense.


desktop

Interfaces that look like the tops of desks or tables

They say: “We could make it look like the character’s desk, you can click on a file to read it, if you click on the answering machine you can hear a message… And so on…”

You say: “Oh FFS we can bend space and time and create things that redefine the way that the world works, but you want to use a clumsy metaphor that people are going to have to decompile in order to figure out how to get to a bit of information that in some rare case they might actually want. And it’s not extensible. And besides how many people watch youtube videos of their own adverts in the residue at the bottom of a coffee cup? And it’s not accessible… And so on…”

Why it seems like a good idea: its safe and familiar. Everyone understands atoms and physical things. Lots of people don’t understand navigation, menu structures and information architecture. So it’s easier to ignore them and cling to something comfortable and comforting, like a messy desk.

Why it’s a bad idea: Aside from the stuff above it just is, trust me. Perhaps this imagined conversation between me and Ridley Scott makes it clearer:

Me: Hi Ridley, please will you direct a commercial for me, it’s basically a 60 second spot and it goes like this. We open on the first page of a book. There are words on the page, we need to wait for people to read the words. Then a hand turns the page and we move to scene two. It’s the second page of the book.
Ridley: Silence
Me: It looks like an aged book, there are coffee ring stains on page two.
Ridley: Silence
Me: You still there?


paperclip

Desktop assistants / characters

They say: “You know the Microsoft paperclip, can we…”

You say: “Stop right there sonny, don’t say another word! Nobody likes the paperclip. The only good thing that ever happened to the paperclip was death. Even Bill Gates hates the paperclip.”

Why it seems like a good idea: being helpful is good. Stepping outside of a web-page and having some form of permanence and ongoing relationship makes sense.

Why it’s a bad idea: people don’t like installing things, they want things on their terms, it’s been done a lot and failed a lot no matter what the sales guys for DeskBuddy(tm) tell you.


virus

A virus

They say: “Could we create an actual virus that spreads our message”

You say: “Why not do it in the real world instead – why not just make a branded version of HIV, there’s more people in the offline world that you can infect”

Why it seems like a good idea: massive unstoppable spread of your message.

Why it’s a bad idea: viruses are not a toy, they are really not good, you don’t want your brand to be associated with not good things, unless you work for evilcorp.


viral

A ‘viral’

They say: “We’ve made this film, can you make it a viral”

You say: “I’m just going outside to suck on an exhaust pipe for 30 minutes – if I make it back I’ll stick it on YouTube for you”

Why it seems like a good idea: we’ve all seen ‘viral’ hits, they’re things that everyone has watched, that have been passed around, loved and genuinely become part of the culture of the web. We’ve not all seen the ‘viral’ wasteland, the thousands of clips that sit gathering dust at the bottom of the ‘exploding heads’ category on YouTube. And because most of us only see the good stuff that works we assume it’s easy.

Why it’s a bad idea: because it’s not easy. Now that ‘viral’ has become a dirty nasty industry full of paid for placements and seeding bungs you need to plan for it from the word go. It’s mostly not really about things being viral at all, it’s just about dark media buying.


?

Starting a list of seven things and not counting how many you’ve got.

I’m going to open this one up for submissions, anyone got any ideas for the 7th deadly sin? Best suggestion wins a book from my library. Seriously I’ll send a good book to you if you come up with the best suggestion – plus happy to replace any of my ones that are rubbish…

Agency.com ‘viral’ pitch video

OK, I’m going to give credit where it’s due: hats off to Agency.com for nailing their colours to the mast (in a very public way) and for using web stuff to talk about web stuff. Credit over.

Maybe it’s just a cultural thing. But this video really hurts me. I’m not quite sure why, I think it’s just because it feels really staged and makes people who work at online agencies look like a bunch of chumps. As I was watching it, the voiceover felt like it could, at any minute, morph into moments from ‘The Truth About Advertising‘ (version 2.0). Videos of the inside of agencies always end up being self-referential to the point of embarassment (at least the ones I’ve seen do). This is no exception.

And, furthermore…

What are Subway supposed to do? Give their feedback via YouTube? If that happened I’d forgive the whole thing and give everyone a massive pat on the back (almost).

Whether Agency.com win or lose the pitch, the result will be public, and scrutinised. Which is the bit I gave them credit for earlier.

But this whole thing leaves me with loads of questions:

  • Now they’ve put their clip out there are they getting behind the monster they’ve created?
  • In a way that demonstrates that they get the world of web 2.0?
  • Or is it just a cheap gimmick?
  • And most importantly: if something gets passed around because people dislike it, does that mean that it’s still viral? I’m guessing it does…?

YouTube – Going to Work for SUBWAY: Part 1

By the way, I think Agency.com do some really good work. For me this just isn’t, at all. But I’ll be interested to see if there’s a different set of reactions to it from other parts of the world. Or other industries.

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