All Comments Are Not Created Equal

sweary

Sometimes blog posts just write themselves.

Today I got two comments that obviously resulted from smart, online-aware people seeing what’s been written about a topic on the web. One of them is fantastic. The other one terrible.

The fantastic one is from Shlom at Boomkat – he picked up on my post about Boomkat’s new 14 tracks offering. He thanked me for the post and replied to some criticism in the comments. His reply is perfect in every way. It even manages to slip in some salesy stuff about how they’ve now got bulk pricing. But I don’t begrudge him that in the slightest. It’s in direct reference to one of my points. Read his comment here.

The bad one is in response to my post about Mental Detox. Alberto writes about how a certain detox place in Thailand is excellent, and how it helped him give up smoking. It also says:

Thank you for all the detox info, it is inspiring

Which is nice. But it’s horribly clear (to me) that he’s just done a search on detox and gone and spammed a bunch of blogs – you can see that’s the case by the fact that the comment has just been replicated in its entirety here.

That’s naughty. Alberto shame on you.

Shlom, nice to have you here, thanks for popping by.

Love’s Powerpoint Website

love

I’m gutted. But impressed. And glad.

Love have made their new website in Powerpoint: http://www.lovecreative.com/

I’m gutted because I’ve been whanging on about doing a website in PowerPoint for the last couple of years. But impressed because I couldn’t figure out how to do it, or to be arsed with the task of actually getting it done. And I’m glad it’s the Love guys who did it, because i like them.

I’m especially loving their use of the standard PPT sound effects. Brilliant.

And thanks to Jono for posting a comment about the site, nice one.

EDIT: By the way I’m not saying that I think it’s a good way to build a site, or even that I like the site as it is, I think it’s an intereresting thing though making a site in Powerpoint – it gives it talkability even if you don’t like it…

What Advertising Can Learn From Radiohead

I wasn’t going to blog about the House of Cards video and it’s brilliant integration with Google and the geekosphere. I wasn’t going to blog it because everyone else has. It is bloody brilliant though. Yet another example of how Radiohead really understand the importance of context.

So I wasn’t going to post it, then I realised it’s a golden opportunity for me to share a presentation I did at the Online Marketing and Media Show last month. I got invited by NMA to talk on a Creative Directors Showcase thingy. Me, Flo from Dare, Sam from Lean Mean Fighting Machine and Dom from Glue all got to chat about things we’ve seen recently that we like. The other guys all did a great job and showed us lots of cool online / mobile advertising things.

Instead of doing it on something that I liked, I chose to do 5 minutes on Radiohead ;-)

Basically it’s all about how I don’t like Radiohead, but how, through being interesting and innovative, they’ve made me like the ‘idea’ of Radiohead. Imagine if normal brands could do that. Make you care about products you don’t even like that much. I reckon there’s stuff we can learn from the ‘head.

I tried to format it for online video as best as I could (I added some extra words so it can be followed without me speaking, and I put some music in it to stop it feeling too silent) – but I’m not good enough at that kind of thing to make all the timings quite right, so please forgive any bits that feel too slow or too fast.

I hope no-one minds that I used their footage in there. I specifically use the examples of:

I’ve just noticed that Radiohead are a bit shit at search engine optimisiation though. With page titles like this:

RA DIOHEA_D / HOU SE OF_C ARDS – Google Code

How is anyone supposed to find them. Like anyone will look for all those spaces and underscores ;-)

Admission: I really posted this because I had an odd experience in the pub on Tuesday night, a bloke approached me and asked if I’d done a presentation on Radiohead. He’d seem me do it. Live. I felt almost famous. For a second.

O2 Bad Web Page

The new O2, we’re out of stock of the 3G iPhone, page is bad. For a number of reasons. The whole upgrade/ordering thing was a farce, but more on that elsewhere

But worst of all is the padlock in the top right hand corner.

In my book a padlock on web pages means something. Normally that the page is secure. The page in question, is not secure:

A big company like O2 should know better than to mess about with the sanctity of the padlock.

Webbys 2008

Just got back from the Webbys in New York. We were over there to pick up a People’s Voice for the Orange Never Ending Web Page. There’s evidently no photo of me picking up our Webby, so here’s a picture of Richard from Moo picking up their Webby instead, well done Moo chaps.

It was all really well put together and a lot of fun. Perhaps a little too much fun and there might have been too many refreshments on offer. But anyway.

I had a much better time than I normally do at that kind of thing. I think it’s because everyone was well, webby. So being the geek that I am I could easily get to common ground with folk about stuff I found at least a tiny bit interesting.

So sorry for not blogging. Got into a bit of a spiral of working. Partying. Sleeping. Hanging Over. Eating. And back to working again. And so the circle of (the last week of) life goes.

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 ;-)

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.