Vines and thoughts on Vine

February 7, 2013

Per the BBC, ad agencies are getting a little obsessed with Vine – demonstrating professional amateurism in the creative and creating process. Here are some of the experiments I’ve created or been featured in:

Office decor has been a popular subject

Vine has been a good decompressor during meetings

Naturally, food has come under the microscope

I said goodbye to the Canadian penny

…and played with my kid’s toys

As with all new technologies, I can’t help but wonder if this is a fad that will rise up and then fade away. Given Vine is developed by the folks that brought you Twitter, I’m curious to see how this will play into its future product development and advertising plans. For now though, I’m enjoying playing with Vine and, more than that, enjoy looking at the world through a new lens – would that make an interesting six seconds? – which makes me feel more creative, rather than be a creative.

bitcoin – What Is It and Why Should You Care?

June 17, 2011

Over the last few months, I’ve been collecting and reading articles about bitcoins, a new virtual currency quite separate from any state reserve or central bank. It’s pretty interesting stuff and my New York colleague Jason Rockwood (Twitter | has written an excellent article on the subject of bitcoins, from which I’ve stolen the best bits (no pun intended).

First, what are bitcoins, from another Jason, Jason Calacanis:

Bitcoins are virtual coins in the form of a file that is stored on your device. [They] are created by a complex algorithm. Only 21M can be made by the year 2140. Your desktop bitcoin software can make bitcoins, but at this point the electricity and time it would take to produce a bitcoin is larger than the actual value of a bitcoin (your laptop might take five years to make one, and they currently trade at $6.70 per bitcoin. Bitcoin miners use super cheap GPUs (not CPUs) to create the coins, but as more people come online to make them, the algorithm adjusts so that one block can only be made every 10 minutes.

Highlights from Jason’s article:

Bitcoins are an emerging form of digital Peer-to-Peer currency that are attracting a lot of social commentary (think of  bitcoin as a digital wallet that allows you to send money to someone else over the internet without a third party involved).  The recent uptick in the value of bitcoin is stirring up many of the same arguments that were so hotly debated in the three-to-five years after the launch of Mosaic and Netscape.  The comments and coverage from blogs, news, and social networks run the gamut from dystopian (bitcoin is evil and will cause a collapse of the world’s financial system) to utopian (bitcoin is the dawn of a new era of P2P finance and freedom).  What makes these debates fascinating to a strategist is that having money involved has upped the ante, and tensions are running high.  The ability to gain or lose vast sums of money is amplifying the core considerations around social media; suddenly this isn’t just about a Klout score, it’s about becoming a network-era tycoon.  Looking at the debates around Bitcoin then can provide a good analogy for thinking about some core issues in social media. These debates matter because as public opinion crystalizes into law, the whole internet can be effected:

  • First, bitcoins demonstrate a collective [and almost fundamental] desire for economic and personal freedom.
  • Second, bitcoin is demonstrating the social dynamics around the successful adoption of emerging networks and systems. In the beginning, there is little awareness at all. Then the network is labeled fringe or for geeks only.  Once the benefits begin to become apparent, those using the network begin to evangelize heavily
  • Third, bitcoin provides yet more evidence that traditional institutions continue to be hammered by network technologies.  At first it was just telecommunication, then it was media and publishing, then marketing, and now finance.  Bitcoin is such a fascinating social topic not just because it’s a “new form of money” but because it represents a complete reworking of the financial system in a P2P model.

More reading:

Mathew Ingram at GigaOm – How bitcoin wants to make money even more virtual and Bitcoin currency may be the worst of both worlds

Mike Masnick at TechDirt – Can Bitcoin really succeed long term

Daily Tech on the first ever “run” on bitcoins

Ars Technica on a large bitcoin heist (via Parker, below)

Inside the Twitter Advertising Dashboard

May 12, 2011

As I mentioned before, we’re delving into the world of Twitter advertising and exploring the new dashboards available to us. Here’s a deck of screen caps and assorted information about the platform. For me, the three best features are:

  1. Followers dashboard – gives you an incredible look into your followers based on location, gender, interests and follows. Incredibly valuable as a planning and measurement tool.
  2. Enhanced timeline – provides notes on the number of clicks, unfollows and reach as well as editorialising on the relative values of each. i.e. what content did better or worse for you, based on your history.
  3. Verified user – something about that little blue tick smacks of validation.

The benefits of advertising have been tremendous for our clients – more clicks, more reach, more mentions and more followers. As with all new forms of advertising introduced into a relatively benign space, the quality of this increase has yet to be determined but it feels as if the benefits are just as if they happened organically. My other two caveats are that the usefulness of Twitter as a sales and branding vehicle is unproven and secondly that it takes quite an effort to start to scale, i.e. to reach the sort of inventory that makes purchasing promoted tweets worthwhile.

Tribal DDB Briefing: iPad – What it is and what it means to your digital strategy

April 9, 2010

The Tribal DDB team in New York has written up a great briefing on the iPad and what it means to your digital strategy:

View this document on Scribd

If your feedreader does not support SlideShare, please visit the Tribal DDB Scribd document directly and subscribe for more briefings.

Disclosure – Tribal DDB is my employer.

Edits: for a better user experience.

Google Sidewiki: Overview and Recommendations

October 26, 2009

Google has launched a new feature called "Google Sidewiki" which allows anyone using the Google Toolbar in their browser to leave comments about pages as they surf the web. Love something you’re reading? Hate it? You can share your views with others who visit the page and who also have Sidewiki enabled.

Sidewiki now exists on nine pharmaceutical company’s home pages and it’s only a matter of time before an entry is created for your organization or client.  To date, no company has made their own entry on the Sidewiki or moved to correct misinformation while sidewiki’s have also begun to appear on some medical product home pages.

Here’s Google’s take on Sidewiki.

Monitoring emerging channels such as this are going to be more and more important – especially for highly regulated industries – if they are tied as closely to the corporate Web site as Google’s Sidewiki is… For one of those highly regulated industries, i.e. the pharmaceutical industry, monitoring doesn’t need to mean onerous adverse event reporting – one of my colleagues has developed an overview of a study which clearly outlines, in practical terms, what social media monitoring means to corporate communicators within the pharma space. (contact me for a copy of this)

So what should you do?

Now you know all about it, but what can you do about it? Former colleague Tom Barnes shared these great tips on Twitter:

  1. For the love of all things holy: Get there first
  2. Welcome constructive comments in sidewiki itself
  3. Monitor continually
  4. Report every abuse
  5. Follow traditional crisis management fundamentals. Plan messaging in advance

All great examples and ones that I would recommend you follow for either your brand or clients.

So what does this actually look like in brass tacks? Well, while you should never use yourself or your peers as a case study, I like what Dave Jones has done on his blog, despite not loving Sidewiki itself.

Dave Jone Sidewiki

The copy says:

Hi, there. You’ve clearly made your way to my blog and also found the Google Sidewiki. I’m not a huge fan of this feature as it takes away from the public dialogue I welcome in my blog comments. But if you must use it, I hope you’ll take a look at my Blog Policy first.

The policy explains what’s acceptable and not acceptable on my blog. I can’t control what you write on the Sidewiki, but I’m hopeful that you’ll follow the spirit of my comment policy.

I hope you find some interesting stuff on my blog. If it makes you think, makes you angry or makes you want to say something to me or the other readers, then feel free to post something in the comments on the post or on Twitter. That’s still the best way to get in touch.

Dave (@doctorjones)

A nice way to welcome people to the Sidewiki and to lay out some rules of engagement. By getting there first, you at least have the chance to direct the conversation, even if you can never own it. (I’ve done something similar on my blog – you just need Sidewiki to see it)

Shorting Twitter – Again

April 28, 2009

Just one more reason why I am short on Twitter.

Mediaweek (via Mathew Ingramblog | twitter) reports on Nielsen research that found the microblogging platform has a retention rate of just 40 per cent. Admittedly, this is a 33 per cent improvement on previous year’s 30 per cent retention rate but still…

This tells me that while Twitter can pass the “what” and “so what” questions from users, mostly based on the overly evangelical zeal in its proponent’s eyes, it fails to answer the “now what” question.

Users are happy to sign up to the belle du jour but can’t work out what to do with their new account – despite the service adding “suggested users to follow” and conversation trends (on As Mediaweek goes on to say:

Of course, it’s early in Twitter’s development, and the average Web user may simply need more time to understand its benefits and change their behavior.

However, Facebook and MySpace’s retention rates were far higher in this period of their lifecycle but they are both feature rich platforms. Could it be that Twitter’s simplicity is both its attraction and its downfall?

To remind readers, I am yet to be convinced that Twitter will prove a long-term technology that will cross-over into the mainstream marketing mix like, for instance, email has.


Nick Carr has predictions on what this means for Twitter’s growth pattern. Interesting to note that the current churn rate will limit Twitter’s growth to 10 per cent per annum – and eventually it will run out of new users to replace the lost ones.

The Financial Times also covers this, referencing that Facebook’s “robust retention rates” means it “has little to fear from the flurry of interest in Twitter.”

eMarketer has details of Twitter’s remarkable growth and some nice graphs for client presentations. However, it’s frustrating that no total user numbers or demographic data is being released for marketers. Although as the site carries no advertising, apart from to related services and companies built on its API, this is unsurprising.


Nielson re-ran its research to take into account the (impressive) volume of use that is off-platform, on third party apps and the like and came up with the same conclusion.

The Gartner Hype Cycle: What Consultants and Agencies Need to Know

February 15, 2009

The technology research firm, Gartner, has a methodology for analyzing the practical applications and adoption rate of new and emerging technologies.

This “hype cycle”, below, was  coined in 1995 and is based in part on the work of economist Carlota Perez. The hype cycle has been used to illustrate the initial over enthusiasm and subsequent disappointment that typically occurs along with a new technology.

Gartner itself provides the following guidance on the use and understanding of the hype cycle:

1. “Technology Trigger”
The first phase of a Hype Cycle is the “technology trigger” or breakthrough, product launch or other event that generates significant press and interest.

2. “Peak of Inflated Expectations”
In the next phase, a frenzy of publicity typically generates over-enthusiasm and unrealistic expectations. There may be some successful applications of a technology, but there are typically more failures.

3. “Trough of Disillusionment”
Technologies enter the “trough of disillusionment” because they fail to meet expectations and quickly become unfashionable. Consequently, the press usually abandons the topic and the technology.

4. “Slope of Enlightenment”
Although the press may have stopped covering the technology, some businesses continue through the “slope of enlightenment” and experiment to understand the benefits and practical application of the technology.

5. “Plateau of Productivity”
A technology reaches the “plateau of productivity” as the benefits of it become widely demonstrated and accepted. The technology becomes increasingly stable and evolves in second and third generations. The final height of the plateau varies according to whether the technology is broadly applicable or benefits only a niche market.

I was first introduced to the hype cycle when working with Gartner on various technology clients while at GolinHarris in London. To be honest, I kind of forgot about it before being reminded of it last week. Hence this blog post.

For me, it provides an excellent way to demonstrate the valuable role an external consultant can play when advising on new technologies, as well as provide a cautionary tale of when consultants get a little…over zealous about certain technologies.

Always be one step ahead

Let’s take a technology that everyone is talking about: Twitter. Twitter is definitely a technology that is on the upward slope and nearing the “peak of inflated expectations”. Many consumers and clients are just being introduced to it’s time sapping tendencies and are justifiably looking to exploit the large and growing user group. If you are an online communications consultant, you should already be ahead of the curve – but how much? The diagram below shows my perception but, like all the diagrams, isn’t based on any empirical evidence or quantitative data. That many consultants are ahead of the curve and will start their journey down into the trough of disillusionment. However, consultants who look to add value will already be deep in that trough and looking to temper their clients’ enthusiasm with a critical and analytical eye:


The whole Web 2.0 movement is very similar. While the shine is coming off Web 2.0 for many clients, who are, frankly, kind of sick about hearing about it as the answer to all their ills, value added consultants are already thinking of ways to properly integrate social systems and technologies into existing marketing strategies.


For me, for all the talk about blogging having died, blogging is one of the few technologies to have come down into the trough of disillusionment (many technologies do not have a full life/hype cycle) and is making its way up the slope of enlightenment, into the plateau of productivity. However, many consultants are stuck in the trough of disillusionment and are moving onto other, sexier, technologies – see above: Twitter.


A cautionary tale

For me, the problem with so many new technologies, comes when consultants are a certain distance ahead of their clients when it comes to making recommendations. Take Second Life which was always going to be a niche within the social media/technologies movement. Some people heard about it, tried it, loved it and wouldn’t stop pushing it on anyone who would listen. I remember breathless podcasts and deeply impassioned blog posts about how Second Life and virtual worlds would change communication forever. Then, when some clients started to hear about it, when they received their technology trigger, their consultants were right at the apex of the peak of inflated expectations. And that is when you see organizations spend, and waste, a huge amount of dollars to experiment, and fail, in the space.


While excitement over Second Life and other virtual worlds may, in the end be justified, in this case it was a case of too much too soon from over eager Web 2.0 consultants and talking heads.

Key Takeaways

The key takeaway is that, as an external or internal consultant, you should always position yourself on the slope of enlightenment, but to realise where your client is at on the hype cycle and use that information to add value to the process. If they are at the peak of inflated expectations, balance that off by being between the trough of disillusionment and the slope of enlightenment. If they are in the trough of disillusionment, be nearing the plateau of productivity – providing the technology actually has a full life cycle. There may be a reason why your clients are in the trough!

Finally, when it comes to evaluating new or emerging technologies, always use the approach recommended by Forrester, another competing technology research company:



I am not even close to being proficient with PhotoShop so I had to create these images using PowerPoint. You can view the slides on my new SlideShare account.

Just to reiterate, these graphs and the positions I’ve plotted on them are not based on any sort of data. I have literally pulled the positions out of thin air (you may think somewhere else) based on my own perspective.

Disagree? Please tell me why in the comments!

Sweating Bullets | Or two new Social Media News Releases

August 2, 2007
  • New New Media News Release

As an avid footballer (I play about three times a week in the summer) and competitive so-and-so, I’m always looking for new ways to gain an unfair advantage.

As a result, I was pumped to be involved in the development of this new/social media news release on behalf of Gatorade and the Gatorade Sports Science Institute.

Here’s the gist of the release:

In advance of the 2006/07 NHL hockey season, Anaheim Ducks goalie Jean Sebastien Giguere was in search of a solution to combat the dizziness, cramping and fatigue he felt following games. After seeing a television commercial about triathlete, Chris Legh who collapsed due to dehydration 50 metres before the finish line, Giguere’s search led him to the Chicago-based Gatorade Sports Science Institute (GSSI). At the GSSI, Giguere participated in rigorous sweat test and hydration analysis, helping him overcome dehydration and perform a Stanley Cup winning season.

For the full release:

Basically: remember to replace your fluids lost when playing sport in the summer’s 30 degree plus weather, but also remember to replace the nutrients lost in your sweat.

  • Social Media News Release development at iStudio

At iStudio, one of the biggest obstacles we’ve been having with the SMNR has been the enabling of comments and trackbacks – more specifically, how to provide a database to store this data in a way that is cheap and easy to install on a client’s server.

This time round, instead of building them ourselves, we decided to use some third party software and a cheeky little work-around.

For comments, we signed-up for a premium Haloscan account; for video, we used YouTube‘s fabulous “embedd” functionality and for trackbacks we set up a Technorati account for the page and linked to the “blog reactions” portion of the account.

Check out how we did for FH client, Yahoo! Canada, for The Kick, their football (or soccer for the uncivilized) Web site –

Yahoo! Canada and Canadian Soccer Association launch The Kick, Canada’s first comprehensive online soccer community

  • More on the Social Media News Release

iStudio VP, Brandy Fleming, has more on the iStudio Blog: Ideas and Insights.

As an aside, I know that some people are pumped to have the major newswires on-board with enabling multimedia releases such as this, but surely one of the points of the Social Media News Release is to attract both the conversation and an amount of Google juice to the client’s site?

Hacking a Nike+ipod system

August 1, 2007

The Nike+iPod idea is awesome. Stick an acceleromter with a basic transmitter onto a runner’s shoe and get it to transmit to a dual purpose MP3 player that records and tracks the data.

Sweet. I’ve wanted one since it came out.

But, I don’t want to change from the Asics Kayanos that my overpronating gait demands, and I don’t have the dough to downgrade from my 20gb iPod and buy a new iPod nano…

So…I know there are many work-arounds to not have to buy the Nike shoes, but is there a way to connect the duberry-whatsit that normally goes into the Nano, into the 20gb and make the software work?

Quick iPhone related thought

July 4, 2007

Reports that Apple sold more than 700,000 iPhones since last week are being dammed with slight praise. While most analysts published reports predicting sales in excess of 400,000, the rumour now is that some analysts actually expected sales to surpass 1,000,000 units.

With the iPhone working off of a 55 per cent profit margin, this comes out very nicely to a $230m profit for Apple (based on the $600 version and before associated costs).

Pretty sweet for Apple, but still some way to go before it hits the predicted 10m unit barrier – which, incidentally would mean some $3.3bn in profit (again, based on the $600 version and before associated costs).

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