Wednesday, February 24, 2010

It's all about earning points

This is a brilliant presentation by Jesse Schell, game designer and futurologist from DICE 2010.

It starts with a quick explanation of everything you need to know about social games like Club Penguin and Farmville, but then goes on to cover future technologies and opportunities, with implications for education and society.

It lasts 30 minutes, but he's a brilliant presenter. Watch it!

Or, if you don't have time to watch it all, here's a summary:

"First 10 minutes: a brief explanation of the psychology behind casual games of the farmville, webkins, mafia wars variety.

Then five minutes of a sort of strange digression about reality TV and organic groceries and authenticity, which to be honest I'm not really following what point he's trying to make here.

Then another digression about convergence and divergence in technology (technology diverges, except for things that fit in your pocket, like the iphone and the swiss army knife.)

At about 20 minutes he starts to get to the point: he's talking about applying these same psychological tricks to non-game situations: he namechecks fantasy football, geocaching, crowdsourcing games, weightwatchers point system, the"virtual plant" that shows up on your hybrid car's dashboard as existing examples.

After that he's describing near-future life as an MMO: points for brushing your teeth, doing your homework, eating your cornflakes. Gain levels for riding the bus instead of driving. Net-integrated sensors in every device to keep track of your score and upload them to Facebook or wherever. Tax incentives if you get a good enough score on your kid's report card or read the right books.

Basically he's describing an ubicomp panopticon, dressed up in a casual MMO point system"

(Privacy campaigners might have a few issues though)

Via GigaOM

Friday, February 19, 2010

Curzon Midnight Movies

Curzon Midnight Movies is the latest initiative to create collective events for cult film fans in the UK.

It's kind of an attempt to recreate what happens in the US in places like the Alamo Drafthouse and the New Beverly (which Quentin Tarantino now owns).

Yes, we have the NFT on the South Bank, but it always feels a bit frusty and severe.

Curzon Midnight Movies take place once a month at the Curzon in Soho. This month (tonight) they've invited Edgar Wright to screen one of his favourites, Deathwish 3. Check out the specially commissioned retro poster above. It's the sort of film that would go down well at the Alamo! Join the fan page on Facebook for more information (1,800 members)

It's sponsored by Jameson, who also do their own film nights. The next one is a showing of Moon at the Royal Institution on 17th of March.

Both excellent initiatives. Just as the iPod was reckoned by some to have increased the audience for live music by making people want to experience the music collectively too, I'm sure lots of people who love to collect DVDs would like to see some of the classics on the big screen as well.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Coca Cola at the Olympics - 2006 vs. 2010

How have things changed in digital media in the past 4 years?

Why not compare what Coca Cola did for the 2006 Olympics in Turin with what they're doing now for the Olympics in Vancouver?

In 2006, the main site was this microsite, which is still live. They took 6 bloggers to Turin, and had them blog about their experiences. Visitors could interteract, but it was really all about what the bloggers thought. Innovative for the time.

In 2010 they've channelled all global activity into MyCoke - in effect their Olympic coverage has taken over the main site, rather than have a separate location.

They then have a special 'Olympic' section within it (ok, a microsite), but it's not specific to Vancouver, so can be reused for an Olympic activity.

It includes clips, the 'Six Pack' of American athletes (Coke clearly like the number 6), games, Olympic themed Rewards, and, in a tie up with NBC, a widget (here embedded into my blog) and a mobile widget.

I think that this shows how much more complex and rich the web has become in the last 4 years. It's more real time, has more video, involves more sponsored content and partnerships, and has a mobile element.

But most importantly, it's not a separate initiative. It's a continuation of what they're doing, both in the real world, and in other media.

NBC Olympics Widget

Exclusive Winter Olympics news & widgets at NBC!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Please Rob Me

Highlighting the problems with people broadcasting their location to all and sundry on Foursquare and similar, and then automatically linking it to twitter. It's essentially a feed from twitter listing all Foursquare checkins.

(I am writing this from my desk at home, with my pack of Staffies growling in the background)

Update - the serious side of this issue is well illustrating in this article, claiming that social media users may soon see a hike in their insurance premiums...

Darren Black, head, home insurance,, says the growth of location-based social networking is likely to have an impact on premiums, with hikes of up to 10% for users.
"Criminals are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their information gathering even using Google earth and street view to plan their burglaries with military precision. Insurance providers are starting to take this into account when they are assessing claims and we may in future see insurers declining claims if they believe the customer was negligent," says Black"

Verbatim Media Monsters

This site from Verbatim lets you create your own monster, out of different storage devices, then fight other people's monsters - a bit like MyBrute.

This is my monster:

My monster then fights other monsters randomly, it seems, as the updating scores for it on the widget above show.

Very innovative!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Man in a Box

Man in a Box is a new online game. A man is living in a box for 30 days. If you can identify where the box is, you cann win £30,000.

It seems to be linked to The Sun - they are carrying a live stream, and presenting highlights each day.

A new clue is given each day; today the clue is "A Rat and a sea shell are going in today". Don't know if it's significant that 'Rat' is capitalised.

It's like a cross between Big Brother (with only one contestant), and Kit Williams' Masquerade from the 1970s.

Very strange, but let's see how it develops.

But it would be great if a group of people managed to find him very quickly!

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Marmarati - launching extra strong marmite in social media

Excellent case study from WeAreSocial. Producing extra strong marmite was clearly a logical step... (For those people outside the UK, Marmite has traded for several years on the 'you either loveit or hate it' theme)

Via Antony Mayfield

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Citroen partner with Spotify for Anti Retro songs to promote the DS3

Good promotion from Citroen on Spotify to promote the new DS3.

"Each artist or group has selected 30 songs that they consider to fit the genre of ‘ANTI RETRO’. Over the course of two weeks Spotify users are invited to vote for their favourite tracks. At the end of the voting period each of the artists’ new playlists, containing the 10 most voted-for songs, will be released at a rate of one per week with each artist providing a commentary to accompany their playlist."

Artists include Ash, Editors, Faithless and 3 others.

You get to vote for one song from each artist, then go through the the next artist.

Vote for your favourite from Ash's list here

"With a flat rate fee you can flatter people"

Flattr is a new micropayment system - this viddo explains it, but basically:

I pay a set fee per month - say £5
People that create stuff can put a Flattr button next to it, like a 'share this' or Digg button
Each time I see something I like I click on that person's Flattr button, like I would with the other buttons
At the end of the month my £5 is divided by the number of times I've clicked the button, and that amount given to each of the creators.
I can also see that they could use the data to show the most liked things in a day, week, month, and fastest movers and so on.

I really like this. I think that lots of people would willingly pay small amounts for online content if it were easy to do so. There will always be freeloaders, but there will also be people who pay if it is easy to do so. Oh - and it's been created by Peter Sunde, one of the creators of the Pirate Bay.

Via Metafilter, my favourite newspaper

Friday, February 12, 2010

Square demo video

Watch this and then tell me that Square isn't going to be huge...

Don't know what cut Square will take, but it looks so simple.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Two quotes about the future

Both taken from Metafilter comments.

1 - In response to this book, written in the 1970s, about how the world would be in 2010:

"One of my friends points out that this future is very specific to the middle-class. The people delivering all those groceries, and driving the buses 24 hours a day, and presumably maintaining the garden-like restaurant (and somewhere, preparing the food pods to be dropped into the tubes) are not working from home three days a week."

Link here

2 - In response to this video about how augmented reality could change architecture:

"Much as I hate to piss on his future firework, this kind of thing totally ignores is that there are loads of things that don't really change because they don't need to. My kitchen looks quite nice and modern and the appliances are energy efficient, blah, blah, blah. But in terms of the basics and what they do (fridge, oven, stove, cupboards) most people from the 1960s would recognise it and be able to use it. For the same reason, although it's possible to have an intelligent house, most people are actually cool about turning the lights on and off with a wall switch when they enter a room."

Link here


It's My Time - Benetton Global Casting competition

This is simple, and brilliant - Benetton are opening up the casting of their 2010 Fall/Winter catalogue. Simply upload a photo, build a profile with more information, and let the crowd decide.

The top 100 get to appear in Benetton's new book, plus €200 to go shopping. The top 20 go to New York to model for the new catalogue. (I'd love to enter, but I'm a going to be a bit busy this year. Although there are some great pubs in New York...)

It's not totally crowdsourced - a panel of judges pick the top 20 from the 100 chosen by the crowd, so they avoid the problems that Dr Martens had a couple of years ago.

This is an excellent campaign. So far over 4,000 entries have been received.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

"The best part about sharing is getting responses to your posts"

The quote is taken from this video fromGoogle, explaining their new service, Google Buzz:

It looks like it builds on Wave and integrates with Gmail (I always thought Wave needed to be integrated with Gmail), and essentially adds twitter-like functionality to your mail.

But... I sometimes find it hard enough to keep up with email as it is. What I like about twitter is that I don't have to deal with lots of stuff that happened when I wasn't there - I just jump in afresh each time. I don't want all the @s and RTs filling up my inbox.

We'll see.

Next steps for Foursquare

Today two big bits of news came out about Foursquare - in the US they'd done a deal with Zagat, Warner Brothers, HBO and others, in the UK they'd done a deal with Debenhams and Dominos Pizza.

Very good news for them, and really encouraging that mainstream companies are using their service considering how new they are.

So what's going to happen with Foursquare? Over the past week I've had 2 or 3 friend requests a day, which suggests that it's gaining a lot of traction. I use various other services, like Qype, and Urbanspoon, and I definitely don't remember any of them having a similar level of buzz or takeup among my friends.

But there are lots of frustrations and gaps. Two quick examples:

1 - I can't use it to find things very easily. There's no way to find popular restaurants near my office. Admittedly if I search on Holborn (the area of London where I work) there are two recommendations at the bottom, but this isn't great.

Compare it to Urbanspoon - I get top restaurants, maps etc.

2 - It's too easy to fake. I can check into places virtually online, using mobile check in. In fact, I just set up and checked into Dominos Pizza in Battersea, somewhere I've never been to. If I check in again I'll become the Mayor, and I'm entitled to a free pizza, according to their deal announced today.

(Not that I'm going to, but someone might). (As with pub quizzes, don't make the prize too big - it only encourages people to cheat).

But... Small niggles aside, it's going to be so useful. At the moment they're collecting lots of data, and I hope that start to use this productively soon. There are some mashups out there, like this one giving you the venues in London with special offers for Mayors.

But why not tell me...

The most recommended places near to me
The places I'm likely to enjoy in other cities, based on what I do in London
A calendar of events I'd like
Reasons to go back to places I haven't visited recently

& so on.

I'm not trying to be snarky; they have an amazing opportunity, and they have genuine buzz at the moment. Make it even better!

Update - 15th February - it seems that the Dominos deal is not national, and that it's been wildly over-reported

Monday, February 08, 2010

Pepsi's Refresh Everything

This year Pepsi decided not to advertise during the Superbowl, and put efforts into community based campaigns instead.

The main fruits of this is RefreshEverything, a kind of crowdsourced charity campaign.

People can nominate projects for funds, site visitors vote for their favourites. As such nothing too controversial is likely to get selected - current leaders include a project to provide healing for victims of abuse, use fresh produce to fight childhood obesity, and ship girl scout cookies to troops stationed overseas. Different bands of funding exist.

They give away $1,300,000 a month, which isn't to be sneezed at - you can see the development of these projects bringing extra kudos to Pepsi as time goes on too. Sharing buttons make it easy to spread the word, and this is a very good 'big idea' and use of media.

More at The Independent


Innovative fan aggregator site for the Super Bowl by the NFL, incorporating posts from twitter and flickr that use the hashtag #SB44.

Even through it's pretty hard to navigate around, I expect this sort of site to become standard for major events.

I'm From Barcelona - 27 Songs from Barcelona

Following on from my post last week about new finance models in music, here's an interesting example from the Swedish band I'm from Barcelona:

In their own words:

"While touring around the world with their two latest releases “Let Me Introduce My Friends” (2006) and “Who Killed Harry Houdini” (2008) the members of I’m from Barcelona have been working on the upcoming “27 Songs from Barcelona”. Inspired by Kiss’ simultaneous release of four solo albums in 1978, “27 Songs from Barcelona” features one solo song for every member in I’m from Barcelona."

A new song becomes available for free download each day - so far 13 have been released. You can also listen to them before downloading.

You can also buy all songs on a triple vinyl album with art from each of the members - buy it here for €24.

Google's Search Stories

Really nice videos from Google, to illustrate... Well, all aspects of search.

This one played at the Superbowl:

This one's great too:

There are seven of them so far. Really well done.

Friday, February 05, 2010


This is a lovely idea:

Haik Avanian has a mother who likes to knit. If you send her an old jumper she'll knit the wool into something else and send it back to you.

In January it was scarves, in February it's fingerless gloves. In March it's likely to be hats.

She can only do 30 a month (at $30 a go) and it's just a lovely way of re-using old clothes and materials, and getting something unique and handmade.

You can connect on twitter and Facebook

Also on the theme of clothing, this blog from Britex Fabrics strikes just the right note in being passionate about materials, including Button du Jour

Connect with Fans (CwF) + Reason to Buy (RtB) = The Business Model

There's a brilliant article on Techdirt giving examples of musicians making money in the digital age. As it says,

"In simplest terms, the model can be defined as:

Connect with Fans (CwF) + Reason to Buy (RtB) = The Business Model "

Some of the stories are well known (for example Trent Reznor and NIN), but here are two less well-known ones:

"The next example is Jill Sobule, who had a hit song in 1995 with "I Kissed A Girl" (not the Katy Perry song). Since then, however, she's been dropped from two record labels and had two independent labels she was signed to go out of business. When it came time to record her latest album, she decided to get her fans to help fund it. She'd already done an excellent job connecting with her fans, regularly interacting with them on Facebook, where she would hold fun contests each day and actually chat with them and respond to questions.
She launched a website called "Jill's Next Record" that -- like Reznor and Freese -- offered up many options for how her fans could support her to fund a new album. They could pay $200 and get free access to any shows for a year. They could get their name mentioned on a "thank you" song. At $5,000, she would do a home concert at your house. She even noted you could charge for that one, and maybe even make some money. She ended up doing five or six such concerts. At $10,000 (described as the "weapons grade plutonium" level) you could sing on the album. This was meant to be a joke, but a woman in the UK purchased it, and Jill had her flown out to LA where she did, in fact, appear singing backing vocals on the album.
Her goal was to raise $75,000, and she had no idea if she'd be able to reach that number at all. Yet, she broke through that number and ended up raising over $80,000 in just 53 days. With that, she was able to go into the studio and record a full scale production, including hiring famed producer Don Was to handle production."


"So, let's look at Corey Smith. In the earlier part of this decade, Smith was a high school teacher, playing open mic nights on weekends. But then, he started focusing on building his music career. He started playing numerous live shows, and really worked hard to connect with fans. He gave away all of his music for free off of his website, and used that to drive more fans to his shows. On top of that, he offered special $5 pre-sale tickets to many shows, which has a useful side effect: his biggest fans would convince many others to go as well, building up his fan base, and getting more people to go to more shows. He tried pulling his free music off of his website as an experiment, and saw that his sales on iTunes actually dropped when he did that. In 2008, mostly thanks to live shows, Corey was able to gross nearly $4 million. While giving his music away for free. Connecting with fans and giving them a reason to buy worked wonders."

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Another great bit of trivia I've learnt recently is that The Guardian own the url - it just re-directs to

(The Grauniad is the slang name given to The Guardian by Private Eye, due to the very high level of typos that used to appear in the paper.)

Smart thinking by The Guardian to own the domain - you wouldn't want a rival to own it!

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Gorillaz Plastic Beach widget

Very good. I'm assuming that as the album gets closer to release in March they'll get closer to the UK...

They're also giving away the single as a free download if you pre-order the album on iTunes Deluxe format.

Gorillaz site here
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