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Evolution of a Viral Video in 14 Stages (Cartoon)

August 1, 2011 Leave a comment

Here’s the evolution of the average viral video in 14 stages…

Cartoon: The Evolution of a Viral Video in 14 Stages by @DerekDeVries

 

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Six Problems With the @MyGR6 Contest

July 5, 2011 7 comments
A word cloud of the "My GR 6" entries thus far...

A word cloud of the "My GR 6" entries thus far...

A group of local corporations partnered with community leaders to create a contest called “My GR 6.”  The contest awards acclaim (in the form of billboard space) and prizes to whomever comes up with the best six words that describe the city of Grand Rapids (according to a panel of judges that aren’t yet disclosed).

While it’s great to see any effort to foster community pride and raise the profile of my home city, I do have some issues with how it’s being accomplished.  Here are a few of my concerns: Read more…

We are the Next Killer App

January 5, 2011 1 comment

Given the telescoping nature of evolution, it’s damn hard to make any predictions about the future.  There is, however, one prescription we can follow: creativity is essential.

We’re entering an era where it’s less important to have the technical skills to do the back-end coding that creates compelling storytelling, and much more important to be able to innovate and be able to think creatively in the use of those technologies.

Daniel Pink and other thinkers have written extensively about our transition from a society where the left brain dominates to one where the right brain takes over.  The industrial age mindset that pulled us away from our agrarian, tribal roots is giving way to a right-brained world where we are loosed from the need to have intimate expertise in the technologies we are using in order to communicate with them.

Take, for example, Xtranormal.com.  It’s a site that allows you to create short movies using computer-generated characters.  You can choose from a variety of characters, scenes, background noise, facial expressions, gestures, etc. and the script you type out is .  It was recently used to create a pretty hilarious snark-filled portrayal of journalism students that was circulated by a variety of social media aggregators.

This is just the beginning.

If you haven’t seen it yet, you need to check out Sir Ken Robinson’s fantastic TED lecture “Do Schools Kill Creativity?”  He illustrated this phenomenon (and how it’s challenging the traditional model of education to respond):

If you’re looking for opportunities, look for creative people. Look for the right-brained, D&D-playing, insect-watching, action figure-collecting, “I-think-better-with-my-socks-off” kind of people.

Five Reasons Why Apple’s Ping Will Fail: “Jobsbook”? – No Thanks

September 3, 2010 Leave a comment

Recently Apple debuted its own social networking platform built into iTunes, which it’s calling “Ping.”  As per every Apple release, its devotees are hailing it as the second coming of sliced bread.  Elsewhere, Ben Parr of Mashable is heralding it as the “last nail in the coffin for MySpace“.

Ping Overview Image courtesy Apple

I’m not all that excited and here’s why:

Been There:  The idea of a community built into a commerce platform has been done before.  Amazon.com has long had a social networking component built around the sale of movies, music and books.  The lack of novelty means they have to make up for it with functionality and thus far they’re falling far short.

Censorship/Content Limitations:  If your favorite band (or TV show, or movie) isn’t on iTunes (or added to Ping) – you’re S.O.L.  That means fans of the Beatles, for example, will get to share … nothing (thanks to talentless whackjob and perennial buzzkill, Yoko Ono).  What about fans of bands that are no longer active, but still have a library of content (like one of my favs: Audioslave).

At the time when the independent music scene is EXPLODING (and video content is on its way: how, for example would Ping allow fans of “Auto-Tune the News” to engage?), Apple is building a castle on a foundation of sand.  This is all to say nothing of Steve Jobs insistence on backwards/Victorian content limitations (ie no porn despite it being a multi-billion dollar industry, and apparently no visual depictions of great Modernist literature either).

Anemic Basis for Community:  Granted they’re important to our social interactions, but music, movies, TV shows and books aren’t the end-all, be-all of social interaction.  In fact,  music and movies have been on the way down for some time, as video games have been on the rise.  That’s to say nothing of all the other content types around which people coalesce on social networking sites.  Aside from reviews, there seems to be no way to contribute original content(?)

revenues_02-08 via Ars Technica

Exclusive vs. Inclusive:  Part of Apple’s business model is excluding people and locking down its tech and software with proprietary limitations.  In the social networking world, that’s a prescription for failure.  People want to connect.  Now.  Ping is limited to desktop use with iTunes, or mobile use with Apple products.  That means anyone with a mobile device other than an iPhone/iPad is excluded (which is the majority of the mobile device market).

#attfail: One can imagine Ping users becoming just as frustrated as Twitter users given the inability of AT&T to keep up with demand caused by iPhones and iPads – now they’re adding even more incentive to use wireless service which will further tax an already troubled network.

I tried it out earlier and here’s a few specific problems with it:

  1. In your profile, it only lets you choose THREE (3) genres that you like.  Seriously.  (Jobs is taking this censorship thing to the limit.  To which I say “c’mon fhqwhgads”).
  2. I can’t follow some of my favorite bands.  Seriously.  “They Might be Giants” isn’t available.  Nor is “Green Day.”
  3. As I write this – my profile photo is STILL in the process of being approved.  I assume this is because they send every single one to Steve Jobs personally so he can make sure they’re not “indecent” or appealing to “prurient interests” or something lame like that.
  4. Either the search tool sucks, or the number of artists represented is pitiful.  Searches for artists I know for a fact have content on iTunes come up empty.  I also see no place to create content (in the way of bands to follow if indeed that’s how they’re generated).

Update: To add insult to injury, JobsBook… err Ping is already coming under fire for being full of spam.

More PR Trouble for BP: Great Case Study in the Filters of the Web

June 1, 2010 Leave a comment

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I wrote a while earlier about the impact of the new era of transparency on BP’s continuing public relations crisis.  Since then, a couple of other new phenomenon caught my attention:

  • Google Sidewiki: This somewhat-forgotten tool created by Google to accompany webpages and help contextualize them with user contributions has a bit of content that isn’t exactly kind to BP.
  • The Black Oil Firefox Plugin:  Designed by design agency Jess3, this add-on to Firefox makes the pages viewed by your browser look like a redacted document from the CIA as it blacks out references to British Petroleum (the blacked out portions eventually animate and drip ala crude).

These two items may seem like frivolous distractions, but they’re not.  They’re exquisite reminders of how little control we exercise over the web, particularly as the content that populates it and the tools that browse it become more and more sophisticated and oriented toward individual control.

You can spend all the time you want tweaking your website until it’s just the way you want, but what you create may not at all be what ends up being delivered to the end user.

Why the Lost Finale Sucked a Rancid Tub of Expired Dharma Ranch Dressing

May 24, 2010 82 comments

[Update: If you haven’t seen this video, you need to check it out (I’m not the only one that feels this way).]

I was really disappointed by the Lost season finale.

From Season 2 of Lost: a Screen Capture of the Hydra Logo on the Tail of a Shark Swimming Past the Camera

From the start, Lost thrived on setting up curious questions and then answering them in a way that only posed more questions. Not only was that the theme for the show – but the entire social media-driven marketing apparatus around the show catered to that aspect:

  • the creators set up fake show-related websites and 800 numbers (grabbed by astute fans who analyzed screen captures from the show that flashed by business cards or papers tacked to walls) with curious pre-recorded messages – all of which were part of two separate alternate reality games (The Lost Experience and Find 815).
  • the network’s website for the show (laden with hidden multimedia content) was filled with seething, writhing fan discussion forums where the excruciating details were analyzed (one thread I followed had days of speculation about what the spectre of Walt was saying – culminating in an audio tech reversing the audio and washing it through professional filters to undo the distortion the show’s creators had added so that it was clear as a bell and said “don’t touch the button, the button is bad.”)

Not only that, but JJ Abrams prides himself on being a fan of puzzles (which is why the show was chock full of them). Wired Magazine even had an issue dedicated to his interest in such things.

Speaking for a lot of Lost fans, I don’t give a rip if Jack gets resolution with his father and everyone ends up in bliss and carefree in the Kingdom of God. Fuck Jack.

I want to know:

  • why a Polar Bear could manifest itself out of Hurley’s comic book
  • how Walt could direct a thrown knife with his thoughts
  • WHAT the light is and why it has to be guarded (and why it’s flimsily-guarded by what appeared to be man-made stonework)
  • why the smoke machine was curiously mechanical in the sounds it made

Most of all, I want to know why the hell was there a shark swimming around in season 2 with a Dharma Initiative Hydra Project logo imprinted on its tail!

It was a fun ride, to be sure – but this was a great case of misreading what has to be the core audience of the show.  Perhaps I’m wrong, and the majority of the viewership is people who love gooey sentimentality and predictable character development – but I tend not to think so.

I do also have to heap praise and credit on the show’s creators for their use of the web, social media, and gaming to build and sustain interest in the massive opus.  There are three areas we can learn valuable lessons from Lost:

  • Marketers and communicators can learn a lot from analyzing the ways they used the new media available to enhance the viewing experience (likely at a very reasonable cost that is attainable by most organizations).
  • Similarly, the traditional media should be furiously scribbling notes about how to update their programming to compete with entertainment outlets like video gaming that are poaching their viewers.
  • Moreover – we ALL can learn from the model Lost presented in how gigantic and complicated tasks can be crowdsourced to the masses and completed with astonishing speed and precision as thousands apply their abilities through the collaborative tools afforded them by the web.

Google Sidewiki Experiment Results

October 6, 2009 7 comments

When Google’s Sidewiki was announced, I began a small experiment – posting factual but mildly-controversial entries on two websites – Facebook.com and Foxnews.com.   On Facebook, I talked about the ease of use of the site but also about the site’s repeated controversies over protecting the privacy of its users.  On Fox News, I deliberately avoided the value judgments about whether or not the organization is biased (like most of the other entries) and instead cited two studies that demonstrate that Fox News viewers tend to be the most poorly-informed of all of the major news networks.

After waiting for a week, these are the results thus far: Read more…