Your favourite magazines

I got the idea from from Jonathan’s post over at Middledigit.

I am not interested in the online version, what dead tree media publications make your day?

Here’s mine:

  • Wired Magazine – Ok so they don’t use fluorescent ink any more, the type is in a straight line and the redesign makes it look really bland, but its still probably one of the best guides to technology and the Silicion Valley zeitgeist that’s also accessible to the man in the street
  • DJ magazine – it has gone steadily downhill over the past decade and a half but still has the best record reviews for dj’ing
  • i-D magazine – the style magazine of the 1980s still has a lot of relevant content from the latest Supreme threads to up and coming indie artists that will disappear back into the cultural primodial swamp that counts for ‘hip and happening’ London nowadays
  • VICE – A magazine with the feel of a five-pound monthly glossy but for free. That’s right free. Usually there is one photo shoot and piece of journalism that’s half decent (usually not connected)
  • FACT – A good music magazine that is A5 size making ideal reading on the tube
  • ES magazine – The Restaurant Spy and horoscope make this magazine readable, otherwise its West London navel-gazing is stifling
  • Esquire – most of the time this magazine is exactly the same as its competitors Arena and GQ, however every issue there is at least one decent article alongside the editorial competitions, advertorials and product porn
  • The New Republic – I like to pick it up on newsstands when I am in the US, its thoughtful articles shame The Economist and it has a global perspective (something rare in an American publication)

The Golden Search and other internet trends

US investment bank Piper Jaffray put out some of the smartest publicly available thinking about the internet space at the moment: last week they issued a new detailed report called The User Revolution: The New Advertising Ecosystem and The Rise of the Internet as a Mass Medium. Piper Jaffray customers can get a copy from their representative, I am on their email list because of my long-term interest in this area.

Reading it at first, my initial reaction was that I thought that it was quite patronising, but then I realised that the document has to assume little to no knowledge because its main audience is going to be fund managers of all ilks.

The report has some great industry data points and articulates many of the key concepts that are shaping this market in an easy and articulate manner. In the accompanying industry note the technology analyst team pulled out those key points as an executive summary; some of which I expect to see being incorporated into PowerPoiint presentations at a meeting near you:

The User Revolution – consumers taking control of content consumption and branding. User-generated content as well as user indent driven services (like Amazon, Last.fm and Yahoo! Music’s Launch radio stations).

new media world order.jpg
Communitainment – The three areas that historically drove demand for internet services like Yahoo! and AOL of comunity, communication and entertainment are being directly addressed all at once by new services acting as an accelerant for for the market

why google wins.jpg
The Golden Search – ’search as the new portal’. When I used to work at Yahoo! search was described as the front door to the web. A much quoted statistic was that over seven out of every ten internet sessions was started from a search enquiry. Piper Jaffray thinks that search will be increasingly used in branding campaigns (marketers really need to crack this as contextual and search adverts have encouraged brand disloyalty – Kelkoo’s whole business was built on the back of Google ads with pretty much zero brand marketing, and you have a generation of online marketers who use quantative data from search marketing without any regard to brand value, instead focusing purely on transactional data).

Video ads will be the next thing – this is kind of counter-intuitive as ads have moved from banners and animation to text ads, but then services like YouTube facilitate in-programming ads a la television.

targetability.jpg
I found the following section of the report executive summary particularly pertinent, and as a PR consultant it is the concept that clients I have spoken to find the most difficult to grasp: The Revolution Is About Control. The uprising by the users is over control – control of the type of content users want, control of the place and time content is delivered., control of the advertisements that the users are willing to take, and control of the brands they want to create. Unlike most revolutions, where the masses revolt because of major hardship and grievance, the User Revolution was largely driven by the proliferation of media options, the emergence of the Internet, and the growing sophistication of consumers.

I find the last point of particular interest, particularly when I think of the adverts that run on UK television for products like the now defunct Courts Carpets or Cillit Bang – perhaps there isn’t that much wisdom in marketing.

And finally just a couple of the business risks that I through of interest:

  • The loss of confidence by advertisers in the effiacy of online advertising and emerging business models.
  • A decrease in efficacy of online advertising including display and search advertising

I particularly like how they show the fragmentation of media over the past 40 years! ;-)

40 yr fragmentation.jpg

Oprah Time: Nokia Smartphone Hacks

O’Reilly are known for their technical books and they publish some of my favourite reference books: Flickr Hacks, Mac OS X – The Missing Manual and Learning Unix for Mac OS X Panther.

At first I was skeptical, a book about hacking Nokia phones, what’s the point they’re so transitory as devices? I go through a new phone every 12 months or so.

Nokia has released a plethora of OS’s for their phones: Series 40, Series 60 (of which we now have the 3rd edition), Series 90: which is what powered the 9X00 series communicators.

To be fair most of the focus is on Series 60, the book provides advice on what hack doesn’t work with older Series 60 phones and highlights model exceptions.

Nokia Smartphone Hacks at first seemed similar to other O’Reilly technical books, but as I worked through it over the past eight weeks in between work and travel I started to realise that Nokia Smartphone Hacks was different.

The style and content of Nokia Smartphone Hacks has lots of useful content for the non-technically orientated users, this realisation slowly morphed into a realisation that Nokia Smartphone Hacks was in fact the manual that Nokia should ship with all their phones. It has a raft of helpful tips and links to really useful applications; many of them freeware and tips on how to get your phone to work with your Windows/Mac OS X/Linux box (delete as appropriate).

Now some of the downsides:

  • The performance of a phone relies on a symbiotic relationship with the carriers network services (like port access), most the data in book usually relates to US carriers like Cingular / AT&T Wireless and T-Mobile USA
  • Size- its quite a weighty read but the content is really good

Brand Oscars

DSCI0006.JPG

Brandchannel have released their Oscars for the product placement star of the silver screen. The results are based on their regular analysis of the latest films looking for product placements.

Some interesting take-outs from these brand oscars were that Apple did not get one mention – maybe that’s because a manifestation of a product that is a near-religious experience is not a mere product placement.

James Bond got called out as a brand whore. On the face of it this criticism of the Bond franchise is unfair because Bond only features slightly more brands than your average film. I personally think that the problem isn’t with the film itself but the crude way that marketers at Omega, Brioni, Sony Corp. and Sony Ericsson lose the value of the placement. Hint: say no to tacky cash-in products like the ‘limited edition James Bond Omega Seamaster’ or the ‘Sony James Bond Memory Vault’. Anyway you can read more here.

Talking of brand whores renaissance chambara is happy to be an even bigger brand whore than James Bond for a cutting edge streetwear label like Tenderloin, Supreme or aNYthing; and happy to endorse luxury goods like IWC or Mont Blanc. Offers can be emailed here.

Yojimbo

Yojimbo

Some of my blog posts are written on the fly often in reaction to something that has happened or something that I had as an idea and didn’t have the time to develop it fully. A couple of cases in point, my blog post on things I learnt to make long-haul business travel more palatable was created over two weeks whilst I was on the road and when I got back. My post on Spokeo was started in December, and I added a few bits and pieces while I waited for material from Harrison that never came.

Yojimbo is a kind of sketch pad for ideas and a scrap book where I can keep related links and images. There are other products out there like DEVONThink Professional, which is a great exceptionally thorough product in its design, performance and feature set: but too involved for what I needed.

I like the intuitive nature of Yojimbo and its light agile nature:

  • Not being too feature-rich to make working with it hard, which also plays into the creation of a clean user experience as you can see from the screen grab.
  • Being a small application that runs fast, even when my thinking doesn’t

Part of the approach that makes Yojimbo my killer app for blogging and organising thoughts is its heritage. Bare Bones Software have produced a number of lean applications that have been essential users for Mac uers over the past decade, in particular I can recommend downloading the free application TextWrangler which facilitates text manipulation without all the features that get in the way from even the simplest word-processors like TextEdit. I find it really handy for editing the HTML tags on my links of the day postings.

Another amazing Absolut campaign

 

Absolut Lomo wall

Absolut have another impressive campaign Absolut Lomo.

A Lomo is a crude Russian-made camera admired by arty types of its unique way of creating images and colouring, its flawed optics and design introduce analogue chaos-based serendipity into the process of taking photographs.

This has inspired an entire genre of photography called Lomography. The Absolut campaign encourages users to submit their own lomographic images and has a series of cool wallpapers by a range of designers for free download. My personal favourite wallpaper is by Huang Yan of China which is a surreal willow pattern plate inspired delph vista.

3GSMvy

I am the proud owner of a Nokia e61 smartphone . I had one for the past six months on Orange and after some teething troubles with buggy firmware I grew to like it so much I knew that was what I was going to replace my Orange phone with when I moved to T-Mobile: another e61. And when I went to San Francisco I sourced a special Timbuk2 case for it.

However, Nokia shook me from my satisfaction with the e61, by announcing the e90 at 3GSM in Barcelona. A powerful handset with a full sized keyboard hidden beneath the exterior of a candy-bar phone.

e90, I love you

The e90 is a leap forward from the previous 9X00-series communicators as Nokia has standardised on Series 60 3rd edition as its OS of choice. In a slim case the phone carries a decent-sized screen, keyboard and GPS unit so you can load mapping software directly on to the handset.

The built-in camera on the phone on the phone means that its an ideal way to participate in Dan Catt’s geotagging work at Flickr and makes blogging on the move a much more attractive proposition.

The most maddening thing is that I can’t get hold of one for at least another six months, sod the iPhone: I am quite happy with my separate iPod nano, the e90 is the converged device that I want this year.

Oprah Time: jPod

I like the writing of Douglas Coupland, he’s like a lightning rod for the zeitgeist for the knowledge economy. I’ve grown up and moved through my career with his works as a kind of literary soundtrack playing in the background. His writing moves from the monotony and empty-sadness of generation x in the 1990s through to the surreal humour of the present day.

jPod is an updated world-view that builds upon Microserfs and Generation X. It is has a certain amount of recursion to these works and Douglas Coupland also appears in the book as a character. This recursion and self-referencing is fun for loyal readers and mirrors modern culture with its hipsters wearing ironic trucker caps, drain pipe jeans and Lynyrd Skynyrd t-shirts and listening to bad mash-ups of 1980s music radio fodder.

The non-linear, multi-voice, collective approach in writing mirrors modern environments were online predominates. The only downside to this was that I was quite happy to put the book down and not revisit for a fair while because there wasn’t the same sense of suspense or urgency. The book took me four weeks to read, not because it was hard or inaccessible and I did enjoy it – I guess this drifting along is an analogue to the life that Coupland is trying represent.

The Hiaasen-like fantastic dark humour of jPod mirrors a society facing world-war three in the Middle East, global warming and the meltdown of the relationship between employer and employee where not even greed can be trusted anymore.

Deep down there however is the essential truth about the Kafta-esque nature of working in a knowledge economy company, particularly software or web services. The politics aren’t right, but they’re close enough.

Go out and get it here. The author’s online presence is here.

Paper-process engineering

McDonalds Restaurants brings out distinct feelings in people: from little kids who love the whole experience of unpacking a happy meal for the toy to adults disgusted by everything that the company stands for. So before I go any further I would like you to suspend your emotional views on McDonalds, at least until I’ve finished my Big Mac value meal with onion rings and a doughnut the end of the post.

Benjy’s have closed down their branch just around the corner from my office so off I went to McDonalds to secure my caffiene fix. When I received the cup I noticed some design innovations to get you out of the queue faster. Whilst McDonalds offer a loyalty card scheme for builders and the homeless who purchase their coffee at this branch on a regular basis they had managed to incorporate a peelable stamp and detachable loyalty card right into the cup.

McDonalds coffee cup and loyalty card

On removing the card, I found that the cup was a dual-card walled affair with corregated card inside to act as an insulator.

By clever design, McDonalds had managed to put the fast back into fast food. No more fumbling around for the cardboard sleeve to stop the customer from burning their fingers on a piping hot coffee cup and loyalty card delays whilst the barista McJob employee hunted for the rubber stamp and pad to mark your card. No giving free cups of coffee to their friends with a slip of the stamp, instead one cup = one stamp.

My friend Stephen the other evening said that design should reflect what the organisation knows it is in its heart externally and this bit of packaging design fitted McDonalds to a tee, a prime example of its ‘Speedee Service System’. McDonalds isn’t about moral judgements, it isn’t about nutrition and health, it isn’t about haute cuisine, its not about life-long careers; its a fast-food machine with the ultimate goal of providing value for its shareholders. The cup design captures the mechanistic, process-driven non-soul of McDonalds and reflects it in an honest way: ‘I’m Lovin’ It’ but they should bring back the old drip-coffee machines because contents left a lot to be desired for my caffiene-crazed taste buds.

Come together

I got an email at the back-end of December from Harrison Tang asking me to try a new service that he’s involved in Spokeo, I delayed posting this as Harrison was going to respond to some questions that I had sent through, but no response . Spokeo is one of them duh, why didn’t someone think of this earlier ideas. In concept it touches on Marc Canter’s idea of a digital lifestyle aggregator.

Like predecessors before it has an impeccable back story with the founders hailing from Stanford following in the footsteps of David and Jerry or Larry and Sergey.

spokeo.jpg

Spokeo is a social aggregator. In the same way that Ziki allows you to gather all your different user-generated content together, the difference is that Spokeo allows you to do this not only for yourself, but also for your friends.With your friends content they do not have to sign up themselves, if you have ‘friend’ status with them you can pull their content into your Spokeo. The service takes a lot of the heavy lifting out of keeping up with where your friends are at.

Some of the information seems disjointed though I expect that this has something to do with the way that different feeds provide information to the service and some of the feeds that I tried to put in were not liked by the service. Its nice to see that data integration problems don’t just occur in enterprise technology applications :-) .

The service features a comments section for feeds, but that does not go through to your MySpace page or flickr account and instead seems to reside inside Spokeo, it would be nice to have a publish-to-service option (of if there is one, make it clear to find and use).

friends.jpg

From a more serious note, Spokeo can help social networks and services by reducing user cognitive dissonance is is a factor in they way young people launch, support and abandon profiles.

Making it easier to monitor their communities in a more efficient and effective way is likely make it easier to maintain presence across lots of services easily.

Other companies that touch on the same space are Ziki and Webjam (disclosure in the interests of transparency – one of Webjam’s founders and its soon-to-be-appointed head of marketing are ex-colleagues and friends of mine).

Jargon Watch: Spam 2.0 – the yoof are finding the OFF button

The Clapper

Spam 2.0 – Commercial marketing on MySpace and other social networking sites, from every little gang of gangly youths that want to play in local bars to the Burger King himself.

This probably fuels the transient nature of young people’s digital identities, exasperating the way people have for quite some time drifted along attaching themselves for a while to different cultural tribes (often several at the same time.)

Young people are starting to recognise that privacy doesn’t exist on the web, but by breaking and starting new digital identities they can minimise the damage: whether its employers looking at their MySpace party pictures or marketers trying to keep in touch.

Kudos to Wired magazine Jargon Watch column for the definition. For those of you interested,  additional insight on young people and online identity can be found here (thanks to Iain Tait’s Crackunit blog) and former Yahoo: danah boyd’s blog postings and academic papers are well worth checking out.

Adiumation

I have contacts on spread across a number of different instant messaging platforms: Yahoo!, Jabber/Google Talk, AOL/iChat/ICQ and MSN services. I moved across different services as I moved jobs and clients, yet maintaining those contacts has a high value. Adium is an open source OS X software application that rolls all those messaging services in the one client.

Adium made it to v 1.0 the other day and I updated to the latest version. It has a number of features and a new look and feel that give it feature parity with many of the standalone clients for MacOS X, but without the usual advertising tie-ins. Adium has a whole eco-system of add-ons including a scripting language and a range of themes so that you have a range of look-and-feel options for IM conversations.

Some of the better ideas that have been adopted by latest version of mainstream messaging clients were out in this add-on community for a good while (like your current track playing on iTunes in your status field) and have now been incorporated into the main Adium product.

Organisation of different accounts is really easy and there is a more professional sheen to the latest version. However, the best thing about Adium is the price, free!