Foursquare, ESP and Pat Phelan

If this turns into a bit of a meandering post you can blame Pat Phelan, it is all his fault and being a Galway person I love having any excuse to blame a Cork man. Phelan’s post got me thinking about Foursquare and the phenomena of ‘check-in fatigue’.

But before I address Foursquare, I wanted to introduce a new name: Luis von Ahn. von Ahn is one of the foremost thinkers on ‘human computation’. That is getting humans to do tasks that computers find difficult if not impossible to do. If you use the web as much as I do you will be familar with his work at least in one respect.
That annoying box is called a Captcha, it’s purpose is to try and reduce the proliferation of spam and ensure that valuable computing services are only used by human viewers rather than machines. It is von Ahn’s other human computation projects that are of most interest. von Ahn’s team have worked on a series of games to solve a number of problems. von Ahn wrote a paper published in IEEE Computer magazine which covers the whys and wherefores.

von Ahn’s work is recognised by the titans of computing such as Microsoft who have sponsored research into measuring the probability and predicting what labels | tags humans are likely to assign an image. And Google bought the reCAPTCHA system which was used to protect sites from bots and help digitise collections. Every time you complete a captcha you are helping to digitise the archives of The New York Times.

Google also bought a licence for von Ahn’s ESP game. This is where two users (unknown to each other) are shown the same picture and they get a higher score the quicker both of them put in the same label. Google uses this to improve the semantic data that its search engine has around images. If you’ve got time to waste check out Google Image Labeler (though personally I think they should fire the branding person and call it the Google ESP game). People in low stress monotonous jobs have been known to spend 40 hours a week on the ESP game! Clay Shirky calls this cognitive surplus; von Ahn went for the more descriptive Games With A Purpose.

Which got me thinking about Foursquare, Pat like Om Malik, was interested in the phenomena of check-in fatigue but I was more interested in the other side of the game.

When I started to use Foursquare, I got a strong sense that is was a game with a purpose. Six people in an office in New York got the world to build a database of locations and tips, that they otherwise would have had to license. And that this database and user information would have some sort of value that could be monetised at a point in the future – it is updated more often than the directories that Google licenses for its local search products for example.

Then there was the marketing opportunities that you could potentially exploit in the game: sponsored badges and company profiles a la Louis Vuitton. So if the game needed to be changed in order to combat check-in fatigue it shouldn’t be that much of an issue.

However, if the game is the purpose then Pat and Om’s concerns are a much bigger issue. You can’t stray too far from the first successful formula otherwise it isn’t Foursquare any more.

Ten consumer goods that I can’t give up

Pat Law talked about then consumer goods that she couldn’t give up, here’s my ten.

  1. Mechanical watch – surprisingly given my job I have a deep irrational distrust of electronic things. I also like the comforting glow of tritium markers on my watch if I wake up during the night. I usually rock a Rolex Sea-Dweller and also have an IWC Aquatimer 2000 in titanium. I currently have a new model Rolex GMT Master II, Seiko Marine Master Professional 1000M Diver and Rolex Sea-Dweller Deepsea on my lust-after list
  2. Caffeine – I am a junkie and like a meth head I am not too bothered how I fulfil my habit: light blue Red Bull, my Cuisinart brew machine, Starbucks or Pepsi Max. I am psyched by the recent tentative relaunch of Mountain Dew into the UK market and am hoping that they will bring on a diet version
  3. Galtee white pudding – several million Irish people can’t be wrong about this potent mix of pork meat and spices fried to a crisp
  4. A crisp S-Double t-shirt: ideal wear for whatever I am doing
  5. Gillette Mach3 razors. Keeping my silhouette crisp like a new Benjamin and a splash of Acqua di Parma to finish the handiwork off
  6. MacBook Pro. The Kato to my Green Hornet.
  7. New Balance kicks particularly 574, M575, 576 and MT580s. I seem to go through Nikes like a hot knife through butter (though I still have a soft sport for Footscapes, Wildwoods and Huaraches) and just haven’t liked anything adidas have done recently apart from the ZX8000 reissue
  8. Mystery Ranch 3-day assault pack – well I need somewhere to put all my cables, chargers, reading materials, classes etc. I own one in black and one in coyote
  9. Wired (US edition). Like the season in Ibiza its never as good as it used to be back in the day, but its a damn better than the alternatives out there. I love the way Wired keeps its finger on the pulse of things.
  10. My record collection. There is something about the tactile nature of my vinyl records and my Technics SL-1200 Mk IIs that make my digital music collection feel unsatisfying. They also rock through my Denon amp-powered B&W speakers – though I have been thinking about getting a set of Studiospares SN-10s recently

Links of the day

TelecomTV | Europeans to be told what information is kept on them. Brits left in the dark – as usual – two-tier disclosure from a privacy perspective

Exclusive: Google, CIA Invest in ‘Future’ of Web Monitoring | Danger Room | – prediction of user intent as well as understanding the context of a search

Facebook Officially Launches Questions, A Possible Quora Killer – things are starting to get crowded with Yahoo! Answers, LinkedIn Answers, Quora, and Ask in the space. The key thing is going to be the quality of the information, which will depend on the community and audience demographics. This may play against Facebook and benefit Ask

WPEngine: Top-tier WordPress hosting for the rest of us | :Ben Metcalfe Blog

Blake Fleetwood: Exclusive: NYT Columnist Faces Civil and Criminal Charges, But New Law May Get Him Off The Hook – The money quote: But Internationally U.S. authors are daily being silenced by the odious laws of England, Australia, Germany, Brazil, Indonesia, Singapore and other countries that make it so easy to curtail the robust free speech traditions of the U.S. that make democracy possible.

IAC’s Diller: ‘I Was Wrong About Search Competition’ | paidContent – gives weight to the argument that Bing is on a hiding to nothing. On the flipside it is also a bit said as Bing and Google have been borrowing heavily from a look and feel pioneered by Ask

Pepsi’s Summer Campaign Journeys Back to China’s Literary Past – AdAgeChina – News – tapping into heritage to allow the brand to become further rooted in the Chinese market

PharmaLive: Pfizer Starts Social-Media Channel On Popular Site – Pfizer gets on Slideshare

Half of site searches are unsuccessful: report | Econsultancy – this has been an issue for a long time (since the rise of e-commerce), surprised that it is so intractible

MediaShift . 5Across: Beyond Content Farms | PBS – fascinating discussion on content farms

The Weekly Buzz: Bawang Innovates with Microblogs During Time of Crisis | China IWOM Blog- Making Sense of the Buzz

Akamai State of the Internet: Asia dominates in internet speeds, U.S. ranked 16th « Boy Genius Report – the west has a relatively poor performance

How Big is Social Media in the UK? [VIDEO]

Old Spice Sales Double With YouTube Campaign

HOW TO: Use Annotations to Promote Your Brand on YouTube – good stuff here for when video is used in a campaign

Search Dominates Social Media When Shopping Online: Study

Forrester punctures Location Based Bubble – broadstuff – they don’t think that it has a deep enough reach in the population yet

There will be blood: why Apple and Intel are destined to clash – I am not so sure on this, Given OS X multiplatform capabilities you could see iOS devices running on custom X86 core silicon in the years to come fabbed by Intel

vChatter Becomes Family-Friendly Alternative to Tawdry Chatroulette | Fast Company – interesting how tweaks in community management and design can make so much of a difference

Baidu Dealing With Its Own Chinese Issues | The Big Money – preparing to dominate mobile search in China as well

Asiajin » NHN Japan Shakes Hands With 70 Game Developers To Enter The Social Game App Business

Altimeter Report: The 8 Success Criteria For Facebook Page Marketing « Web Strategy by Jeremiah Owyang | Social Media, Web Marketing – great content on effective Facebook marketing

Asia’s Leadership Struggle – – nice article on leadership that is actually global in perspective

Learning From China’s Online Advertisers « The China Tracker – – in many ways the Chinese media market is leading the way for the west

European Governments Unleash Online Gambling to Help Fill Coffers – – pragmatism reigns in Europe

Backlinks Checker Tool – Backlink Watch

Intel demos 50-Gbit/s silicon optics – faster computer interconnects

MeeGo in-vehicle win gives embedded Intel a boost – Intel seems to be benefiting more from MeeGo than Nokia is

Oh My Gosh: Thor movie trailer

If the trailer is anything to go by the new Thor film is sufficiently awesome to forgive Kenneth Brannagh for all that Merchant Ivory guff he has done in the past.

Twitter and large corporate brands

Some interesting research from 360i questions what we mean by privacy with Brandchannel discussing the research using the phrase “Twitter takes the private space public” and the use of Twitter by large corporate brands.

In addition to the research 360i released a slide deck summary below.

When your business becomes a verb

I was inspired by one of Junko’s tweets to think about when a brand becomes a verb. Back when I was in college studying marketing one of the things that we came across was the challenge of extreme brand love where the product becomes such a part of the customers life that it becomes a verb.

Examples of this include:

  • Aspirin – which is actually a trademark of drug company Bayer
  • Biro – in British and Irish English meaning a ballpoint pen named after the Biro pen company who pioneered ballpoint pens
  • Hoover – to use a vacuum cleaner, named after white goods brand
  • Thermos – a vacuum flask for keeping food and drink warm
  • Tipp-Ex – correction fluid which was popular for covering up writing mistakes, typing errors and painting your name on your pencil case
  • Sellotape – clear sticky tape for packaging purposes

This phenomena creates a commercial | legal paradox. Where the brand is so loved that it becomes the generic verb for the whole product category that it dominates in terms of mind share (if not market share) then the intellectual property rights of the brand mark is at risk.

It was a measure of the uphill task that we faced when I worked at Yahoo! that Google has become genericised for web search that the company was having to provide legal guidance to bloggers and the media.

Ian Rogers who at the time worked at Yahoo! Music in the US came up with an idea that I thought could fly “Yahoo! that bitch“, it caught the ethos of the Yahoo! brand being fun and irreverant and paired with the utility of search far better than anything else I can think of .

Unfortunately it was never given serious thought, not even potty-mouth Carol Bartz would have signed off on it if we are honest about it – and this was the time of Terry Semel as CEO.

Junko’s tweet reminded of Microsoft’s desperate efforts to make ‘Bing it’ a verb for search. I realised that even if they got all the search market to themselves ‘Bing it’ would still feel uncomfortable for me to use. It feels wrong in the way you say it. It just doesn’t sing.

What’s more there was prior evidence that it wouldn’t work. Back in 2006 Samsung launched an MP3 player to go up against the iPod called Zing and tried to create that brand as verb for cacooning yourself in music to separate you from your surroundings. The fact that this is probably new to you gives you an idea of how successful it was.

If your brand is going to achieve world domination then it has to be phonetically right as well. Thinking about it, it is something that Microsoft has had a problem with for years, the exception to the rule probably being MSN as a verb for instant messaging which apes the way ICQ and AIM where used in a similar manner depending on your social group.

Think I am wrong? Well think about the way PC compatible was used in most cases instead of Windows compatible or Windows PC compatible in common speech. You could argue that it was because of Microsoft’s domination of that sector, but I would also add that it was because Windows as a word doesn’t sing.

Does your brand sing? Run it past friends and family as a verb, is it used internally as a verb? If not, then your brand won’t suffer the legal issues around genericisation, but also won’t go on to dominate mind share, even it if gets market share.

Links of the day

Dakwak: A Tool For Website Localization Into 60+ Languages – StartUpArabia

MediaTek and NTT Docomo in 4G alliance | – interesting following on from the Nokia | Renesas deal. Am sure Qualcomm and Intel won’t be happy

The issue of license proliferation – Joi Ito’s Web

Asian shoppers make final purchase in-store |

GQ China Pulls July Issue – China Real Time Report – WSJ

Googzilla! Yahoo Japan Confirms Google Switch from Yahoo for Both Paid and Algo Search | Kara Swisher | AllThingsD – Go Google, keeping my fingers crossed that this passes Japanese government muster

The Blog: The New is Here: What’s Your Question? – interesting move back into knowledge search by Ask

Shanda Games Launches Outsourcing Platform –

Back to the future: Why push technologies and search are about to explode | VentureBeat – oooh I may get a worth PointCast replacement

Pay as you go sim with data Wiki – handy for tourists who need bandwidth

Moving Up, Moving In | blackrimglasses – interesting take on the future of the music sector

ECJ asked to confirm that emulating software does not infringe copyright | Pinsent Masons LLP – I wonder what the implication would be for WINE

Erickson Longboards | Home – environmentally friendly and fun

MediaPost Publications – Welcome To The Revolution, Nielsen – interesting data on the boomer generation

2011 Ford Explorer: Inside the Facebook Reveal

UI Stencils – Welcome – handy stuff for conceptualising web and mobile designs

Radian6 integrates Webtrends and Salesforce data « Official Webtrends Company Blog – interesting move potentially puts Radian6 and Saleforce in the same ring as Techlightenment

Case Study: How IBM Uncovers “Millions of Dollars” Worth of Sales Leads with Social Media – The eMarketer Blog

Ways to snoop ‘private’ web sessions identified – tech – 25 July 2010 – New Scientist – I guess that’s the reason why most users call it porn mode

Yahoo! Japan and The Gordian Knot

Yahoo! Japan selected Google as its search partner in Japan. It is suggested by commentators that this is contrary to how the parent company handled things. But let’s review:

  • Microsoft won the Yahoo! search business only after: an attempted hostile takeover (though its arguable Microsoft was that serious about it as Yahoo!’s position as lead on a number of open source developments including PHP and Hadoop would raise anti-trust issues for Microsoft’s Windows, Server and Tools businesses) – this destablised Yahoo! causing a hemorrhaging of talent to Google and other players
  • Microsoft then worked with shareholder activists (Carl Icahn) to unseat the board
  • Microsoft also deployed lobbyists to have any potential Google deal declared an antitrust issue
  • Microsoft gave Yahoo! Inc. a poor deal. No upfront cash and no real advantage
  • Microsoft is in a monopoly position with its client Yahoo! Inc. Once the contract ends, Yahoo! can’t go to Google and Microsoft can name their own terms
  • Microsoft has since closed Yahoo! out of distribution deals that it previously enjoyed
  • Microsoft’s Bing search is still less relevant and provides a poor user experience compared to Google or even Ask’s Teoma. That is why Microsoft has had to buy search market share through the Yahoo! deal and through tool bar | search distribution deals
  • Bing joins a legion of proof-points showing that the Microsoft innovation message put out as part of Microsoft’s core communications strategy is hollow. Yes, resources are given to innovation; but the outcomes don’t generally justify the term innovative ergo not innovation
  • The Bing experience in Japanese is even worse

All of this would have been noted by Yahoo! Japan. However Yahoo! Japan has a number of shareholders to think of, and Yahoo! Inc. despite the commonality in the name is only a minority shareholder. Yahoo! Japan has an iron-lock in a number of sectors including local content, jobs, auctions, mobile and TV-based applications.

A poor consumer experience in search could let a competitor such as Microsoft or Google go after some if not all of these franchises. It would also affect Softbank’s broadband business and Yahoo! Japan’s mobile carrier | handset content relationships.

If Yahoo! Japan went along with a Microsoft search deal they would get screwed on the search revenue like Yahoo! Inc did. Why should Microsoft pay more for what they think they have coming to them already? Microsoft thinks that it has all the moves.

However, Yahoo! Japan – despite its name is a product of Japan, occupying one of Tokyo’s most prestigious business addresses, with a management team made up from some of Japan’s best entrepreneurs – at a time when Japan has little to be proud of in the technology sector.

All this at a time when Microsoft has come close to humiliating Japan’s Sony Corporation in the games console market and the disproportionate profit that Microsoft makes from Japanese computer makers through the monopolistic position of its Windows software licenses.

Then the Yahoo! Japan also has a compelling consumer argument in terms of the quality of the search experience. This could be a battle royale, pitting Microsoft money-fuelled lobbying and bluster against a Japanese national champion. And I hope that the Japanese cut Microsoft down to size.

Love this presentation on the new logo | symbol for the Rupee

Soon you will be able to use it on your computer once it has been ratified by Unicode

View more presentations from roopsahoo.

Jargon Watch: Gruen Transfer

Put simply the Gruen Transfer is when the confusion of a shopping experience sets in wearing down our determination, changing the consumer from a destination shopper on a mission to purchase a particular item and instead turn into an impulse shopper who wanders through the stores.

Gruen Tranfer is named after Victor Gruen who invented the modern shopping complex: the Southdale Mall in Edina, Minnesota. The delicious irony of it all is that the Austrian was a committed socialist in his younger days.

Links of the day

Will Zynga Become the Google of Games? – – nice profile of Zynga

Digital Domain – Even With All Its Profits, Microsoft Has a Popularity Problem – – Microsoft’s financial performance is not not reflected in its share price and a far bit of that has to do with the corporate communications letting the organisation down

中古レコード・CDの販売/買取 COCONUTS DISK – awesome Tokyo record store

Sissy Bounce, New Orleans’s Gender-Bending Rap – – Derek B’s 808 roll on Rock the Beat is a cornerstone, immortalised like The Winston’s Amen Brother. Really interesting sound very similar in spirit to the roots of hip-hop like the live shows back in the day at Harlem World

Why United States Lawsuits Against Chinese Companies Are Trending Up. Just Follow The Money. : China Law Blog – part of the development process for Chinese companies becoming global players

The end of the bandwidth race is here – The Inquirer – interesting take on the network infrastructure challenges faced by the UK

Webinar Recording: Impact of Social Technologies to the Analyst Industry « Web Strategy by Jeremiah Owyang – social media and analyst relations

Facebook: Welcome PR “flacks” of the world | Reuters – interesting that Facebook felt PRs needed a 101 in the social network. Is engagement slipping?

Monocolumn – Book fair stories [Monocle] – I love Hong Kong which is why it saddens me that Jeffrey Archer’s books seem so popular there, actually its less of a feeling and more of a gagging sensation as I want to vomit

Big Money: AOL’s Beauty Pageant With Google, Microsoft For New Search Deal – interesting that there are more than two companies competing for AOL’s search traffic. Techcrunch says Yahoo! but it could be Ask?

Playdom CEO John Pleasants: why “social gaming” will die | VentureBeat

Twitter CEO celebrates dramatic growth in Japan › Japan Today – Japanese people make up about 12 per cent of Twitter’s global user base

Slashdot Linux Story | Open Source Participation Gains Support In China – congratulations to Taobao for the contributions that its making to the open source software community

Interesting perspective on China’s economic transition over the past three decades

I wouldn’t say that I agree with all Minxin Pei‘s presentation content, but it is very interesting to watch because of the economic facts that he marshals and I like the way he puts China’s growth in the context of growth of the US in the late 19th century.

Key numbers | facts

  • Chinese economy now worth 5 trillion USD
  • China is now third largest trading partner and world’s largest exporter
  • China has worlds largest foreign currency reserves 2.5 trillion dollars
  • Lenovo is the world’s fourth largest computer manufacturer
  • Huawei is the worlds third largest network infrastructure company
  • Chinese high-speed trains can do 200mph, faster than the Shinkansen trains of Japan
  • Obesity is starting to become a problem in China
  • Every day about 1 million Chinese move from the rural parts of the country into the cities | urban centres
  • China consumes 50 per cent of the oil that the US does
  • China building 2-3 nuclear power stations per year

Just what’s been going on here?

Over the past week I have been working with a great freelance developer we use to sort out a security problem on this blog. The site got hacked, more details on how that could have happened here. The code seems to have been Javascript that would have directed you to sites which included malware if you had clicked up on it. Most of these links were in the archive section of the website.

The code was cleaned out, a couple of errant user accounts deleted, passwords were changed and WordPress updated. Google’s webmaster tools seems to have given the site a clean bill of health.

So apologies if you haven’t been able to read this blog over the past few days but (fingers crossed) we think that we have it licked.

Links of the day

Monocolumn – A dent to the Murdoch empire [Monocle] – in Australia

Activists claim Ofcom Code fails to implement Digital Economy Act | Pinsent Masons LLP – why am I not surprised that Ofcom went with this interpretation of the act?

SRI chief: Now’s the best time for innovation — just don’t choke it | VentureBeat – interesting the way SRI think that a lot of fields are wide open to be transformed through innovation at the moment

Wal-Mart to Put Radio Tags on Clothes – – privacy issues in terms of where readers are and how the data can be mined

Digital Comics Could Be Savior or Supervillain | The Big Money

Digital Pharma have a couple of good pieces on mobile applications

BP – victim or villain? | – my former colleague Rachel Catanach gives her tuppence on the BP oil spill and the way the comms team handled it

Carbon Copy Cloner – Home – great back-up software endorsed for years by @bloodybigspider

Android’s ascent in China might not elevate Google – since it has a GPL licence it can be configured for other services and can even go to another application marketplace rather than Google’s. Mobile Linux makes sense even for feature phones

The LA Flea Market – I need to go and see this if if I get get to LA. Period GE electric fans and other cool stuff

MediaShift . How Content Farms Train Their Writers to Write for the Web | PBS – the future of online media – A geek in Japan — Draft beer on board – courtesy of ANA and Asahi Breweries, its one of them why hasn’t anybody thought of this sooner?

Long-term unemployment: Leaving the labour force, bit by bit | The Economist – interesting article on the economic impact of the long term unemployed

A Louis Vuitton Bag With A Side Of CSR « The China Tracker – – CSR taking a bigger roll in the luxury market brand preference (it based on research done by my colleagues at Ruder Finn Asia)

Ten Reasons Chinese Companies Fail In The U.S. « The China Tracker – – interesting article on differing business practices and cultural differences

飛騨高山 留之助商店 本店 – amazing Japanese store full of modern pop art and cool kitsch stuff

Monocolumn – Better living through artistry [Monocle] – using art to encourage engagement across generations and between rural and city-dwellers

Old Spice a hit everywhere but the store – that’s if sales was the score

Analysts Troubled By Weak Yahoo Sales | paidContent – no real surprises here beyond the fact that Yahoo! didn’t have an uplift from its World Cup activities

Skype gets businesses to foot the bill with Click & Call | Econsultancy – really smart for customer engagement

Asiajin » Recruit’s New Coupon Site Troubled, Raises Suspicious On Groupon Model

Foxconn reminds local critics in Taiwan that it can invest elsewhere – an alternative way of dealing with a hostile media, right up there with we’ll pull the advertising budget if you write something we don’t like

‘Microneedle’ Patches Claim a Pain-Free Vaccination Experience – I love the smart thinking behind this

You want an interactive map of where Facebook is used? Happy to help | Technology | – whilst Facebook has 500 million users, the usage is relatively concentrated still

CSR Done Right: Pepsi’s Oil Spill Activity – PSFK – smart and low-key revamps analytics dashboard for enterprise customers | VentureBeat

Wolfram|Alpha Blog : Ask Wolfram|Alpha about Medical Drug Treatments – developing some hardcore medical features

Price cuts fall short for many German brands – Warc – sounds like PR could help raise perceived value

Communities Dominate Brands: Obituary for OPK: Wall Street is a Cruel Mistress – Tomi Ahonen articulates a coherent position on Nokia that the company itself has failed to communicate

(mt) Media Temple » Am I Hacked? Security Explanations From (mt) – handy guide to what’s been happening here