8 services you should be using | 8 互联网服务

When I was working on the What’s Next presentation and series of blog posts, I put a list of services that people should try, in the unlikely event that they hadn’t already:


  • Quora – clean smart question-and-answer service that manages to intelligently connect your questions and your social graph. It’s focused and pleasingly minimal design, just like a good web app should be – Facebook take note!
  • Formspring – easy way to create an FAQ
  • Hunch – decision engine. I haven’t seen brands using it yet, but it has an immense amount of potential. Hunch also had Caterina Fake’s smarts at building a great community. Something that still sustains Flickr

Location has been where the heat is at this year and these are the front-runners give them a road test to sound knowledgeable in client meetings.

Augmented reality

  • Google SketchUp – an easy-to-use tool that allows users to create 3D models that can be an overlay on Google Earth. A great way of creating locative art and engaging consumers in a more creative way

Research | monitoring

  • Google Realtime – it took Google a while but I think that this a great monitoring tool

I like: Fedex & Ketchum benchmarking study on social media | 网上调查研究

FedEx and Ketchum did some interesting research in the US about current practices around social media and the video clip below highlights some of the findings. A downloadable PDF was available.

I like: Underworld – Always Loved A Film | 音乐 Underworld – Always Loved A Film

If you are used to Underworld’s earlier work pummeling your senses via a giant sound system like I am then this track will hopefully come as a pleasant surprise. It is a delightful piece of of downbeat electronica that would be right at home in a café in Ibiza.

Links of the day | 在网上找到

The hidden cost of facebook’s messaging system- The Inquirer

Asiajin » Hit List: Japan’s Top 20 Products In 2010 (And 2011) – interesting how environment | energy saving products will be most popular next year

Patentwiki – An Idea Incubator – really interesting ide, I wonder whether it would be hit by prior art legal claims?

BBC – World Tonight: Looking at the world from China – interesting post featuring the opinion of Chinese academics

Automated sentiment analysis? Yes, it is possible. And it’s here: Glide Intelligence « In Front Of Your Nose: An online PR blog – not so sure myself – where is the great leap forward in machine learning? The NLP aspect to it doesn’t inspire confidence. Even if it was based on a giant database of lexeme clusters a la the work of Professor David Crystal at AND and Crystal Semantics I would understand, but from what I’ve heard so far I am skeptical

Who the hell is Ayi Jihu? | China Music Radar – I remember seeing this get hyped a while ago on the Metro newspaper

Gopan Rice-to-Bread Machine: A Huge Hit | Japan Probe – interesting innovation this both flour mill and bakery all in one

Monocolumn – Branding Finland [Monocle] – interesting idea to brand Finland as a way of working out a path for the country in the future

Revisiting Delicious

Five years ago I worked on the launch of Yahoo! MyWeb, which was a social bookmarking service (it was moved into Yahoo! Bookmarks a a couple of years ago). MyWeb failed to go mainstream partly because it was a difficult concept for consumers to get their head around, God knows we tried.

By contrast, Delicious has been a success. It was never aimed at the mainstream, it never tried to over-extend itself in terms of its feature-set and has a brutally simple user experience.

Some five years later, many of Yahoo!‘s core constituent audience don’t really need a social bookmarking service because they are too business playing Farmville on Facebook to get out explore and remember. So where does that leave Delicious?

Well about the only numbers that Google Adplanner and Compete.com can agree on is that the site has over 500,000 unique users. Delicious seems to have hung on to its early-adopter audience; well that is what seems to be the case when you look at the audience interests that Google Adplanner:

  • Venture capital
  • Search Engine Optimization & Marketing
  • Writers resources
  • Public relations
  • Development tools
  • Graphic design
  • Home office
  • Web design & development
  • Content management
  • Advertising & Marketing

Also when you look at related sites, they are social bookmarking sites with only a tenth of the traffic that Delicious has. So Delicious sounds like it is holding its own and is a very targeted audience, but there is a big question about how this fits within Yahoo!’s portfolio:

  • It no longer has the excuse of keeping Delicious to help improve its search technology since that now comes from Microsoft
  • It certainly doesn’t fit into Yahoo!’s tech-backward, low income, late-boomer core audience
  • Whilst Delicious is a fantastically useful product, the ‘heat’ or buzz in the tech sector has moved on to mobile, social gaming and micro-blogs

Jargon Watch: Metz Threshold | 行话 Metz Threshold

I was listening to David Kilcullen on the C-SPAN After Words podcast, where he was interviewed about his book Counterinsurgency. One interesting concept struck me from the interview which Kilcullen called the Metz Threshold.  Kilcullen described it as the amount of time that a country’s population will tolerate their government prosecuting a war. It is based on research conducted by Dr. Steven Metz; hence the name Metz Threshold. Apparently the Metz Threshold for the US is about three years.

11 Blue-collar lessons for agency life

Before working in agency, I held down a number of blue-collar roles:

  • Lab technician
  • Labouring
  • Manning a production line
  • Plant process operator
  • DJ’ing and running parties (which was more of a love and a vocation rather than a job)

These roles gave me a foundation to build my agency life on:

  • The value of connections: Here’s how a typical job interview went in the petrochemical sector. I see that you’ve worked at X Company do you know so-and-so? I worked with them on X project at a previous company, when can you start? You learn about the power of connections pretty fast. I heard of similar experiences amongst friends who were brickies and steel erectors – once you are ‘in the life’ you are half-way there
  • Read the manual: Back when I worked in labs we often may get budget to buy kit like computers or testing rigs like a tensometer, they never put a budget in for training or fixing anything if it went wrong. That meant I had to spend a lot of time reading through spiral bound manuals usually covered in chocolate brown PVC. Google makes this process a lot easier, but before you shout out, or throw your hands up in the air; read the proverbial manual
  • Build on other people’s work: One of the last jobs I had before going to college was testing optical fibre. I pulled apart other people’s Lotus 1-2-3 macros to automate the recording of data from test equipment. This allowed me to to do interesting stuff like how to touch-type. Reading the manual didn’t help that much, whereas building on the wisdom of others did
  • Touch-typing: probably the smartest single act I ever did was learning how to touch-type on a terminal hooked up to a DEC VAX 9000 mini-computer. It helped me so much during the years – from being able to turn out essays at college, doing call-centre work to pay the bills when things got lean to agency work and even this blog. Not being able to touch type is like not being able to hold a pen. Whilst the future may bring us a Minority Report-style interface for computers rather than a keyboard, I am sure that it will still have a QWERTY layout for English speakers
  • Finding your way around a computer: I wouldn’t say that I am a computer expert but I had to learn my way around a computer. Working in an industrial environment I got exposed to everything from Windows 1.0, terminals attached to minicomputers or mainframes, SGI workstations and (classic) Macs. The key thing is note down everything of importance, draw flow diagrams or whatever helps you think it through and don’t be afraid. I am not a great fan of computer driving licences as they teach a set of skills rather than a way of problem solving
  • Occam’s razor: often the simplest, most elegant explanation is the truth. I picked this up the hard way troubleshooting experiments that went wrong. There is nothing like a methodical approach to finding that simple elegant explanation
  • Thinking ahead:  working in manufacturing meant that you always had to think about where your job was going. I used to work at two companies that were thriving at the time: Spectrum Adhesive Coaters used to make the labels that go in the middle of Imperial Leather soap tablets and holographic labels for Visa credit cards; Corning Optical Fibres used to provide optical fibre to BT and parts of BAe Systems for everything from telecoms and computer networks to fly-by-wire missiles. Neither exist anymore, what is more the sites where they stood show no signs of their existence. Corning Optical Fibres is now a patch of grassland, which sits either side of a security fence for a Toyota engine plant, Spectrum Adhesive Coaters is a grassy knoll in the middle of a retail park next to an ASDA supermarket. These weren’t Victorian-era smoke stack businesses, Corning Optical Fibres was bleeding edge technology with a clean room environment which would have been familiar to workers at Intel or AMD. This sort of change forces you to constantly think what’s next, it was the reason why I eventually went back to college and the reason why I explored digital early on
  • Clean as you go: working in industry on the shop-floor you are encouraged to ‘clean as you go’. Too much clutter and mess can lead to industrial accidents due to people slipping on a spillage or having something fall on your foot. I have a friend who has an 18-inch scar down his arm where a hedge trimmer that was being serviced by a colleague fell off the bench whilst he was bent down lifting an item out of his tool box. My desk isn’t clean but as tasks get done the paper and clutter generally gets binned
  • Plan the work, and work the plan: working in an oil refinery or a production line means that you need to have a clear understanding of what you want to do. Otherwise you could end up injured, dead and possibly take the neighbourhood with you. In agency life, its a bit less serious with over-servicing and clients squeezing agencies
  • Make mistakes: I started off working in a laboratory, there was a chief chemist called Brian with a set of filing cabinets. Brian has an encyclopaedic memory of two decades worth of experiments that had gone wrong and records in the filing cabinets to back his recollections up. The thing that the scientific method gives you is a perspective on mistakes. So long as you learn from them they aren’t bad in the long run
  • Cover your ass: the untold story about the rise of total quality management (TQM) and BS5750 | ISO9000 in the late 1980s and 90s was as much about realpolitik as is was about improving business processes. I am not saying that these standards were a bad thing, but that they appealed to the political creature in companies who could kill you with memos to prove that they were right. However it is good practice in an agency environment because you instinctively can take to job bag systems and traceability required for approvals processes and accurate billing

Links of the day | 在网上找到

Facebook and Twitter not making many friends in Japan | RCR Unplugged – developers make more money on Mixi and the mobile | PC integration is better

Coppers want to shut down ‘illegal’ websites- The Inquirer – new Nominet system may be more transparent than previous efforts

EU Parliament backs ACTA with few reservations | Pinsent Masons LLP – a mixed bag here for consumers and businesses

Digital Music in China, It Has To Be Free Lunch | Open Web Asia – disrupted business models

NHS caught sharing users’ health concerns with Facebook (Digital Knowledge Centre – Digital Intelligence) – OMG

Google Maps Will No Longer Support Mapplets

Social media analysis: “we’ll always need humans”, says Metrica boss | Wadds’ PR Blog – to do the stuff that machines find computationally hard, coming from the same direction that social search efforts did. If this is likely to come from anywhere it will be from the machine learning programme at Google and then all the measurement companies will be DOA

Schneier on Security: The DHS is Getting Rid of the Color-Coded Terrorism Alert System – doesn’t work from a consumer behaviour point of view

Judge Bars ‘Fair Use’ Defense in Xbox Modding Trial | Wired.com – interesting move, this could crush the whole Maker movement

Monocolumn – The Chinese quest for luxury brands [Monocle] – more sophisticated tastes

Asiajin » Japan’s Top Search Keywords in 2010 By Yahoo! Japan

Digital Communities Can Learn From “Leading Clever People” « BBH Labs

Visualized: The rise of China’s inland cities – Shanghaiist – amazing surge in growth

Do Something – Mike Monday’s Blog – Although Mike Monday can sometimes sound a bit like Anthony Robbins this post is right on the money

Branding in the Digital Age: You’re Spending Your Money in All the Wrong Places – Harvard Business Review – importance of loyalty and prior experience

Delicious Founder Schachter Gets Backing For A New Social Startup | paidContent

ChangeWave: Apple headed for “most explosive holiday season in its history” – Fortune – iPad | iPhone halo effect

Have I been penalized..? – If I were a VC, I would be keeping an eye on this site and filtering the invites I get to start-up pitches against it. Why don’t they just man up and admit that they weren’t as successful than they would have liked and stop externalising the blame? Also, beyond having Microsoft as a client is there any reason why B-M are an ICOMP member, have their press releases been unfairly penalised?

Federal Prosecutors: Supply Line Leaks May Constitute Insider Trading – now this is going to get interesting

Asiajin » 30% Japanese Sends E-Mail First To Ask If They Can Make Phone Call – it’s at times like these that I realise I am just an ignorant barbarian

Nokia gets a public image facelift, appoints Jerri DeVard as chief marketing officer | VentureBeat – not sure how I feel about this. I am concerned that he has too much of a North American world-vision. I would make sense if Nokia is going to roll over and be Verizon’s bitch. Which may make Wall Street equity analysts happy, but wouldn’t be great for Nokia, or the rest of the world

My Twitter Fans – does for Twitter interactions what Wordle did for document keyword analysis

Facebook News Feed Settings: Random or Not, Biggest Secrets Revealed – The Daily Beast – facebook puts a premium on long-standing members, if you’ve been stalked or commented on you’re more ‘interesting’, links trump status updates, photos and videos trump links

WANKEN – The Blog of Shelby White » Behind the SwissAir Logo – meant to share this a while ago, thanks to Stephen for the heads up

50 mobile facts | 无线电信市场

Graham and the team at mobileYouth have come up with 50 slideware-friendly statistics on global mobile markets. Enjoy:

I like: Stüssy x Stones Throw J Dilla documentary | 记录片 Stüssy x Stones Throw J Dilla

Great documentary that Stone’s Throw and Stüssy did a while back about producer and DJ James Dewitt ‘J Dilla’ Yancey. What I was was interesting (but I guess not too surprising given Japan’s soft power and huge collection of vinyl junkies and producers) was the seminal role that Manhattan Records in Shibuya, Tokyo had in J Dilla’s rise to fame.

Manhattan Records is probably the best shop on the planet with some of the most savvy buyers who get the best house and hip-hop cuts. During my brief trip out to Tokyo I got half a dozen great records out there and could have bought a lot more but for my credit card was hammered and the excess baggage would kill me.

Part one

Stussy – J Dilla Documentary Part 1 of 3 from Stussy on Vimeo.

Part two

Stussy – J Dilla Documentary Part 2 of 3 from Stussy on Vimeo.

Part three

Stussy – J Dilla Documentary Part 3 of 3 from Stussy on Vimeo.

Feelin’ Baltic | 伦敦寒冷的天气

Words cannot adequately how miserably cold London feels today. So I thought that images may be able to do the job better. Here are some shots I took with my iPhone, most of them using Pro HDR to get good detail of the winter sky. Thanks to my colleague Hannah for the inspiration on the title of this post.

Hitwise, The Beatles and the Starsky & Hutch Appreciation Fan Club

You may know that The Beatles recently released their back catalogue on Apple’s iTunes music store recently, apparently it was a big thing. I am not a Beatles fan so I just found it a mild irritant. Robin Goad and the people over at Hitwise found that Facebook was a key driver and sounded surprised that Apple | iTunes was a relatively low search term on Google. So why was this?

  • Whilst iTunes has web pages for each track would consumers consider it part of the Googlesphere?
  • If you are interested in The Beatles distributing music unless you are a technophile, the band would come first and the channel a distant second when you think about the user context

The Facebook aspect of it reminded me of Starsky & Hutch. Starsky & Hutch was the first television programme I followed avidly, I was allowed to stay up late on a Saturday night to watch it (I was a sucker for the car chases) and spent far too many hours trying to draw Starsky’s custom-painted Ford Torino. I wasn’t a member at the time, but a number of years ago some friends bought me an old Starsky & Hutch Appreciation Fan Club welcome pack. The club apparently also sent out a magazine or newsletter on a regular basis to fans.

Facebook groups and pages are in many respects similar channels of people’s passions today. The key difference is that you don’t see the same kind of creative outputs that say fanzines like Liverpool’s The End or London’s Boy’s Own had; though this may come with time.

I would fully expect traffic for an item that inspires a passion like music to drive traffic from Facebook. Twitter offers little engagement and MySpace is… interesting, particularly in its efforts to regain relevance with audiences. The more interesting aspect of The Beatles on iTunes is whether this is a blip (like the golden age of record companies getting boomers to buy their cherished artists works whom they previously had on vinyl, on compact disc instead); or whether Steve Jobs has found a proverbial gold mine?

Links of the day | 在网上找到

How To Get Your MacBook To Run A Non-Apple 2560-By-1440 Monitor – I had this problem when speaking a couple of times so good to know

How to Enable the “root” Account on Mac OS X – handy to know, but as the comic book said: with great power comes great responsibility

Why spreadable doesn’t equal viral: A conversation with Henry Jenkins » Nieman Journalism Lab – Jenkin’s concept of spreadable media “is media which travels across media platforms at least in part because the people take it in their own hands and share it with their social networks.”

Big brands focus on customer service – Warc News – cheaper than new customer acquisition

Interview With Cartier’s Nigel Luk on Jewelry Brands Plans for Expansion in China – China Real Time Report – WSJ – interesting insights into the Asian luxury goods market

The Future of Prison Technology: Not As Scary As It Seems? | Fast Company – interesting smart fear of unintentional consequences keeping technology usage very pragmatic

Creative Review – Saville and Kelly’s memorial to Tony Wilson – the debate fired up by Tony Wilson’s headstone designed by Peter Saville and Ben Kelly is as fierce as the debate Mr Wilson prompted in real life. We need more divisive people

Snap Bird – search twitter’s history

Can Hunch’s Algorithm Improve Your Gift-Giving Skills?: Tech News « – looks like Hunch has managed to move product search forward

The Morrow Project – interesting project by Intel using authors as futurologists

J-List side blog: Understanding Japan: Tatemae and Honne – interesting aspect of human behaviour

Verizon proposes wholesale rewrite of US telecom law — Engadget – no one is happy with the US legislative framework

Creative Industries (Cool Japan!)/METI Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry – promoting Japanese sources of soft power

Today’s Novell Deal Helps Microsoft Continue Linux Fight – good analysis of the Novell acquisition

Oxford Academics: Web Not To Blame For Newspapers’ Slide | paidContent:UK – business model, not internet responsible for newspaper decline in many countries. No real surprise there

Let me pirate that for you – whatever will they think of next? A metasearch engine to piracy. Whilst it could be of help to media owners trying to get a handle on how far their content has spread I think it will soon be taken down by the RIAA | MPAA

Free Your Friends’ Contact Info From Facebook’s Grip – currently attempting this and failing miserably

Long Live the Web: A Call for Continued Open Standards and Neutrality: Scientific American – Facebook is the great satan

How many of your employees love your products? (And why it matters.) – Empowered – good point. Back in the day one of the first signs that the HP-150 was going to bomb was that no engineer wanted to use it

The Path less travelled | 互联网 path.com

Drew Benvie and Mark Pinsent have been writing their thoughts about new social network Path. I wanted to give it a bit of thought before piling in otherwise I would be just going over the same ground that they have already done.

Path is a new social network that has a number of points of interest to the digerati:

  • It’s an iPhone app – that’s good because the iPhone is pretty hot at the moment
  • It’s got a good user experience
  • It’s a social network
  • It’s about visual sharing
  • It limits the number of contacts that you can have to 50

So what does this all mean?

Facebook isn’t perfect, they’re not as smart as Google and recent history has demonstrated that even Google is fallible. Facebook has a number of weak points:

  • Poor user experience – Take your social media maven hat off for a minute and ask yourself how an average consumer is supposed to do many of the tasks which Facebook is capable of? I do it by always gone through help and I get paid to do this kind of thing. What are the visual cues that separate a page, or a community page from a group? Which is probably why 20-and-30-something males interviewed as part of recent research by IPC Media described Facebook as looking old
  • Privacy – partly by design by Facebook so they can sell advertising inventory on lots of compelling social data. Partly because of social engineering, Facebook more than anyone else has done more than anyone else devalue the concept of ‘friend’
  • Context – Facebook thinks that it is a general purpose social network; a digital Ford Model T. But today the Ford Motor Company sells thousands of variants of each car model and has shares in different brands (currently Mazda and Aston Martin) to appeal to a similarly wide range of customers. Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn realised that no one social network can do it all

Path deals with privacy by narrowing down your social graph to 50 people and presumably keeping this content in the deep web rather than easily crawlable for Google. Context is about your closest friends and family. As for user experience, Facebook has set the bar low.

In some ways its not completely new as a concept. It’s a visual social network like Flickr and Flickr also gives you control over who you share your images with. But that facility isn’t used and its not particularly easy to use. Facebook allows you to create lists of contacts, but again its not that easy to use. Email provides complete tailoring of a list, but we get too much already and as the Claire Swire incident showed; very easy to share.

50-connection limit

The 50-connection limit is something that has got a lot of people talking as it changes the perceived dynamics of social networks.

In a typical symmetrical network like LinkedIn, Friendster or Facebook friends are like stamps to be collected. There are a number of reasons for this:

  • Ego: particularly in teens who may interpret their friend number as a loose measure of self-validation and popularity
  • The power of loose networks – most experts in network theory claim that having a large loose network tends to be better than having a small close set of connections

In an asymmetric network like Delicious, Twitter or Flickr tend to be networks formed around common interests rather than strictly around relationships. For instance, that could be a relationship with a brand, an expert or a celebrity. I know some of the people who follow me on Twitter, but by no means all 1,648 or so of my followers.

The 50-person limit also has a downside at least from Path’s point of view. Growth is likely to be much slower than normal due to to network effects. Think about this for a moment:

  • I can only have 50 people, so I am unlikely to invite all 50 close contacts (if I had them) because I would need to leave a bit of leeway for new people (admittedly, this assumes that I am at a relatively young life stage)
  • I can’t ‘drop’ someone because that is so much more of a major put-down than de-friending them on Facebook. They were in my inner sanctum, they would have had to do something pretty heinous in order to cast them out into the night
  • When does a girlfriend (or boyfriend) become a sufficient keeper that you invite them to connect on your Path network?

What does this mean for clients | brands?

The first thing I am curious about is how Path will make a profit? What is the clickthrough rate likely to be on adverts vended against the content?

Secondly brand auditing | landscaping | monitoring may be a divisive issue as Path is more akin to private physician networks like Sermo than Facebook in terms of its privacy promise. Snooping would also be difficult because of the visual nature of the content doesn’t lend itself to be processed automatically as easily as text (key word analysis etc).

It may create an artificial bubble of trust: whilst Path content isn’t readily re-shareable, it can be screen shot quite easily and that forwarded on. What this would mean is that if you had content go viral it would take days rather than minutes like it would on Twitter or Facebook.

What it does mean however is that brand experiences shared by people with their networks over Path are likely to carry more impact because of the close nature of the network. So for instance, the word-of-mouth that cycling enthusiast Mark may share about cycling brand Rapha will carry more weight to his nearest and dearest than his wider network.

This means that a brand could have a creeping reputation problem that stays under their monitoring radar until it emerges fully-formed crossing over on to Twitter, Facebook or blog posts.