I spent the morning at the International Digital Forum at the IAB and here some of my notes from the talk. Pernille Rudlin talked about how Fujitsu used social media around the world. The most interesting takeaways for me was that a B2B brand was making better use of Facebook than it was getting out of LinkedIn and employee engagement was a major part of the return on investment.
Dan Bloomfield of Oban Multilingual gave a brief overview of the Brazilian, Indian and Chinese online eco-systems.
I stayed a couple of nights at the Britannia Hotel in Manchester, my stay was a mixed bag.
This is what my room looked like.
Location – the hotel is in a fantastic building that was originally built as a warehouse for a wholesale drapery business. At the time Manchester was at the centre of the global textile industry and the buildings were designed to reflect this stature. The hotel was put in the 1980s and the original cast iron staircase is the centrepiece of the hotel
Location – you can’t get much more central than its position on Portland Street, walking distance from many of the main attractions from Piccadilly station and the Canal Street gay quarter to Deansgate shopping area
Price – if you look online you can get competitive room prices from the Britannia Hotel.
I found the staff to be polite and professional
Free wi-fi: well nothing is free but it was night to see that you didn’t get gouged for internet access. However I wasn’t impressed by the performance
If you want something shipshape and shine, the Britannia isn’t the hotel for you. They are making their assets sweat to give competitively priced rooms, so you have to put up with old carpet and fittings and tired decorations
The TV seems to have a random selection of stations available. I have no idea why
The wi-fi is absolutely abysmal see my test results for yourself. I was staying for business purposes and couldn’t get anything meaningful done and on the second night I couldn’t get on the internet at all
30 Portland Street
Manchester M1 3LA
+44 161 228 2288
The phenomena of BYOD (bring your own devices) is where employees bring their own computing devices into work. It is not something radical or particularly new despite what trends blogs may have you believe. I have with one exception at Pirate Communications had a company phone and never had a company smartphone. Much of the reason was that my cell phone number is as much my identity as my email address.
Students of the history of personal computing know that the first generations; usually Apple II’s were introduced into businesses to run VisiCalc spreadsheet software and subvert the IT’s grip on business information and modelling. The tradition of ‘pirate’ IT systems is still carried on in different departments of merchant banks (its why trading models are often built in a complex Excel spreadsheet rather than as a dedicated application). Increased computing power in smartphones, tablets and laptops leave consumers better equipped than the IT departments who were previously in charge of outfitting technology to employees.
In common with the 701, Sony’s C1 impressed me with its product design. In a pioneering design for 1998, the C1 included a built in web camera above the screen that could be rotated to try and ensure an optimum camera position.
Sony made a small modular computer. What was important was what they had left out in their device case and instead relied on a set of outboard peripherals so the user could bring or configure their computer set-up to suit their needs. The PCMCIA (Personal Computer Memory Card International Association) slot was equivalent of the USB socket today and used to connect a wide range of devices including both fixed-line and GSM wireless modems.
The beauty extended on to the inside of the devices with some of the range using a Transmeta Crusoe processor. The Crusoe was the Intel Atom almost a decade before the Atom; it used a combination of software techniques and hardware innovations to reduce heat output and improve power consumption. This had some benefit in terms of battery improvement, but battery life relies on a combination factors such as screen power, hard drive power and other parts on the circuit board.
This device is even more remarkable when you realise that the Sony Vaio C1 was launched some seven years before Steve Jobs went on stage at Apple’s Worldwide Development Conference in 2005 to announce the move to Intel processors because of a new focus on computer power per Watt. You could consider the MacBook Air that I am typing this post out on as a spiritual successor to the Vaio C1.
A later than usual look at things that have made my week:
The V&A’s exhibition, British Design 1948–2012: Innovation in the Modern Age is a beautifully curated tour through British product design in the post-war period. I was bowled over by some of the post-war furniture design which showed a smart use of wood and minimalist use of materials. It made modern design look unfocused and flabby
Starbucks wi-fi. I stayed at a disappointing hotel in Manchester earlier this week and Starbucks wi-fi helped me to remain connected when the hotel infrastructure let me down
Mendeley is a social bookmarking, social search and referencing tool that would have been a life-saver when I was writing my chapter in The Social Media MBA, instead of wasting four hours on a Saturday at the end of July last year
I listened to J Dilla’s Donuts album for the first time in years and fell in love with the sublime production all over again
I finally invested in a case for my iPhone and got one of the promotional Van’s cases, the waffle sole seemed like the ideal way to hold the phone securely on plastic surfaces like my desk at work and a car dash when I use it as a GPS device
The best definition I heard of viral marketing was a joke comment by Nicolas Roope who described viral as something ‘a little bit shit‘. Clients tend to think of viral as free as in beer. I only wish that every marketer and PR person sat down and went through this presentation:
I’ve been a Mac user for almost all of my computer-owning adult life and there have only been a couple of devices that have ever given me PC-envy. The first one was the IBM ThinkPad 701, my friend at college Jouni whom I lived in halls with at the time had a 701 and the product design blew me away.
Surprisingly for a computer manufacturer, IBM turned out laptops that had interesting industrial design. They used magnesium alloy shells, titanium and carbon fibre in different model designs over the years and got less credit than they deserved for it.
Richard Sapper, a German product designer based in Italy came up with the design language for the ThinkPad which he modeled on the traditional black lacquer bento box. An ex-automotive engineer with Mercedes Benz Sapper was better known for his work with Alessi and the Tizio lamp for Artemide. Sapper has kept a connection with the ThinkPad brand and is involved as a design consultant for the current ThinkPad range made by Lenovo.
What made the 701 special was the butterfly keyboard designed by John Karidis solved the problem of making a portable computer with a full-size keyboard. It was delicate the way it folded into place as one opened the lid on the laptop and robust enough to cope with travails of mobile working.
Looking at the Korean Oreo advert that seems to have caused a stir in the US, it seemed obvious to me that the advert was a case of throwing creative against the wall. It may have been used as a calling card, a way to spur debate or a mock-up for an award as Kraft seem to suggest.
It is also interesting that Kraft has thrown Cheil under the bus really fast on this. For what it’s worth I think that this could be a great creative if it had the right context – say targeting young men as a snack rather their more traditional demographic of family decision-makers – housewives.
I remember watching the late great Tony Wilson talking about Manchester, he described the city as The Venice of The North. I guess he had in mind scenes like this:
By the time you read this post I will have already left Manchester.
I started posts on the Facebook acquisition of Instagram a number of times but got nowhere, so I thought I would collect up some of them thoughts and put them here. So here are some of those random thoughts:
Instagram and Facebook are very different types of social network. Instagram seems to tape into a latent passion for us to be creators, it came up with an application that flatters us into thinking that we may have a good eye for photography. Facebook is much more about gathering and sharing humint with their loose network, a poorly designed address book and an event organisation platform
Instagram and Facebook have very different design philosophies. Instagram is much more of a traditional web 2.0 firm. It’s product does one thing very well and makes the complex simpler for the consumer. Facebook’s user experience is well shit. This is probably for a number of reasons:
Facebook has a culture were engineering trumps design rather than the two disciplines been seen as equal partners like say Apple
Competition – Facebook has evolved from its original mission adding additional features as it was threatened by different platforms: notably Twitter. But the user experience hasn’t scaled as well
Monetisation – Facebook has been working hard to monetise its business with its advertising units, but you need content to advertise against. Much of the design is about wringing content out of consumers (and then having the opportunity to sell inventory against it)
Privacy – In order to get the humint to share with audiences, Facebook needs to strike a balance keeping the law and privacy advocates at bay whilst making it sufficiently difficult that consumers don’t lock down their data and consequently constrict advertising opportunities
An extension of the design difference makes me wonder about how long the Instagram talent will actually stay at Facebook beyond any lock-in period? I am making assumption that the deal was at least partly motivated by the Instagram’s team expertise in mobile service development and that would be dependent on retaining the talent.
Talent retention is also critical if Facebook acquired Instagram as a defensive play like it did with Octazen. In this case Facebook would be looking to lock up talent for as long as they could.
1 billion dollars in shares isn’t as expensive as 1 billion dollars in cash; consequently the cost is probably relatively cheap for Zuckerberg. Think of it this way – how real is the money that you make when the value of your house goes up or down until you actually come to sell the house? Cisco was a past master at large share-only purchases when it was a hot stock. This hasn’t impacted Facebook’s cash-flow, but it has shaken the institutional investors looking at Facebook’s IPO. Again this doesn’t really matter to Zuckerberg because Facebook shares will sell anyway because of the heat around the company. Zuckerberg has less to lose than the Cisco team did because of the way that Facebook’s voting stock is structured allowing its CEO to retain power
It used to be that there were a number of start-ups whose business model was to sell themselves on to a large dominant industry player. Over time the industry player changed: Cisco, Microsoft, Google but the business model remained constant. I expect the new target acquirer to be Facebook as entrepreneurs and venture capitalists dream of a quick buck rather than building something great
10 years from now, I still don’t know whether we will be looking back on the Instagram acquisition as being a similar folly to Yahoo!’s purchase of Broadcast.com now looks in hindsight. On one hand I feel confident because of the deal structure being in Facebook shares, and the price being small in comparison to the current notional value of the Facebook business. But for the reasons I have outlined above I am less convinced in terms of long-term fit with the business and relative importance of Instagram
Instagram were right to say yes. The timing couldn’t have been better, on the one hand in the short term Instagram is growing fast; its move on to the Android platform previously being an iOS-only application. In retrospect, this looks like Instagram moving from early adopter usage to early majority service users. At the same time a number of services are now integrating Instagram-type filters into their mobile applications, one of the examples I use is Tencent’s Weixin (WeChat) application, so it could be rapidly becoming a feature rather than a reason for purchase