Five for Friday | 五日(星期五)

Things that made my day this week:

Dubliner Rosemary Smith is a 79 year old woman who owned her own driving school. But from the 1960s through the 1970s she was one of the world’s foremost rally drivers. With the right support, she could have done so much more. Renault decided to put her behind the wheel of a single seater racing car. Rallying and racing are different disciplines, but Smith still had some of the magic as you could see in this video

Westbam featured in a short film talking about how he started off and the intersection of music and culture in Berlin during 1989

American Petroleum Institute has put together a video reminding the public of all (ok just a small amount of) the stuff that oil actually goes into. When Teslas rule the roads, we’ll still need oil

The sound track of my week has been various mixes from DJ Nature

Campfield Futon – Snow Peak – I love the design and quality of Japanese outdoor brand Snow Peak. The Campfield Futon is an amazingly flexible piece of furniture that would be great outdoors or in an apartment

Have we reached peak streetwear?

At the end of January I wrote a blog post about the landmark collection by Louis Vuitton and Supreme.

I delved into the history of streetwear and the deep connection it shared with luxury brands. This linkage came from counterfeit products, brand and design language appropriation.

This all came from a place of individuality and self expression of the wearer.

obey

I reposted it from my blog on to LinkedIn. I got a comment from a friend of mine which percolated some of the ideas I’d been thinking about. The comment crystalised some of my fears as a long-time streetwear aficionado.

This is from Andy Jephson who works as a director for consumer brand agency Exposure:

The roots of street and lux that you point to seem to be all about individuality and self expression and for me this is what many modern collabs are missing. To me they seem to be about ostentatious showmanship. I love a collaboration that sees partners sharing their expertise and craft to create something original. The current obsession with creating hype however is creating a badging culture that produces products that could have been made in one of the knock-off factories that you mention. Some collabs that just produce new colourways and hybrid styles can be amazing, reflecting the interests of their audience. But far too many seem gratuitous and are completely unobtainable for the brand fans on one side of the collaborative partnership.

The streetwear business is mad money

From Stüssy in 1980, streetwear has grown into a multi-billion dollar global industry. Streetwear sales are worth more than 75 billion dollars per year.

By comparison the UK government spent about 44.1 billion on defence in 2016. Streetwear sales are more than three times the estimated market value of Snap Inc. Snap Inc., is the owner of Snapchat.

Rise of Streetwear

It is still about one third the size of the luxury industry. Streetwear accounts for the majority of menswear stocked in luxury department stores. Harvey Nichols claimed that 63% of the their contemporary menswear was streetwear. Many luxury brands off-the-peg men’s items blur the boundary between luxe and streetwear.

The industry has spawned some technology start-ups acting as niche secondary markets including:

  • Kixify
  • K’LEKT
  • THRONE
  • StockX
  • SneakerDon
  • GOAT

Large parts of the streetwear industry has become lazy and mercenary. You can see this in:

  • The attention to detail and quality of product isn’t what it used to be. I have vintage Stüssy pieces that are very well-made. I can’t say the same of many newer streetwear brands
  • Colour-ways just for the sake of it. I think Nike’s Jordan brand is a key offender. Because it has continually expands numbers of derivative designs and combinations. New Balance* have lost much of their mojo. Especially when you look at the product their Super Team 33 in Maine came up with over the years. The fish, fanzine or the element packs were both strong creative offerings. By comparison recent collections felt weak
  • The trivial nature of some of the collaborations. This week Supreme sold branded Metro Cards for the New York subway
  • Streetwear brands that sold out to fast moving consumer products. This diluted their own brand values. While working in Hong Kong, I did a Neighborhood Coke Zero collaboration. The idea which had some tie-in to local cycling culture and nightscape. Aape – the second-brand of BAPE did a deal wrapping Pepsi cans in the iconic camouflage

Hong Kong brand Chocoolate did three questionable collaborations over the past 18 months:

  • Vitaminwater
  • Nissin (instant noodles)
  • Dreyer’s (ice cream)

By comparison, Stüssy has a reputation in the industry for careful business management. The idea was to never become too big, too fast. The Sinatra family kept up quality and selective distribution seeing off Mossimo, FUBU and Triple Five Soul. Yes, they’ve done collaborations, but they were canny compared to newer brands:

“The business has grown in a crazy way the past couple of years,” says Sinatra. “We reluctantly did over $50 million last year.”

Reluctant because, according to Sinatra, the company is currently trying to cut back and stay small. “It was probably one of our biggest years ever — and it was an accident.”

Sinatra characterises Stüssy’s third act as having a “brand-first, revenue second” philosophy, in order to avoid becoming “this big monstrosity that doesn’t stand for anything.”

The Evolution of Streetwear. The newfound reality of Streetwear and its luxury-like management academic study uncovered careful brand custodianship.

It’s not clothing; it’s an asset class

Part of the bubble feel within the streetwear industry is due to customer behaviour. For many people, street wear is no longer a wardrobe staple. Instead it becomes an alternative investment instrument. Supreme items and tier zero Nike releases are resold for profit like a day trader on the stock market.

Many of the start-ups supported by the community play to this ‘day trader’ archetype. It is only a matter of time for the likes of Bonham’s and Sotherby’s get in on the act.

A key problem with the market is that trainers aren’t like a Swiss watch or a classic car. They become unusable in less than a decade as the soles degrade and adhesive breaks down.

There is the apocryphal story of a Wall Street stock broker getting out before the great stock market crash. The indicator to pull his money out was a taxi driver or a shoe shine boy giving stock tips.

Streetwear is at a similar stage with school-age teenagers dealing must-have items as a business. What would a reset look like in the streetwear industry? What would be the knock-on effect for the luxury sector?

More information
USA Streetwear Market Research Report 2015 | WeConnectFashion
Louis Vuitton, Supreme and the tangled relationship between streetwear and luxury brands | renaissance chambara
New Balance Super Team 33 – Elements Collection | High Snobriety
New Balance ST33 – The Fanzine Collection | High Snobriety
1400 Super Team 33 (ST33) trio | New Balance blog – the infamous fish pack
How Stüssy Became a $50 Million Global Streetwear Brand Without Selling Out | BoF (Business of Fashion)
The Evolution of Streetwear. The newfound reality of Streetwear and its luxury-like management by de Macedo & Machado, Universidade Católica Portuguesa (2015) – PDF

* in the interest of full disclosure, New Balance is a former client.

Louis Vuitton, Supreme and the tangled relationship between streetwear and luxury brands

The recent collaboration between New York’s Supreme and Louis Vuitton seems like a natural fit.  The reality is that luxury and streetwear have been dancing around each other for a good while.

Snide started it all

Snide was slang in the 1980s for fake or counterfeit. Hip Hop and the Caribbean-influenced Buffalo movement in the UK each used counterfeit and real luxury in their own way.

Daniel Day, better known as Dapper Dan was a was a Harlem-based craftsman and business man who dressed a lot of New York based artists from the golden age of hip hop. Dan’s first hip hop client was LL Cool J back in 1985. Dan’s style was luxe, the finest silks and furs were standard issue – think Puff Daddy before Puff Daddy. They went for customised outfits with their branding on which Dan provided. As the scene took off Dan incorporated suit lining material (which replicated the likes of the Fendi, Bally  or MCM brands) and Gucci or Louis Vuitton branded vinyl to make one-off products.

He customised trainers, clothing and even car interiors. Dan’s own Jeep Wrangler had an interior retrimmed in MCM branded vinyl.

Much of the luxury branding Dan used was coming in from Korean factories which at that time supplied the fake trade. Now similar products would have come out of China. I took a trip to the South China City complex in 2010 where fabric suppliers would offer Louis Vuitton labels and Supreme tags side-by-side.  I can only imagine that the Korean suppliers of the 1980s  had similar markets in textile industry centres like Deagu. Outside of hip hop, Dan was the go-to tailor for all the hustlers in Harlem – so you can see how he could have got the hook-up into the counterfeit suppliers.

At the time hip hop culture was not in a relationship with brands who where concerned about how it might affect them. LL Cool J was the first artist to get a deal with Le Coq Sportif. Run DMC got a long term deal with Adidas after their single ‘My Adidas’ became successful. But these were the exceptions to the rule.  So with Dan’s help they co-opted the brands to try and demonstrate success.

Over in the UK, the Buffalo collective of stylists, artists and photographers including Ray Petri, Jamie Morgan, Barry Kamen (who modelled for Petri), Mark Lebon and Cameron McVey. Buffalo was known as an attitude, which threw contrasting styles together and filtered into fashion shoots and influenced the collections of major designers including Yohji Yamamoto, Jean Paul Gaultier and Comme des Garçons. Even if you didn’t know what Buffalo was, you would have recognised the aesthetic from the likes of i-D, Blitz, New Musical Express and Arena. 

Buffalo mixed Armani jackets with Doctor Martens work boots, or a Puma bobble hat. Petri used music to sound track his process and this was pretty similar to the kind of stuff that influenced street wear pioneer Shawn Stussy over in California. Motown and hip-hop to dub reggae was the sound which explains the Feeling Irie t-shirts created by the white surfboard maker.

If you thought Bros looked cool in their MA-1 bomber jackets and stone washed Levi’s 501 jeans – there was a direct stylistic line back to Buffalo – rehabilitating the items from their link to skinhead culture.

Buffalo permeated into the street style of the decade; influencing the likes of Soul II Soul. Meanwhile over in Bristol The Wild Bunch were yet to morph into Massive Attack. Two members headed to London; producer Nelle Hooper and Miles Johnson (aka DJ Milo who went on to work in New York and Japan). A shoot was organised by i-D magazine and they turned up wearing their street clothes alongside DJ Dave Dorrell and model / stylist Barnsley. At the time, it was considered to be ‘very Buffalo’ in feel, but Dave Dorrell admitted in an interview that they had just came as they were. Dorrell wore his t-shirt as ‘advertising’ for it.

buffalo

The Hermes t-shirt and belt were snide, the Chanel Number 5 t-shirt sported by Dave Dorrell were being knocked out by a group of friends. Young people in London co-opted brands just like the hip-hop artists heading to Dapper Dan’s in Harlem.

Homage

From 1980, surfer Shawn Stussy had been growing an clothing empire of what we would now recognise as streetwear. Stussy had originally came up with the t-shirts as an adjunct and advertisement of his main business – selling surfboards. But the clothing hit emerging culture: skating, punk, hip-hop and took on a life of its own. It went global through Stussy’s ‘tribe’ of friends that he made along the way.

Stussy is known for his eclectic influences and mixing media: old photographs alongside his own typography. In a way that was unheard of in brand circles at the time, Stussy manifested his brands in lots of different ways. The back to back SS logo inside a circle was a straight rip from Chanel; the repeating logo motif that appeared in other designs was a nod to MCM and Louis Vuitton.

All of this went into the cultural melting pot of world cities like Tokyo, New York, London and Los Angeles. Stussy went on to do collaborations from a specially designed party t-shirt for i-D magazine’s birthday party to the cover art of Malcolm Maclaren records. Collaboration with mundane and high-end brands is backed into streetwear’s DNA.

Coke Zero x Neighborhood limited edition cans

(Neighborhood x Coke Zero was something I was involved with during my time in Hong Kong.)

Japan with its engrained sense of quality and wabisabi took the Buffalo mix-and-match approach to the next level. Japan’s own streetwear labels like Visivim, Neighborhood, W-Taps, The Real McCoy and A Bathing Ape (BAPE) took streetwear product quality, exclusivity and price points into luxury brand territory. That didn’t stop BAPE from making a snide versions of various Rolex models under the ‘Bapex’ brand.

Bapex

Some two decades later Supreme came up in New York. The brand takes design appropriation and homage to a new level. Every piece Supreme seems to do is a reference to something else. The famous box logo rips from Barbara Kruger’s piece ‘I shop therefore I am’. From taking a snide swipe at consumerism to ending up in the belly of the beast took Supreme a relatively short time. This heritage of appropriation didn’t stop Supreme from using legal means against people it felt had appropriated its ‘look’.

In an ironic twist of fate, Supreme was sued by Louis Vuitton in 2000 and yet the 2017 collaboration looks exceptionally similar to the offending items…

The last time I shared this story the page was just at 2k followers. With the collaboration officially announced today- and the page having 40k more followers since then- I figure it’s time to re-share. The year was 2000, and a 6 year old Supreme took their hands at referencing a high fashion brand as they did early on (Burberry, Gucci,) this time with Louis Vuitton. Box Logo tees (and stickers), beanies, 5 panels, bucket hats, and skateboard decks all featured the Supreme Monogram logo (pictured right). Within two weeks, Vuitton sends in a cease and desist and apparently, ordered Supreme to burn the remaining available stock. Clearly, many of the products from 2000 are still in the resell market, circulating today. Now we arrive at today’s FW Louis Vuitton fashion show. As most everyone is aware by now, Supreme is in fact collaborating with the luxury brand for a July- into fall collection. I’ve seen quite a few pieces from the collaboration (20+, check @supreme__hustle @supreme_access and @supreme_leaks_news for more pics) and it’s panning out to be Supremes largest collaboration to date. It’s interesting to see the references of both brands within the collaboration- from old Dapper Dan bootleg Louis pieces, to authentic ones, to Supremes monogram box logo and skateboard desks (pictured left). 17 years later and @mrkimjones proves that time can mend all wounds (amongst other things). Excited to see what all will release alongside this legendary collaboration. #supremeforsale #supreme4sale

A photo posted by Supreme (@supreme_copies) on

The new customers

North East Asia’s fast growing economies had been borne out of learning from developed market expertise, state directed focus on exports and ruthless weeding out of weaker businesses. Intellectual property was cast aside at various points. Korea, Hong Kong, Japan and China went from making knock-off products to displacing Europe and the US as the leading luxury markets.

Asian luxury consumers, particularly those second generation rich in China were younger than the typical customer luxury brands cater too. These consumers bought product as they travelled taking in style influences as they went. First from nearby markets like Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore and then Korea. This drew from a melange of hip hop, streetwear, Buffalo styling and contemporary western designers like Vivienne Westwood – as well as the more matronly styles of the traditional European luxury houses.

The luxury brands had to adapt. They brought in new designers who themselves were drawing from similar influences.  These designers also collaborated with sportswear brands like Alexander McQueen and Puma or Jeremy Scott and Raf Simons for Adidas.

Luxury brands got seriously into new product categories making luxe versions of training shoes that could be charitably called a homage to the like of Nike’s Air Force 1.

Bringing things full circle

As the supreme_copies Instagram account notes the collaboration with Supreme and Louis Vuitton brings things full circle with the pieces having a nod to Dapper Dan’s custom work as well as Supreme’s own ‘homage’.  Luxury brand MCM (Michael Cromer München), which Dan borrowed from extensively in the 1980s was restructured in 1997 with shops and brand being sold separately. The brand was eventually acquired eight years later by the Korean Sungjoo Group. Korea now has its own fast developing luxury fashion and cosmetics brand industry. Textile city Deagu which was the likely source of Dapper Dan’s fabric is now a fashion and luxury business hub in its own right. The Korean entertainment industry is a trend setter throughout Asia. For instance, Hallyu drama My Love From A Star drove breakout sales for the Jimmy Choo ‘Abel’ shoe.

The only question I still have is why did a move like Louis Vuitton’s collaboration with Supreme take so long? The luxury brands spend a lot on customer insight, they were using social listening far longer than they had been on social media. They know that a customer wearing their jacket could have a Visivim backpack slung over the shoulder and a pair of Adidas Stan Smiths on their feet. Customers mix-and-match Buffalo style for all but the most formal occasions. For streetwear brands, collaboration is in their DNA and they get an additional leg-up in the quality stakes.

More information
Ray Petri
How Buffalo shaped the landscape of 80s fashion – Dazed
Dave Dorrell interview part one | Test Pressing
Dapper Dan
Barbara Kruger Responds to Supreme’s Lawsuit: ‘A Ridiculous Clusterf**k of Totally Uncool Jokers’ | Complex
Volume and wealth make Chinese millennials a lucrative target market: GfK | Luxury Daily
Just why are Louis Vuitton and other high-end retailers abandoning China? | South China Morning Post – although Chinese shoppers consumed 46 per cent of luxury goods around the world, their purchases in their home market accounted for only 10 per cent of global sales, falling from 11 per cent in 2012 and 13 per cent in 2013
How a Jimmy Choo Shoe Became a Global Best Seller – WSJ

Living with the Casio GWF -D1000 Frogman watch

When you typically look at reviews of products, there are usually reviewed over a short time when they are new-and-shiny. Often a products features and character come out over time – a symbiotic process between product and user.

I picked up a GWF-D1000 soon after it went on sale for considerably less than the £800 that it is the current street price. Up until I bought the GWF-D1000 (which I will call the D1000 through the rest of the copy for brevity), I had owned its predecessor the GWF-1000 (which I will call the 1000 from here on in).

So what is the GWF-D1000 anyway?

The D1000 is the latest in an a series of G-Shock watches aimed at scuba divers. The first Frogman came out in 1993. The overall design has largely been the same with an asymmetric case and a large display to make operation easier. The positioning of the watches and price points changed over time – some of the previous models had titanium cases and came under the Mr-G sub-brand. The last few models have a stainless steel core case with a DLC (diamond like coating) to protect the surface.

Over time it has picked up features as the technology improved. It became illuminated by a small green bulb, then electro-luminescent material. It moved from relying purely on battery power to having solar cells and a rechargeable battery. The watch became more accurate by picking up time signals via radio from six locations around the world that are calibrated with an atomic clock (precursors to the NTP services around the world that keep your computer and smartphone bang on time.)

The key technology gains over the 1000 include:

  • A dive computer rather than a dive timer (neither matter to me), it has the same basic functionality that dive computers used to have 20 years ago (minus PC connectivity). No big shakes until you remember that it is doing this all from a solar-powered rechargeable watch battery
  • Digital compass which is surprisingly handy, it is very forgiving of the way you hold it, expect this in other Casio watches soon.
  • Temperature reading (again more for the diver) or when you are running a bath
  • The display has been rearranged and a bit easier to read
  • Much better display light and crisper to read at night

The real benefits for me were in the build quality:

  • You get a sapphire crystal rather than the usual hardened mineral glass. This isn’t the first time that Casio has used a sapphire crystal on a watch, but they are harder to manufacture and more expensive than the usual mineral glass face
  • The manner in which the strap is secured to the case has been completely revised. There is are new Allen key screws and a carbon fibre rod to secure the strap to the case
  • The strap is made of polyurethane resin reinforced with carbon fibre. The loop that holds the excess strap length is now a section of stainless steel which has been bent around the strap

How do I use it?

It makes sense to tell a little bit around why I wear a Frogman. I want an accurate watch (who doesn’t?). I want a reliable watch (again, probably a hygiene factor for most people; but one that hints at why the G-Shock has replaced Rolex as the default watch I have seen on Hong Kongers over the past 10 years or so. G-Shock offers robustness that 20 years ago would have come from fine Swiss engineering – at a much lower price point.

I love my Swiss dive watches but there is a time and place for everything.  The knockabout case and its water resistance means that you can forget about the watch. You don’t have to coddle it or worry that it will pick up undue attention. You don’t have to worry if you get a bang on an elevator (lift) door, dropped on the bathroom floor or going for a swim.

The G-Shock is an everyman watch – unless its got a lurid colour scheme it isn’t likely to attract the attention of your average petty criminal. I’ve often taken it off in the office so that I can type in greater comfort and left it there by accident when going home. I’ve never had a G-Shock go missing.

It is relatively easy to use, despite the modal nature of its interface design. To change settings, use functions or see recorded information you have to cycle through a series of text menus – it has more in common with a 1980s vintage video cassette recorder or a DEC VAX. Quite how this goes down with consumers more used to iPads and SnapChat is interesting. Casio seems to do alright by attracting them with bright plastic cases reminiscent of Lego -based colour schemes.

I haven’t dived seriously in a long time, I took up scuba diving while working in the oil industry and have never got back into it since moving to London.  PADI diving at resorts is tame compared to British diving club scene I had been used to.

My work environment is creative which means that t-shirts, flannel shirts,  jeans and suede hiking boots make the G-Shock an ideal accessory. I work in the London office of an American digital marketing agency, owned by a French multinational and my clients are scattered in the different offices around the world of pharmaceutical companies. The functions I tend to use most are the world time, date/time and the night light. My iPhone is now my alarm clock.

The reality is that most of these watches will end up on the wrists of people like me rather than people who dive for a living.

What’s it like to live to live with the D1000

The D1000 is only incrementally heavier than the 1000, it felt a bit strange to wear for about 30 minutes after swapping over to the newer model. But in some ways the D1000 doesn’t yet feel like its my watch.

The 1000 strap became shiny in places over time and more pliable, it felt like it became adjusted to me. Give the D1000 a rub over and it still looks box fresh. The downside is that the strap feels stiff and I still feel its edges on occasion – this isn’t about discomfort, but about the watch not feeling like part of you. There are no shiny parts of wear – it feels less like a ‘personal item”. It lacks what a designer friend calls authenticity; unlike distressed jeans, customised flight jackets or combat Zippos.

Zippo Lighters

This sounds great for the resale value, but I feel that it provides a worse experience for the wearer of the watch.

The reinforced strap does have one bonus, it holds securely to the case. Look at these pictures of my two year old 1000

Casio GWF 1000 Frogman

You can see how the retaining screw that held the strap to the case came undone and disappeared over time. You don’t have these kind of problems with the D1000.

The screen on the D1000 uses its real estate in a different way to the 1000.

Here is the 1000

Casio GWF 1000 Frogman

Here is the D1000

Casio GWF D1000 Frogman

At first the differences aren’t obvious. If you look at the top right side of the screen, the tide and moon segments are replaced by a multi-use screen on the D1000. The small icons for alarms and hourly alerts are moved to the bottom and left of the screen on the D1000, the moon icon now moves to the left of the main screen down from the top right. This probably marginally increases the screen real estate and helps make legibility a bit clearer at night.

GWF 1000

The biggest 1000 feature that I miss is the ability to toggle with one press of the top left button from showing the date on the screen to showing a second time zone; it was extremely handy for work. And having come from the 1000 to the D1000 it was a real ‘what the fuck’ moment.

By comparison I have to press six times to get to the world time screen. Instead, it now toggles between a tide table and the day. Even giving it a two press option would be a better fix than what the D1000 currently has. It’s a small gripe, but it annoyed the heck out of me.

My work around has been to keep the watch in world time mode and if I need to know the day or date, I find myself reaching for my iPhone.

If you are really that worried about tide tables, you will be likely using a specialist service as they vary a good deal over relatively short distances.

If the D1000 still sounds like the kind of watch you want, you can get it here.

The QRcode post

A few years ago, I was involved in a project that used QRcodes on OOH (out of home) activity for a retail launch. QRcode scanners varied in performance. In addition you had to think about:

  • Contrast – did the QRcode stand out?
  • Relative aspect – would it be too big or too small for the audience to scan?

In the UK, QRcodes are seen by marketers as old hat (but then they didn’t ‘get’ them in the same way that Asia did). Other people don’t really understand how to use them.
QRcode 101
Above is the picture of the local cafe around the corner from my office. The QRcode is too disjointed and blurred to read. I asked a member of staff about it and he told me that he thought it was some type of logo…

Five for Friday | 五日(星期五)

Things that have made my day this week:

Haruka introduced me to WEDNESDAY CAMPANELLA『桃太郎』

Interesting video on entrepreneurial opportunities in China

Interesting way to approach content for a travel portal

The mag that captured 60s countercultural Japan | Dazed – check these photos out from Provoke magazine, Showa era FTW

I am not the greatest fan of Wired UK and prefer its US counterpart, but this documentary on Shenzhen is quite nice. You can almost taste the South China humidity

Oprah time: China’s Coming War With Asia by Jonathan Holslag

Where do I start with a book title this inflammatory? I went to the trouble of reading the book twice before starting this review. In the end, the only conclusion I can come to is ‘Policy Faultlines in East Asia’ doesn’t have the same ring to it.
Untitled
Holsag marshals a huge range of facts and opinions within the book. If you want to have a basic understanding of modern Chinese state, the book is a good primer.

He provides insight into the Chinese Communist’s Party’s policy cornerstone of territory maximisation. They were happy to put off their agenda for tactical advantage, but never gave up on their goals. China’s neighbours have similar inflexible policy goals. There is is no win-win solution.

Time has brought increased pressures. A fight for resources to fuel further growth and water rights conflicts. Relative declines in economic growth also fuels nationalistic politics. In China, nationalistic sentiments in citizens grew with prosperity. It has become convenient for politicians to tap into nationalistic sentiments.

Holsag doesn’t attempt to provide a solution for de-escalation of these edges. His book only provides a macro-level understanding of the countries involved. For the reader who wants to understand Asia, Holsag’s book is an excellent primer.  More on China’s Coming War With Asia by Jonathan Holsag.

#Twitter10K – 10,000 character Twitter posts and long Weibo posts

At the beginning of the year Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey alluded to a possible change in the 140 character limit. Dorsey didn’t have far to look for this innovation.
HK 1962 058
In common with most Twitter ‘innovations’ the idea of 10,000 character Twitter posts came from Weibo, here’s one that Emma from the team I ran in Hong Kong created for our client at the time. CIVB is the marketing body for Bordeaux Wines.

This one was for Singles Day in China. Single’s day is a huge shopping day, held on November 11 each year (all the 1s)
weibo
They have proven to be very effective for marketers in China when Weibo was at its full power. We would spend time creating text dense infographic type images, so it didn’t contribute to the searchable data on Weibo. Jack Dorsey’s response to the public disclosure of the 10,000 character was on a similar kind of essay in an image.
long tweet
Of course something that’s being effective in China, doesn’t guarantee success elsewhere. The writing system of Chinese means that you can be more expressive in a 140 characters than you could be in western languages like English, Spanish or Finnish.

The types of languages don’t guarantee success either. Weibo hasn’t been as successful in Hong Kong, but Facebook and WhatsApp is ubiquitous. On the other side, Facebook doesn’t do terribly well in Japan and it has been a rare success story for Twitter.

Whilst the product of Weibo is similar to Twitter, the context of Weibo is very different. It is not a reliable predictor of success for Twitter going to 10,000 characters.

Will McInnes of Brandwatch outlined some of the pros and cons as he saw them.

Twitter10K pros

  1. Twitter10k will create a world of “read more” tweets, which will motivate publishers and media to post ever more articles and content to Twitter, adding additional context and detail. This will further Twitter’s position as the source for breaking news in real time.
  2. With more and longer content, Twitter will become the one-stop shop for readers seeking news and information sharing, while retaining all its conversation and engagement features.
  3. Twitter could transition to a qualitative writing and content platform rather than a simple micro-blogging platform
  4. For marketers, product developers, and business professionals, there’ll be a huge increase in the volume of social data and insights that can be tapped and applied through social listening and analytics

Twitter10k cons

  1. Publishers are still grappling with the new reality of the shift to distributed content
  2. With the addition of more content, engagement in the form of replies and retweets will inevitably take a hit
  3. Breaking news just doesn’t align with verbosity. The 10,000-character limit is not effective for the real-time global event coverage that Twitter is known for
  4. Why bother? Twitter users won’t take kindly to the implied suggestion they should be writing more

Reading through Will’s points, some of them seem to counteract each other, representing either, or scenarios. Will eventually errs on the side of negatively pointing out that a longer word count hasn’t helped Google+, or got more celebrities using Medium.

There are a whole host of other reasons not to use Medium and other reasons why Google+ hasn’t been the social platform that Google originally envisioned.

The more positive views from agencies revolves around more contextual information gained from longer posts. That really depends on how the Twitter firehose scales to address it.

Judging by the use of Weibo, just because people can publish 10,000 character posts doesn’t mean that we’ll suddenly be deluged with War & Peace in our feeds. On its own it probably won’t be enough to pick up the four quarters of no growth that Twitter has experienced in the US, but it might get the creative juices of marketing agencies going.

More information
Jack Dorsey on the 10,000 character tweet limit
Twitter Expanding to 10,000 Characters: Good for Users, Great for Marketers | Mobile Marketing
Twitter10k: A good idea, but a bad idea | VentureBeat

Jargon watch: smartphone zombie

Digital engagement

Hong Kong was the first place that I had every been where on the mass transit system specifically warns you to not look over intently at your phone and pay sufficient attention to riding the escalator.

Over 80 per cent of Hongkongers between the ages of 15 and 34 own a smartphone; so South China Morning Post‘s article about the perils of smartphone zombies roaming around seemed appropriate.

A smartphone zombie is someone cocooned in their own world of mobile social updates, email or games who  is distracted in walking or travelling on public transport.

The Cantonese for the phenomenon is dai tau juk or ‘head down tribe’.  It would be wrong to portray this as a purely a Hong Kong phenomena, with articles covering it in China, the US and Japan over the past year alone.

The US talked about it in terms of an addiction, whereas coverage of China, Japan and Hong Kong looked at it as being broadly anti-social behaviour.

More information
Beware the smartphone zombies blindly wandering around Hong Kong | SCMP (paywall)
Japan’s smartphone ‘zombies’ turn urban areas into human pinball | Japan Times
Putting Smartphone Zombies In Their Place | TechCrunch
How your smartphone is turning you into a zombie | The Tennessean

On smart watches, I’ve decided to take the plunge

So I have decided to take the plunge into wearables. My previous attempt with the Nike Fuelband didn’t go very well as I seemed to break them with frightening regularity and never really learned much from the experience apart from Nike can’t build hardware.

I haven’t gone with Samsung wrist watch, or the better looking Sony one. I will not be rocking a pre-release device from Apple. Instead I have gone to a smart watch pioneer who gave us the Data Bank in the 1980s.
blue G-shock
Casio has built a low power Bluetooth module into a G-Shock that gets up to two years on a lithium battery and is still water resistant to 200 metres. Realistically I would be happy if I got 12 months out of it. It uses its Bluetooth skills to give you basic notifications around email, incoming calls and alerts across Facebook, Twitter and Weibo.

At the mid-point in the price of G-Shock watches, it means that the upgrade path isn’t exactly painful. The G-Shock strikes the right balance between robust hardware and disposability required for technology improvements.  In fact, I’ve worn a G-Shock before when travelling to span timezones and as a timepiece that I won’t get too attached to if it gets stolen – the smart watch G-Shock has the advantage of my phone being on view less often, ideal for the crime-filled streets of Shepherds Bush or Shenzhen.

I think the smartest thing about the watch is it’s deliberately limited scope to provide notifications. I don’t think that Casio has it perfect, in fact I can see how the power-saving function on the Bluetooth module is likely to miss messages; but I think that they are on to something with this approach – and so I am willing to give it a try.

I am surprised that these watches aren’t being sold in Apple stores around the world given G-Shock’s brand presence in the street wear community. Maybe Casio hasn’t got their act together, or Apple aren’t particularly keen on the competition.

Oh and I won’t look-or-feel like a complete dick wearing it.

More information
“Generation 2 Engine” Bluetooth® v4.0 Enabled G-SHOCK | Casio – yes their marketing sucks with a naming structure only a Microsoft product manager could love
Comparison Chart of Mobile Link Functions – Casio

Oprah time: Ghost in the Shell by Masamune Shirow

Masamune Shirow’s Ghost In The Shell is a three-volume manga series (volumes 1, 1.5 and 2) that is based on a Japanese security service team who try and solve cyber-crime related issues. The stories deal with a future where technology is embedded into human beings and augment them. It is also based around a world where the internet of things is an everyday occurrence. The author obvioiusly goes deeply into the story as a thought experiment with side notes explaining either technological developments or why he has made certain decisions.

Unfortunately, the designers of smart televisions and refridgerators didn’t pay much attention to these books, otherwise they would not have left these products so open to being hacked. Come for the sci-fi stay the course of the books for the underlying ideas.

Jargon watch: app constellation

Fred Wilson talked about the concept of app constellations that he distilled down to:

mobile apps that share a single login and have app to app linking built in

He also added the proviso that ignored gaming apps, which generally purely use integration for identity and payment.

As Wilson points out this level of integration is interesting as one could find a complete suite of apps from the one company and rarely leave that eco-system.  This is partly been driven by context:

Putting a lot of features in a mobile application inevitably means burying them resulting in lots of clicks to get at something that you want. So on the design level it is very reminiscent of the design focus that drove the first generation of focused lean web 2.0 applications – though on a philosophical level they are world’s apart since app constellations are about creating a walled garden rather than open transportable data sets (within a walled garden of the mobile operating system).

The idea isn’t necessarily one that’s new. If one looks at someone like Google, this is the very rationale why they built Android – so that there were no blockages to providing it’s services.  Microsoft exercised control over the majority of desktop users and could make Google’s life difficult, especially through Internet Explorer, by comparison smartphones were a relatively open space to grow in.

I have attempted to compile a list of some of the the major app constellations. This has taken more time than I would like as I have had to hand code the tables below in order to get the HTML to work properly. Thankfully not having games in the definition of an app constellation made the work a little easier. For instance, Kakao Corp. is responsible for 9 out of the 10 best-selling mobile games in Korea at the moment and keeps churning out new games on a regular basis.

Secondly some of the companies here have more than one app constellation cluster, Tencent’s broadly break down into two clusters; those dominated by QQ and those dominated by WeChat, however there is also a connection between QQ and WeChat. This maybe partly down to the different development centres in China that they both come out of.

Microsoft and Google both have consumer, enterprise user and enterprise administrator app constellation clusters.

Daum is a Korean Internet company famous for its mobile search, news portal and social properties. No self-respecting Korean pop group used to be able to do without a well looked after Daum Cafe account. As I was part way through this Daum has announced that it is merging with Kakao Corp.

Name English equivalent What it does
다음, 뉴스, 브라우저, 프로야구 Daum: news, browser, KBO (Korean professional baseball) It’s a mobile portal of content
mypeople OTT messenger application that also includes stickers, VoIP and video calls; with support for a number of international languages. It can utilise a common Daum log-in
다음 지도, 길찾기, 지하철, 버스 Daum Maps, Directions, Subway and Bus A local version of the kind of application Google Maps provides tightly focused on the needs of Korean consumers
다음 사전 Daum Dictionary Kind of similar to Google Translate and Google Lens. Daum Dictionary allows you to ‘read’ a foreign language using your phones camera, it has a number of translation dictionaries. In addition, it has a flash card function to help Koreans increase their foreign language vocabulary
다음 카페 Daum Cafe Daum Cafe is a social network with a customisable profile page, a news stream type function called My Cafe, posts and comments – think your Facebook wall or Tumblr account, stickers, a mobile editor and push notifications
다음 클라우드 Daum Cloud Daum Cloud is similar in functionality to Dropbox and Carousel in terms of being cloud file storage and a way of sharing photos and files. Daum calls out that these can be shared across it’s mypeople social platform, Facebook and Twitter
다음 웹툰 Daum Webtoon (literally the name would be Daum Pick) Korea like Japan has a comic book culture. The most famous of these is probably Priest which was adapted for film and started Paul Bettany and Maggie Q. The country consumes web comics and Daum Webtoon mobilises that experience. Fans comment on strips, share strips amongst themselves via Daum Webtoon. A western equivalent might be comiXology (a recent Amazon acquisition); but that lacks the social aspects of Webtoon
mysticker for mypeople Augment photos with various avatar decorations like glasses or facial hair and use these pictures as stickers in OTT messenger app mypeople
SolGroup SolGroup is a private discussion group for up to 100 members. It allows you to share photos and links as well as doing a broadcast-style notice to group members
해피맘-육아맘 필수앱 (이웃맘 추천, 임신/출산 정보) Happy Mom A neighbourhood social network for Mums and Mums-to be. It’s a location-based network that tries to plug women into real-world networks, provide an online support network which can be a source of advice and provide local information. In Seoul there seems to be a consult your GP function. All up this seems to be a much more sophisticated version of Mumsnet
다음 루리웹 블러드 브라더스 공식 커뮤니티 Daum BloodBrothers Community An application that provides a community for players of Mobage’s BloodBrothers game
WITH A Flickr or 500px-type application that allows photographs to be organised into albums and easily explored
다음 TV 플레이 Daum TV Play Allows a smartphone to be used as a remote control where the smart TV has a Daum TV application
다음소셜쇼핑 – 소셜커머스 모음 Daum Social Shopping – social commerce collection The application features group shopping deals and coupons from a range of players including GroupOn. It also has an Apple Passbook-type function to organise any tickets required to redeem an offer
캠프 Camp Location-based mobile social network that looks to be around organising group activities; kind of similar in some respects to Foursquare’s Swarm
마이원 모바일 월렛 My One Mobile Wallet Mobile wallet application that also has some loyalty / rewards programme functionality built-in
마이원 모바일 월렛 Daum Kids Education app aimed at pre-schoolers, it covers much of the educational ground that Sesame Street may cover in other countries
Kardin A social business card application. It is a cross between LinkedIn’s CardMunch, Plaxo and LinkedIn

Dropbox

Product name What it does
Dropbox Cloud storage
Carousel Carousel is designed as a single home for all your photos and videos, automatically organized and always with you. It allows for the sharing photos and videos instantly in private conversations. It provides an automatic back up  of photos and videos to Dropbox as they are taken.
Mailbox Alternative mail application specially for iCloud and Gmail users. It offers a simplified user interface and deep app linking across Dropbox products (preventing an OS-level poaching of that functionality)

Facebook – social behemoth has a number of applications out there, half due to acquisitions the company has made

Product name What it does
Facebook Replicates much of the desktop experience of using Facebook in a mobile application
Messenger An OTT messenger that seems to be playing feature catch-up with many of the bigger players. Currently allows groups, video sharing and picture sharing. There are some stickers available and a free VoIP facility
Facebook Page Manager Mobile application for page admins to manage multiple pages easily from their own phone, even provides a view of Facebook Insights
Instagram Mobile photo application with built-in filters
Whatsapp Messenger Popular, relatively unsophisticated OTT messaging application acquired earlier this year

Google

Product name What it does
YouTube Native application video player
Google Native mobile application version of the Google search page, the key difference being the support of voice-enabled search
Google Maps Native application version of Google’s mapping service. It has voice turn-by-turn directions. It covers 220 countries and the public transport networks of over 15,000 towns and cities
Google Earth Explore the world virtually, hard to really describe Google Earth – I thought it was telling that it sits in Apple’s travel rather than navigation section
Google Chrome Alternative web browser, integration with desktop usage of Chrome browser and a reaction to non-Google search deals
Gmail Dedicated email client for the Gmail email service
Google Translate Native application interface for Google’s web translation web service
Google+ Native application that provides a simplified interface for the Google+ social network, some elements like Hangouts have been broken out into a dedicated application
Google Drive Native application that positions Google Drive as more of a cloud storage service than the productivity suite viewpoint that it provides in the desktop experience
YouTube Capture Shoot and upload video directly to a YouTube account
Hangouts A me-too OTT messenger with more of a video focus than other players
Chromecast Application to set up and change administrator-level settings for the Chromecast streaming video dongle
Google Docs Standalone of the Google Docs word processor experience which is integrated into the desktop version of Google Drive
Google Sheets Standalone of the Google Docs spreadsheet experience which is integrated into the desktop version of Google Drive
Blogger Native application to manage a Blogspot blog including creating and posting content
Google Play Books Google’s answer to Amazon’s Kindle app and Apple’s iBooks
Google Authenticator A RSA key-type second factor authentication for Google accounts. It has easy set-up with a QRcode and support for multiple accounts
Google Play Music A mix between the Apple iTunes music player app and Spotify based on Google’s Play content marketplace
Google Play Movies & TV Native application video player and marketplace for Google Play
Google Currents Flipboard-esque reader with a focus on mainstream media like The Huffington Post
Photowall for Chromecast Photowall for Chromecast is an application that lets people take pictures, edit them and collaborate with images on the TV – using phones or tablets. Anyone can take a picture and send it to a Photowall to instantly see it on the big screen.Once the collage is finished a YouTube video of your Photowall is automatically generated
Field Trip The bastard child of vintage Microsoft Office’s Clippy and a travel guide that surfaces information kind of similar to Foursquare’s exploration function. It will even use voice to deliver it’s random flag ups of interesting things near by. It is also notable for its use of skeuomorphic design in a Google product
Google Adsense Access to reports and key data from a Google advertising account over a mobile phone
Zagat Restaurant guide that Google acquired a number of years ago. In many respects Yelp before the internet. Now as a native mobile application
Google Admin Native mobile application providing an interface for sysadmins to manage enterprise usage of Google products – setting new email accounts up, shutting them down etc.
Google Coordinate Mobile application of a workforce management tool attached to Google enterprise account – ideal if you had a firm of plumbers, roofing contractors etc.
Helpouts Native application to get live video advice on a given subject matter.

Kakao Corp. is an OTT messaging application that has a higher user base than Facebook in Korea. It has a lot of hallyu content on there, stickers, in application payments and paid for enterprise accounts. Tencent, makers of WeChat have a stake in Kakao

Name English equivalent What it does
KakaoTalk messenger An OTT messenger with text, stickers, VoIP and a pitch shifter to make your voice sound cuter or play around with friends
KakaoStory A photo social network that is complementary to KakaoTalk. Think the moments function in WeChat or status updates on Facebook
KakaoGroup Extends beyond the chat room environment of KakaoTalk to private private group chat as a separate application
카카오아지트 KakaoAgit (a better translation might be KakaoHideout) Private group discussion and collaboration – sharing ideas or organising an event. Kakao Corp. promotes this particularly to self-organising groups of colleagues in a workplace
카카오 아지트 파트너 앱 Agit Partner Seems to be a group administrator tool of some sort
KakaoPlace Very similar to the recommendations functionality of Foursquare and the old Dopplr application

LINE (Naver Japan) – the Japanese subsidiary of Korean online media business Naver Corp. has a range of international and localised products for the Japanese marketplace

Name English equivalent What it does
LINE Messenger An OTT messaging application that has made a good business out of virtual stickers, popular throughout much of Asia from Taiwan to Thailand. It has been fighting a pitched battle for marketshare with WhatsAppk, WeChat, and KakaoTalk
LINE camera A photo app that integrates with LINE Messenger. It allows filters and affects to be used on pictures including a beauty filter effect. There are over 1,000 stamp effects that allow you to frame your picture, photo editing including a lasso-type function
LINE Brush and Brush lite An application similar to MacPaint of old but in a mobile device
LINE PLAY A social network that allows the user to build an avatar as an alter ego with the emphasis on cute and chat with other users
LINE Card Personalised e-card creator
pick A photography based social network similar to the social aspects of flickr
LINE Tools A mix of productivity features: conversation tables, flash light, sound meter and calculator
Ndrive Cloud storage similar to Dropbox
Naver Translate Translation software focused on Japanese speakers in partnership with Japanese dictionary publisher Kodensha
Naver Matome Reader Mobile magazine type application similar to the likes of Flipboard. Not quite a newsreader
無料 マンガ Webtoons Mobile comic reader rather like Daum’s Webtoon application. Naver Japan has also published the more popular comics as standalone applications
Kstyle Korean entertainment news magazine capitalising on the success of Korean pop music in particular in Japan. It also has some coverage of other hallyu content such as Korean dramas
LINE List Seems to be similar to KakaoGroup or the circles functionality in Google+. It pulls in contacts across social networks including LINE, KakaoTalk and Facebook

Microsoft

Product name What it does
XBox XBox One SmartGlass A companion application to the game console: it acts as a remote control for the media play side of the console and facilitates off-console social interaction with game mates
OneDrive The cloud storage service formerly known as Sky Drive, the application comes in both consumer and business versions.
Photosynth An application that creates panoramic views from a series of pictures that are stitched together. It also allows for these pictures to be shared with others online
Microsoft Office Mobile The traditional office suite of Word, PowerPoint and Excel for mobile devices. An Office 365 subscription is required
OWA for iPhone Native application version of Outlook Web Access that requires an Office 365 subscription
Microsoft OneNote Native application version of Microsoft OneNote, available as a free standalone application
Microsoft Remote Desktop Connect to and work on a remote Windows PC
bing search Native application with a number of bing services including bookmarks, maps and the search engine
Lync for iPhone Available in 2010 and 2013 editions Lync allows in-enterprise OTT messaging and web conferencing. Requires a licence for a Lync server
Office 365 admin Manage functions such as setting up a new email account from an iPhone
Xbox Music Spotify-style streaming application
Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint for iPad Microsoft separates out these apps on the iPad so each one has to be downloaded separately rather than getting one Office app bundle. An Office 365 subscription is required
Bing get me there Bing maps application specifically for London that incorporates live data on the Tube from TfL
SharePoint Newsfeed A newsreader specifically designed for company SharePoint sites
Microsoft Dynamics CRM for iPhone Native application for Microsoft’s CRM application
Microsoft Dynamics CRM for iPhone and Dynamics AX Native application for Microsoft’s CRM application. Dynamics AX allows for expenses to be filed and time sheets to be completed
HealthVault Patient access to their own and their families health records
My Apps Single sign-on to Azure cloud applications
Windows Intune Company Store Enterprise mobile and table app store
Socl Somewhere between Tumblr and Behance as visual content driven social networks
Microsoft Tech Companion for iPhone News application for Microsoft developers and certified professionals
RMS Sharing Allows the user to see rights restricted content when used with an Office 365 licence

Naver: LINE’s Korean parent is a large online media in its own right. Naver powers the majority of searches in Korea and has prominent blogging and mapping platforms.

Name English equivalent What it does
NAVER Native app version of the famous Korean search engine and web portal. It is particularly interesting the way Naver collates stories of interest to the reader. Koreans can subscribe to areas of interest and have the content delivered to them
네이버 지도 NAVER Maps Similar to Google Maps; the key differences being the focus on Korea and access to real time transport data. Naver also looks to cater to cyclists in major cities more than Google does with its mapping application
me2day A social network / blogging platform
네이버 웹툰 NAVER Webtoons Web comic reader application
네이버 블로그 NAVER Blog Mobile app that allows blog management and creation of posts on Korea’s most popular blogging platform. Blogs in Korea are bigger than in the UK by a considerable margin
네이버사전 NAVER Dictionary Korean language dictionary and also Korean to 16 other languages dictionary to aid in foreign language usage
네이버 북스 NAVER Books Korean answer to the Amazon Kindle app
네이버 메일 NAVER Mail Dedicated email client for the Naver Mail service. Special features include messenger style stickers and deep integration with NDrive cloud storage for file transfers
네이버 뮤직 NAVER Music A Spotify-esque music client with some special features. It can play your own MP3s directly from the NDrive cloud storage service and synchs with whatever content you have bought on your PC without having to side load the content with a cable
NAVER Camera Camera application that allows in-app editing of pictures and automatic synching to the NDrive cloud service
네이버 웍스 캘린더 NAVER Works Calendar Enterprise version of Naver Calendar which supports multiple languages and time zones
네이버 웍스 드라이브 NAVER Works Drive Enterprise version of Naver cloud storage service, which seems to operate similar to YouSendIt
네이버 웍스 메일 NAVER Works Mail Enterprise version of Naver email service with a dedicated client
네이버 웍스 주소록 NAVER Works Contacts Enterprise version of Naver address book with a dedicated client
그린팩토리 NHN greenfactory NAVER corporate group mobile app with some intranet and stored currency functionality for employees
네이버 글로벌회화 영중일 NAVER Global Phrase Book (plus paid for version as well) Phrase book supporting English, Chinese and Japanese for Korean speakers
네이버포스트 – 신개념 모바일 스토리북 NAVER Post-New Concept Mobile Story Book Encourages users to write stories optimised for mobile usage. It allows the stories to be shared across LINE and KakaoTalk and see where connections are on NAVER Maps in a similar kind of way to Google Latitude or Foursquare’s Swarm
네이버 지식iN NAVER Knowledge iN Mobile client that provides a way to ask and answer questions in a Yahoo! Answers type of service
쥬니어 네이버 NAVER Junior Naver Mobile app that provides a Yahooligans! type experience including games and video content
쥬니어 네이버 NAVER Calendar Dedicated calendar application based on NAVER’s consumer-orientated calendar service
네이버 중한사전 NAVER Chinese-Korean Dictionary The name tells you everything you need to know
네이버 메모 NAVER Memo Similar to the Notes functionality that is a core part of iCloud, on the Mac and as part of iOS
네이버 TV NAVER TV Streaming TV and movies application
네이버 N드라이브 NAVER N Drive Mobile application providing cloud storage access, the smart thing with NDrive is the deep integration with other NAVER services like NAVER Music
네이버 주소록 NAVER Contacts Contact book app service similar to Apple’s address book app which manifests on iCloud and in system default apps in iOS and OSX

Netease is a Chinese online media company most associated with online gaming. It’s 163.com forum is enormously influential for technology loving Chinese.

Name English equivalent What it does
网易新闻 NetEase News A news client that pulls from a wide range of content from sports to shopping and everything in between
有道 词典 本地 增强 版 Youdao Dictionary Professional Edition Chinese English dictionary with an installed user base over 150 million. The app won a prize in 2011 from Apple for the app. The app integrates with Tencent’s messenger service QQ
网易公开课 NetEase Open Class Chinese English dictionary with an installed user base over 150 million. The app won a prize in 2011 from Apple for the app. The app integrates with Tencent’s messenger service QQ
网易云阅读-杂志新闻书籍 NetEase cloud reading – Magazine News Books Analogous to the Kindle app with 100,000+ books, 3000+ top magazine, ‘massive’ internet information and an ‘exquisite’ picture album. The app also allows the user to subscribe to friends microblogging, blog, QQ space and other social platforms
网易应用中心 Netease Application Center Focuses mostly on games
有道翻译官 Youdao Translator Translates eight languages into Chinese, you can use the camera to ‘read’ foreign text
网易轻博客 LOFTER Mobile client for a light blogging platform more like Dayre.me than Tumblr
网易轻博客 NetEase fashion magazine An e-magazine that allow you to purchase new editions in-application from with Chinese, Hong Kong, Taiwanese, Japanese, Korean, British and American fashion magazines
网易博客 NetEase blog Mobile application to create and publish blog posts on the Netease platform
网易将军令 NetEase General Order A two-factor authentication app similar to an RSA tag
饭饭 Jenna A personalised restaurant and dish recommendation service
游戏精灵-你的游戏伴侣 Game Wizard A mobile gaming magazine with reviews, tips and hacks
网易房产榜- 看网易房产榜,知楼市冷暖 NetEase property list Allows the user to see property sales or rental prices as well as background information on the area in terms of the amenities in the locality
网易即时通2013 Netease Messenger 2013 A self-described ‘enterprise class’ instant messenger platform that supports Windows, Mac and iOS
Vemento Allows you to shoot one-second videos similar to Vine, but stitches them together into a bigger, longer film. It has a very flat design and colour scheme that mirrors iOS7
口袋篮球 Pocket Basketball CBA basketball news, statistics, player profiles and game schedules
网易印像拍 NetEase Photo Album It is like Istagram and iPhoto blended into one an includes printing services
iEase Translator Pro Youdao Translator version complete with OCR technology designed for English speakers
惠惠折扣日报—网易出品电商折扣精选(惠惠购物助手手机版) Huihui discount Daily Mobile coupon / group buying application
网易联系人助手 NetEase Contact Assistant Syncing contacts from NetEase mail in a simple address book type application
网易家居杂志 易品家 EaseHome Home and lifestyle mobile magazine compiled from the home section of the NetEase website
网易汽车 NetEase Car News Car mobile magazine compiled from the autos section of the NetEase website
网易邮箱- 网易官方手机邮箱 NetEase official mobile email Dedicated email client
网易电视指南-看直播,刷微博 NetEase TV Guide Live mobile TV programming
网易电视指南-看直播,刷微博 iStyle Fashion-orientated community mobile app
网易微博(官方) NetEase Weibo client Micro-blogging platform in the shadow of Tencent and Sino versions of Weibo
花田-免费聊天,交友,婚恋 Hanada A free dating community that includes chat functionality
网易云相册- 相片备份专家 NetEase cloud album Cloud photo album

Tencent has two of the dominant social platforms in China: QQ and WeChat. It is also big in online games publishing and e-commerce. QQ and WeChat both have their own app constellations

Name English equivalent What it does
微生活POS Micro Life POS Mobile point of sale terminal application
腾讯彩票 Tencent Lottery Lottery news including winning numbers
微客多门店版 Tencent Shopping Guide help traditional retailers store employees to use mobile phones to provide customers with a shopping guide
搜搜问问 SoSo Ask a knowledge search type mobile application think Yahoo! Answers meets Quora and has integration with Tencent Weibo
Goal精彩中超 Goal! Latest match results, player details and football league positions from the CSL (Chinese Soccer League)
看房 Showings Mobile application to aid Chinese house hunters covering most of the major cities in China
QQ团购 QQ Buy Closely linked to QQ messenger allows for shopping and use of discount coupons
企业QQ QQ Enterprise version Business version of QQ instant messenger
QQ便民 QQ convenience Payment handling app covering pre-paid cards, monthly subscriptions and virtual currency balance – presumably for their games portfolio as well as real-world payments
腾讯路宝 Tencent Lob Google Maps-like turn-by-turn directions with Waze-like traffic information
腾讯路宝 QQ watch the show Mobile application with Ticketmaster-type features
QQ网购 QQ Online Shopping Mobile application of a desktop online shopping site, think an online shopping mall, though much less of an audience than Tmall
腾讯微漫 Tencent Micro-Comic Mobile comic reading platform, with free to read content including Naruto and Dragonball Z
腾讯充值 Tencent Recharge Especially designed to manage a Q coin virtual currency account used in paying for games and monthly subscription services
Ps Play Allows images from PhotoShop to be transferred easily to a phone and friends, can do a screen cast of how an effect was done as a walkthrough. Probably handy for sharing memes
Storycam for WeChat A kind of Instagram companion app for the WeChat OTT messenger – mixes photo frame type effects with an ability to tell people more about the picture
创意相机 Creative Camera Allows users to edit pictures often for comedic value or giving them a cute look and then share via the QQ messenger service
wyFire Easy sharing of pictures over a local network: wi-fi connected device to wi-fi connected device
wyFire Easy sharing of pictures over a local network: wi-fi connected device to wi-fi connected device
腾讯爱看 Tencent Watch Summarizes and presents content so that the reader no longer ‘reads’ it but watches it
QQ美食 QQ Cuisine It has location based elements similar to Foursquare and discount coupon offers and ability to share location on Tencent Weibo
QQ财付通(腾讯出品 QQ Tenpay PayPal like peer to peer payments attached to a QQ messenger ID
Pitu Picture beautification – to make women’s skin look younger or better
自选股 Zishuagu Real time stock price information from Shanghai, Hong Kong and US stock markets
QQ提醒 QQ alert An alarm clock with lost of different settings and alerts
腾讯看比赛 Tencent watch the game Sports news from Chinese and international leagues
SOSO慧眼 SOSO Eye Price comparison application, it scans bar codes and QRCodes but also uses image recognition to find matching book covers etc
QQ电影票 QQ Movie Mobile cinema ticket booking app
One Browser Alternative to the built in phone web browser for international audiences
QQ Browser Alternative to the built in phone web browser for Chinese, Taiwanese and international audiences
腾讯地图 Tencent Map Car and public transport navigation with turn-by-turn directions
腾讯朋友 Tencent friend China’s first ‘real name’ social network rather like Facebook in that respect
Qpik International version of picture beautification app Pitu
WeChat Voice Companion app to WeChat. Speak into the app, pick an avatar which has an animated mouth that lip-synches the message and send to contacts
微视-8秒短视频分享 Microscopic Vine-like service that shoots 8-second videos
QQ阅读 QQ Reading Multi-format e-book reader supporting formats like epub and PDF
QQ通讯录-最快最智能的通讯录 QQ Contacts An address book based around the QQ messaging eco-system
QQ安全中心 QQ Security Centre Helps with securing details, binding the phone identity to a particular QQ account, protects game settings and other
My Cam Camera application that has HDR capabilities and Instagram-type filters
腾讯手机管家(原QQ手机管家 Tencent mobile butler A utility app which helps enhance Wi-Fi security, measure download speed and other features
We Sync iCloud-like back-up of address book, it helps users to move from an old phone to their new phone. It also allows the address book to be easily erased from a phone. It seems to be aimed at an international audience
QQ邮箱 QQ Mailbox Dedicated email client similar to Gmail
QQ Instant messaging client that comes in both domestic market and international versions
腾讯微云 Weiyun Dropbox-like cloud service
Qzone A Facebook-like social network allowing check-ins, status, video sharing, picture sharing
腾讯新闻 Tencent News A news reader application – think mobile portal as app
微信 WeChat / Weixin One of the world’s leading OTT messenger made in both domestic and international versions. It has features (some of which where borrowed from QQ) and is nipping at the heels of Whatsapp in a number of markets

More information
Feature Friday: Checking In | A VC
App Constellations | A VC

Digital permeating our big life moments

I spent much of January in Shenzhen and went to a concert played by a local band. I can’t remember much about their music save that the lead singer work a bowler hat and seemed to influenced by 1990s Brit Pop and A Clockwork Orange. What was remarkable about the gig was that for the first time in about 10 years I saw concert goers dancing, swaying, being in the moment. More importantly I saw them watch the concert with their view unmediated by a smartphone screen which allowed them to actually participate rather than record the event.
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It was remarkable that digital technology had not invaded this happening as the audience were tech-savvy Chinese middle class, a demographic where the smartphone has already achieved ubiquity.

Kevin Kelly’s book What Technology Wants posits that technology like progress is a natural unstoppable force moving forward. This movement forward changes life, sometimes in ways that aren’t necessarily great. Part of the issue is that social norms don’t move at the same space as technology.

I was looking through Smart magazine: a Japanese men’s magazine and came across an advert for a digital wedding ring box.
Digital wedding ring box
ENUOVE is a costume jewellery brand that has come up with the movie box; a small media player built into the wedding ring box which can accepts a small video clip in a number of popular formats.

I found this advertisement interesting  and cut it out of the magazine because it was a great example of digital inserting itself into social norms of one of the most important life events of all. I tried to understand what role the digital technology would play. Usually in the west, the ring is presented with the man down on one knee whilst he asks the object of his affection to marry him whilst presenting the ring.

My initial reaction was to think that the video allowed the man to use technology to mediate the discussion rather than having to worry about fluffing whatever speech that they had put together.  But what would the recipient think this cop out of doing a proposal by box.?

I asked two colleagues who were currently engaged. The first one pointed out that a non-verbal proposal was considered ok if it was suitably grandiose:

  • Flying over a tropical beach in a helicopter where the proposal is written in the pristine sand below in two-storey letters
  • Having the proposal appear on an advertising board on Time Square
  • Hiring a sign writing plane to proclaim the offer across the skies

I thought that these were pretty extreme examples? Outlier proposals? My colleague indicated that this was the case.

The second colleague I asked introduced me to this video below, billed as the first lip dubbed wedding proposal that seemed to involved a whole neighbourhood as the cast.

Isaac’s lip dub proposal has been seen over 25 and a half million times. She thought that the digital box was ok; it was a nice novelty and would be reasonable for a proposal if the prospective groom didn’t have the gumption to pull off something at least as epic as Isaac’s lip dub wedding.

She might keep the box longer, as she didn’t even know where her current ring box was, it got lost after the first few weeks after the engagement.

Now admittedly my study is very unscientific, but my conclusion was that digital had permeated the wedding proposal in a different way to what I had anticipated. YouTube has had a thermonuclear effect on what my colleagues thought was an acceptable / adequate wedding proposal. It had to have drama, spectacle and a uniqueness to it.  Their major life moments would take on a large scale cinematic element.

The movie box offered a lower key alternative that was still acceptable due to it’s unique nature for a groom who couldn’t drill family numbers for a few months in performance of a lip dub or have their feelings writ large on a beach in the Maldives.

Digital had already permeated our big life moments and we’re all as eccentric as Stanley Kubrick.

More information
ENUOVE website
Smart magazine (Japanese language only)
OCT LOFT website

I like: Sony’s Smarteyglasses

Ok, first of all I am still not on the wearable utopia boat yet, but I wanted to share this short video of Sony’s Smarteglasses. I think that Sony’s engineers have got a couple of things right in the design:

  • The glasses look as if something that people would wear (ok maybe just Gok Wan)
  • The data is presented within the eyesight line of the user which gets around some (but not all) of the social awkwardness of Google Glass. (Some of these people deserve a punch in the face, regardless of whether they are wearing the GoogleToy)

See more on this video