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Things that I am reading at the moment

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Out of Control by Kevin Kelly

Out of Control by Kevin Kelly

I have been a subscriber to the US edition of Wired magazine for longer than I care to remember. We’re living in a different time now and the future that Wired features isn’t as thrilling as it once was. Kevin Kelly was one of the founding editorial team and still contributes. He also helped found The WELL and The Whole Earth Catalog. I like to revisit his 2010 book What Technology Wants every so often and have decided to delve into his back catalogue. I can remember skim reading Out of Control the first time around. Its a great read now that I am going more slowly, but like New Rules for the New Economy it informs as much with what it got wrong as what it got right. Technological progress has a weird pattern of looping around on several attempts before becoming an everyday product, so the ideas may have new life yet.

How Brands Grow: Part 2: Emerging Markets, Services, Durables, New and Luxury Brands by Sharp and Romaniuk

How Brands Grow: Part 2: Emerging Markets, Services, Durables, New and Luxury Brands by Sharp and Romaniuk. Part 1 is more famous for the impact it has had in consumer marketing. I have been working on a business-to-business project and have been thumbing through this, but probably not as enthusiastically as I should do. That reflects more on me than the book.

To Kill The Truth by Sam Bourne

To Kill The Truth by Sam Bourne. I received a galley copy of this book, it’s my current leisure read. Historians are being killed and historical records destroyed in the combustible environment of white nationalists and the alt left. The book is very now and its engaged me so far.

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Most popular blog posts of 2018

Reading Time: 5 minutes

It’s that time of year again when I reflect on the things that I’ve done and what I can learn from the year. I wanted to get this out there whilst I still have a bit of respite from the holiday cheer. 

In reverse order

Reuse, re-edit and remix – the quality and impact of creative is a key question that is being asked at the moment. Marketers have finally woken up to the power of brand building as well as performance media. Which then begs the question what’s the minimum viable creative tweaks to effective creative that can be used?

Apple – special event (September 2018) – trying to cut through the formulaic delivery of the company’s new products to understand what where the key salient points. I was surprised that this generated far more interest than a similar keynote at Apple WWDC which was much more interesting. 

Enron and the net in 2000 – pre-Facebook the net was a much more decentralised place. Enron failed in their vision of a real time market for broadband, so I decided to work out what happened to some of their ‘partners’ at the time.

Ramblings on consumption – this started off as a collection of disjointed notes I made whilst travelling to see the family in Ireland 

Recommendations for a marketers bookshelf – you can’t dismiss the power of a good listicle. 

This wasn’t the internet we envisaged – looking at the media of the 1990s we were promised an immersive visually stimulating interactive experience. Unfortunately we ended up with Instagramers and Facebook

Throwback gadget: Bose Wave system – I still use a Bose Wave stereo due to the big sound that you get from a compact size. Its modular nature meant that it has weathered the iPod, DAB broadcast radio and internet streaming extremely well

Jargon watch: zhuang bi (装b) – an exploration into Chinese l33tspeak. 

Oprah time: Operation Elop – Nokia accounted for 25% of the Finnish economy at one stage and then spectacularly fell from grace, with the iconic phone business being sold to Microsoft. Yet the definitive history of what happened has never been licensed and translated by business publishers. I got to read a crowdsourced translation instead. 

Things I’d like to see in 2018 – included in this list was innovation in smartphone experience (which we don’t have at the moment), a leaner web and critical thinking around the hype of crypto currencies. 

My web toolbox – some of the tools that I was using in early July this year. 

How to use RSS – with so many people now getting algorithmically selected, part of the solution is by going back to RSS and Atom feeds from trusted sites. So I threw together a guide to getting started with Newsblur

The advertising industry post prompted by WPP’s 2017 financial results – how much of WPP’s difficulties are due to changes in the client and media environment versus WPP’s business?

Social networks 10 years ago – 2018 will be looked back on in internet history as when the elites finally woke up to the dominance (ex-China) of Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple. Looking back at 2008, it is hard to believe how much the social network eco-system changed

Mercedes Benz China Syndrome – Chinese netizens are still jumping the Great Firewall to vilify western brands who reflect views that ‘offend the Chinese people’ – even when this content is aimed at non-Chinese audiences. Mercedes’ offence was an Instagram image with one of their cars and a quote from the exiled Dalai Lama. Dolce & Gabbana didn’t learn from the Mercedes experience. Mercedes and other brands saw the Chinese government get involved in what would be considered to be extra-territorial exceptionism. This mirrors and contrasts with the Chinese reaction to the Canadian arrest of Meng Wanzhou. The Chinese foreign ministry accused the US and Canadian governments of overreach. 

Oprah time: Directorate S by Steve Coll – book review of Directorate S which discusses the complex relationship between the US war on terror and Pakistan

Personal online brand – the perennial debate of should you own your own site or build your reputation on someone else’s platform?

Out and about: Sicario 2: Soldado – I was so looking to this film and felt so disappointed when I got to watch it and was presented with a grand vision at the start that quickly fizzles out to a mediocre homage of the original, with one eye on building a franchise. 

Dawns Mine Crystal by Yunchul Kim at Korean Cultural Centre – amazing art installation that I was fortunate to see. It moulded art and science as part of the Art @CERN project. 

The influencers post – a post on the irrational exuberance associated with influencer marketing. I suspect that we’re close to peak influence.

Chinese smartphone eco-system for beginners – I presume that its very Googleable – this post was inspired and featured a video on smartphones in China by Winston Sterzel earlier in the year. I then put accompanying background information to give it more context for marketers. China is changing a lot, one consequence of this is that Winston is looking to move to the US and visit China occasionally rather than live there, like he has been for the past decade.

The long and the BBH of it – Binet’s The Long and the Short of it has been a strategists go to reference for a while. BBH pointed out the benefits of expanding the data set. However its easier to snipe from the sidelines rather than doing something meaningful about it.

App constellations 2018 research – this built on research that I had done in 2014 and 2016. It was the most trafficked post for the first half of the year. It was also the post that took me the longest to research and I managed to lose my archive data file soon afterwards. I will revisit it, but will have to try and pull the data from these images for the basic numbers!

Innovation: a few thoughts – this post came from the coalescence of many things that were kicking around in August and early September. My friend Nigel Scott had come up with some interesting research on venture capitalists; disabusing any illusion of science in their investment selection. You had ‘struggle porn’ being championed on LinkedIn; which made the wrong correlation between effort and innovation. Finally you have big technology companies with an inflated sense of their manifest destiny a la ‘software is eating the world’ and the hubris of Google, Facebook, Amazon, Tesla and Apple. I pulled ideas from across the board, borrowing a lot from Kevin Kelly’s concept of The Technium

What if stories are brain code – storytelling is treated as a science within the creative  sector. The reality is that its based a pretty shaky base. Whilst the formulation of storytelling is suspect; psychological research indicates that stories are even more powerful than we previously realised. 

Some data points

30 percent of the top posts from the first half of the year made the cut through the whole of the year, which surprised me as I thought that they would benefit from additional ‘evergreen’ search traffic.  



Lessons learned

  • There is still an interest in long form content and research
  • There was less of an interest this year in purely social platform based subject matter materials
  • Evergreen content doesn’t seem to work as well as previously

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Oprah time: The Dark Net by Jamie Bartlett

Reading Time: < 1 minuteThe Dark Net had been sitting on my shelf for a while. Jamie Bartlett works at Demos, has written for The Telegraph and writes books looking at the intersection between radical politics and technology.

The Dark Net provides an overview of how politics and social forces have adapted to the internet. Bartlett is largely non-judgemental. In some respects it seemed to a series of essays that followed the Mondo ethos of documentary media.

It felt like some of the content was put in to spice book up, which is the reason why I thought it was similar to Cavara, Prosperi and Jacopetti’s film Mondo Cane 50 years earlier.

Libertarianism was beneficial to the early web:

  • Privacy infrastructure including strong cryptography
  • Fighting surveillance legislation

The Dark Net shows how the libertarianism that spawned the early web has:

  • Weaponised social interactions
  • Driven extreme marketplaces
  • Drove the development and adoption of cryptocurrency
  • Facilitated reinforcing communities to encourage suicide, racial hatred and eating disorders