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Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

Samsung’s Galaxy Gear Meets a Google-y Glass

samsungglassgear

I like Samsung’s new Galaxy Gear stuff—it’s direct, and right out of the hardware launch playbook Apple wrote for the iPhone.1 And we might, on first glance, think that’s where Samsung’s big competition for the watch lies.

This near-final frame though, the two seconds it the camera lingers on Jamie, and what are we left with? An Android UI, telling us Ms. Glass is calling? That’s a brilliant bit of priming to link the Samsung gadget with its the real competitor in wearables. These categories don’t invent themselves, people.

 

 

  1. The work is also everywhere right now, with tons of media spend behind the launch. []

Written by Nick

October 13th, 2013 at 1:02 pm

Serendipity, Memory and Technology: Ted Chiang, Jack London and me

One of the benefits of living in my part of Brooklyn is you can essentially pick up a graduate-level humanities education in books your neighbors discard on their stoops. I’ve been working my way through a stoop find, the collected stories of Jack London, and was earlier this week on “The League of the Old Men,” about Imber, a tribesman from the north who confesses to slaying dozens of pioneering whites to stem their corrosive effect on his culture.

Imber goes to town to present the white authority with his list of crimes, and finds that Howkan, a younger member of his tribe, is the chosen translator. The way Imber comes to understand Howkan’s literacy is exceptional; he relates it to the signals he reads from the land.

Howkan shook his head with impatience. “Have I not told thee it be there in the paper, O fool?”

Imber stared hard at the ink-scrawled surface. “As the hunter looks upon the snow and says, Here but yesterday there passed a rabbit; and here by the willow scrub it stood and listened and heard, and was afraid; and here it went with great swiftness, leaping wide; and here, with great swiftness and wider leapings, came a lynx; and here, where the claws cut deep into the snow, the lynx made a very great leap; and here it struck, with the rabbit under and rolling belly up; and here leads off the trail of the lynx alone, and there is no more rabbit,—as the hunter looks upon the markings of the snow and says thus and so and here, dost thou, too, look upon the paper and say thus and so and here be the things old Imber hath done?”

Meanwhile, I live for Ted Chiang’s work. His sense of how to mesh the prosaic of the everyday with the fantastic elements derived from possible futures is always totally enthralling. And, on the train yesterday, I dove into his newest, “The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling” published here.

There are some thematic similarities in the two stories: memory, cultural dominance and the inevitable march of technology. Chiang’s is more about augmenting memories, and the possibility that technology will remember it for you, wholesale (couldn’t resist). It’s not quite virgin territory1, but Chiang covers it with the mastery he usually displays. But largely what jumped out at me was this description of literacy. Jijingi, from a tribe that’s without literacy, is learning from the missionary, Moseby, how to read. But first he must understand written language.

The missionary spoke as if his tongue were too large for his mouth, but Jijingi could tell what he was saying. “Yes, I understand.”

Moseby smiled, and pointed at the paper. “This paper tells the story of Adam.”

“How can paper tell a story?”

“It is an art that we Europeans know. When a man speaks, we make marks on the paper. When another man looks at the paper later, he sees the marks and knows what sounds the first man made. In that way the second man can hear what the first man said.”

Jijingi remembered something his father had told him about old Gbegba, who was the most skilled in bushcraft. “Where you or I would see nothing but some disturbed grass, he can see that a leopard had killed a cane rat at that spot and carried it off,” his father said. Gbegba was able to look at the ground and know what had happened even though he had not been present. This art of the Europeans must be similar: those who were skilled in interpreting the marks could hear a story even if they hadn’t been there when it was told.

The coincidence struck me as a bit ironic. No doubt I’ve read and forgotten other connections, other expressions of writing described to the illiterate. And no doubt, if I couldn’t forget, it would have only further lessened the impact of Chiang’s story, as I would have been constantly comparing variations on the same theme, a bizarre mental loop. Sometimes, like both authors contend, it’s better not to know.

Go read the Chiang story2 and tell me what you think.

  1. Charlie Brooker trod similar ground with “The Entire History of You” in Black Mirror’s first set of sketches []
  2. And all of his stuff, really. This Metafilter post is a great start. []

Written by Nick

September 7th, 2013 at 7:13 pm

Posted in Books,Technology

Contagious’ 2013 Cannes Lions Seminar

Well, back from Cannes, and after three days of not shouting in opposition to overloud, washy acid breaks at an expensive agency beach party my voice is almost returned to normal.

And after a year off I’m glad to say the world’s premier advertising awards show slash boondoggle is still going strong. One global network CEO we met estimates the Cannes Lions organization (which is for sale) turns all that delicious communications milk into €80m of net cream a year. It’s a really expensive exercise in ego validation if you see it that way, or a chance to give some ideas world-class recognition if you see it otherwise.

I’m not entirely jaded about it, but close. What keeps me from going crackers and retiring to a cave tends to be the stuff we do, and the response to it. Contagious events are a break from the norm of bizniz-led chest-drumming or celeb-puffing nonsense. We try to do stuff people actually get value from, entertainment value, or inspiration, and measure worth in that, not just in terms of the value derived by us through people talking about it or the fact we “got our message out.”

So its with great pleasure I present our seminar, sponsored by and created alongside Holler. Our cofounder Paul, James from Holler and Will Sansom worked pretty hard to make this come off as well as it did.((Meanwhile, I ducked all serious obligations and helped set up a Moth StorySLAM on the beach. To each according…)) And the gorgeous Scriberia animations didn’t hurt.

Seminar quality this year was spotty at best, and delegates, who paid (or their agencies did) $2,400 for a pass often had to wait over an hour for entry into the theatre. But our seminar won the popular vote to be broadcast live on YouTube, and was packed in the Palais. Invariably through the rest of the week when I was introduced someone would remember the session and compliment us. And that’s pretty cool.

 

Written by Nick

June 25th, 2013 at 6:54 pm

Ways to describe writing on the web

Ways to describe writing on the web, in increasing indication of degrading authorship

  • treatise
  • manifesto
  • tract
  • story
  • piece
  • article
  • thing
  • write up

Written by Nick

May 25th, 2013 at 12:27 pm

Google is just intent on getting me to stop using Reader

readermalware

Written by Nick

March 20th, 2013 at 4:54 pm

Posted in Technology

Gigs & Appearances: Advertising Week 2012 and Now / Next / Why New York

Ahh, Advertising Week. Because the day-to-day celebration of ad culture just isn’t enough.

I’m going to be speaking on two panels. I will plug them thusly:

 

GIVE TO GET: BUILDING BRAND THROUGH SERVICE INNOVATION

Mon Oct 1 2012 – 9:00 AM
B.B. King Blues Club

Putting service at the center of your brand may be the next evolution of your marketing; innovation through service design is what will attract customers, turn them into advocates, create buzz about your product, and save customers with whom you #fail.

 
PRODUCTS, PROCESS AND PROGRESS

Tue Oct 2 2012 – 12:30 PM
B.B. King Blues Club

“Brand-led development”, it’s a subject that’s currently on the tip of every marketer’s tongue. This lively discussion, hosted by The Barbarian Group’s President, Sophie Kelly, will explore the new imperatives that larger brand marketers need to adapt in order to effectively build, refine and optimize longstanding products.

 

Of course, if you’re in NYC October 9, you should be at Contagious’ bi-annual look at what’s important, Now / Next / Why. I’m heading over to London next week to speak at that installment, then back again to talk at the Stateside version. My topic? Sponsorship Activation & Amplified Live.

Sponsorship Activation & Amplified Live /
The time we spend interacting with entertainment is often precious and pure. Distractions are not necessary, nor appreciated. Finally, a new generation of brands is beginning to reimagine the art of sponsorship activation, justifying their ticket to the game not just with a bulging wallet, but with a genuine offering to enhance, improve and augment the experiences for fans.
Contagious will showcase how and why brands are adding value for fans, not noise. From Coca-Cola turning an exclusive corporate box at a football ground into a dormitory for cash-strapped fans, to Kopparberg’s music festival playlist app on Facebook, brands are making their sponsorship dollars work harder to become an indispensable part of the events they support.

We’re also debuting our take on Marketing as Service Design, something we haven’t talked about yet over here. Some of the elements we’ll be discussing at Now / Next / Why in New York on October 9 will come into play during the panels.

We do a special edition publication for Now Next Why, and we just put that to bed last week. It’s looking great. Give me a shout if you can come out, so we can say hi.

Written by Nick

September 23rd, 2012 at 9:57 am

Screen Shutdown

wave to Irvine Good stuff--luckily my email count was below 600 in a week away. I wish Paul only had a pad and pencil in this series. Arguably Jake is more anonymous now.

Written by Nick

September 10th, 2012 at 9:55 pm

Austin, again and again

I was in Austin for SXSW Interactive for the fourth time this year (see previous japes). I guess that’s enough to be considered worthy of telling others what to do. So Emily and I did. I cribbed tips liberally from Rick and Marcelino. I don’t normally traffic in superlatives, but the best panel I went to this year was on The New Aesthetic.

Written by Nick

March 17th, 2012 at 1:47 pm

Coming Home to a Company Town

I recently had the chance to head home on the dime of the Ford Motor Company, the great dynamo and historical symbol of prestige in the Motor City, or at very least its suburban birthplace in Dearborn. I got invited, I imagined, because we’ve covered the company’s efforts in the past. But now I found myself on a press trip home, to get sold on the innovation I grew up around, for Fordʼs North American Auto Show & Innovation and Design Fantasy Camp. If that’s not enough of a mouthful, here’s a rambling travelogue of what we got up to.

 

I took a car from the airport, and what can typically be a terse ride wound up moving quickly. One of the best things about talking cars with a Detroiter is that if you do it on the road, you have a constant source of conversation. My driver, an arabic guy in his mid-50s, was eager to chat. We talked about the driver’s Lincoln Town Car, a car that’s come to equal classy luxury transportation. We talked about what might replace it, now that Ford’s shut down the Canadian plants that produced it along with the Crown Victoria, cop car par excellence.1

We moved to the Chevy Volt (he’s never seen one around) the Prius (he’s seen plenty and likes ’em) and the changing American automobile appetite. I went to mention the new Fiat, and lo and behold we were passing one. “Italian design, it looks nice. Good for single people, maybe?” Then, the Dodge Charger. “It’s taken away a little from those guys,” he said, pointing to a Mustang. (See? It’s fun, it’s like I Spy crossed with the game where you move through the alphabet and say a different celebrity, or movie star, for every letter.) Toyota’s Avalon swung in front of us, and he remarked on its quality, being a former owner. He said the auto show, this year, would be a more positive affair, with the Big Three stronger than in previous years, a leaner and meaner American auto industry.

Read more about the trip

  1. The Town Car remains a weathered peak of luxury transportation for many, despite the changes in driver preference and civic fuel consumption standards Ford cited as its reasons for termination. I love the Town Car. Since the late ’90s, it’s been the longest car produced in the Western Hemisphere. My dad once told me it was designed to be able to carry four golf bags in its trunk, ferrying a foursome of chums to the links, where some real business can get done. []

Written by Nick

January 24th, 2012 at 2:57 pm

Towards a Shining Volunteer Facebook Botnet of Truth and Victory

Facebook’s latest influence study is out, and the conclusions are not terribly surprising. You share information that your close friends share, but also things your not-so-close friends (or, your ‘distant contacts’, or ‘weak ties’, in network theory parlance) post. Thus, summaries of the study conclude, disproving the claim Facebook is an ‘echo chamber’, a set of behaviors many have insinuated is eroding our society, ingraining us in our ways and making life poorer through depriving us of tough choices about what we believe.

This is already leaving aside a glaringly obvious element. People wouldn’t be friends, even on Facebook, with people they don’t already share large swathes of cultural and economic common ground with. I am not issued a standard set of normative friends upon arrival, that’s rebalanced periodically to ensure all global viewpoints are represented. Reasonably, if Facebook is my only touchpoint with weak tie Jane Connection, it doesn’t mean she’s at the complete opposite end of the social and ideological spectrum to me. Some commonality brought us together, and I’d argue that’s strong enough to lend a coloration to the information he shares and makes me already predisposed to accepting it.

But, I can’t enter into a lengthy analysis of the paper until I actually read it. For now, more interesting matters.

The brilliant and able data scientists at Facebook have an unique porthole into some of the most amazing and interesting behaviors in human history. They’re able to observe major elements in how we fall in love, how we break up, how we celebrate birth and how we mourn death. They are able to judge very interesting things about human nature from these things. But, one must assume, their aspects of inquiry into the human condition are tempered by the desire of its executives to prove out Facebook’s advertising model, and the ability of Facebook to further monetize these events (or, the more prosaic ones, like when we mention our love for Starbucks or a positive experience at Hertz Rent-a-Car). Facebook actively works with advertising analysts to refine the products it sells marketers, so it should likely continue to do so more intensely as it grows.

Facebook is also constantly changing features in its service. Its EdgeRank algorithm, which determines what you see in your News Feed, is similar to Google’s PageRank, and a coveted position for marketers. If you’re a brand, even if millions of people have clicked ‘Like’, your content, which you may have spent millions of dollars to produce, won’t be seen by any of those millions unless someone engages with it, by Liking or commenting. If it’s not interesting, it won’t be seen. The more it’s interesting, the more it’s seen.

Trouble is, EdgeRank is largely a black box. Facebook’s Preferred Developers presumably have an inside edge, or at least a cobbled-together set of metrics with which they can determine how quickly something will take off.

But again, I’m straying from the point. The point is this: Facebook’s data studies should be assumed to be fundamentally serving Facebook’s interests. If it came to conclusions otherwise, why would it be released? Further, many of the statistics around behaviors on the web are commissioned and carried out by companies with vested interests in promoting the data. Security companies publish data on teenage hackers, for instance, or online persona management companies publish data on the proliferation of online personas. ‘These behaviors exists, so should we’ is communicated.

This is why I propose the Shining Volunteer Facebook Botnet of Truth and Victory to lead the way to transparent algorithm documentation.

It’s as simple as this: you sign away access to a moderately omnibenificient force that can monitor your news feed and occasionally post test elements, monitored by others in neighboring networks. Presumably it wouldn’t take more than a small percentage of groups to be able to make meaningful conclusions about the way EdgeRank works. Major changes would provoke an algorithm report to show what’s different. Maybe it would show that Coca-Cola’s content is altogether 10 times more important than Tiny Brand X’s content.1

This is a similar proposition to the idea of counter-algos in the high-frequency trading world, algorithms that try to out-act their counterparts. But this one acts on behalf of users of a system rather than its owners. The analogy that comes to my mind is that of a river and a dam. A dam may be owned and operated by a power company, used to generate power. But the water and the river are public property, and the department of the interior monitors the water level, and the releases from the dam, constantly, keeping track of flows and temperatures for recreation and the health of aquatic life. In the case of monitoring the health of our information flow, though, we need to actively allow some force to pretend to be us for a few moments to stick its toe in the water.

  1. I’m not a conspiracy theorist when I imagine brands that spend $10x more than others have some sort of advantage in EdgeRank. This would make good business sense for Facebook, rewarding those that buy comprehensive display packages with a leg up on those that can only afford to create compelling content. []

Written by Nick

January 19th, 2012 at 11:02 pm