Why is this Interesting? – El Paquete Edition

Friends Noah and Colin are doing a great new newsletters project, Why is this Interesting?

I wrote about El Paquete Semanal, which you may remember from my deep dive earlier this year.

Give WITI a look, it’s going to be big!

On Cuba, digital media, and sneakernets

Nick Parish is an old friend of ours. He escaped the city for Oregon a few years ago, but we can always rely on him for incredible cultural observation. Nick started as a reporter on the sports desk at the New York Post and went on to run the excellent comms magazine and strategy consultancy Contagious. He currently looks after product strategy at Uncorked Studios. – Colin (CJN) [He’s also the one that introduced me to fly fishing! – Noah (NRB)]

Nick here. Back when our foreign policy was more generally oriented around becoming better neighbors, I had the chance to visit Cuba a few times. I was part of a quasi-diplomatic delegation, kind of a junior ranger State Department, a privatized mix of tech dweebs, investors sniffing after policy changes, and government types in various stages of obfuscation and denial. Between visits with officials and community groups, meeting ordinary humble Cubans and the less-than-ordinary elevated Cubans (the ones trying to swap mansions and art for Bitcoin and boltholes in Miami) I had a chance to take a side quest to track down el paquete semanal. El paquete semanal (the weekly package) is a 1TB folder on a hard drive, curated by enterprising Cubans, passed hand-to-hand in the darker part of the island’s grey economy. In that big, hot hunk of drive you can find pretty much all the pop culture you might need, from Game of Thrones to all three games of the latest Marlins-Reds series. 

Keep Reading…

Con El Paquete Semanal

Illustration by Baimu for Yorokubo

Well, my research project on El Paquete Semanal is finally out in the world, and I’m happy people are digging into the content. I got to know EP and understand the cultural context over the course of two trips to Cuba, and really appreciate how the system has grown up under the island’s unique constraints. Take a look at the report and some more analysis from Quartz, which featured it as an “Obsession,” or Reddit, where it came up

Meanwhile, if you read Spanish, the artsy-future magazine Yorokubo hit me up for an interview, from which I nabbed the neat illustration above, as well as Cuban-ish1 site Isla Local. The work was also cited in an r/science discussion on Reddit, and caught the attention of Czech publication Technet.

Meanwhile, loads of cool folks tweeted about the project. Thanks for the support, everyone.

  1. I’m not sure where on the Granma Spectrum it falls []

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. []

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.

Continue reading “Coming Home to a Company Town”

  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. []

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. []

Squeezing the fountain: How General Motors became Admiral Motors

The history of fountain sponsorship at Comerica Park in Detroit is spotty, given the turbulence the auto industry has dealt with in the decade or so since it was built.

So sayeth Wikipedia:

A giant fountain behind center field is set off whenever the Tigers score, and also between innings, with bursts of water also referred to as Liquid Fireworks. The water show is also played pregame and postgame, and can be set to music. General Motors sponsored the fountain and held the naming rights from 2000-2008. Two GM vehicles were placed atop the fountain during that time. For the 2009 season, the fountain sponsorship was dropped by GM, due to their financial trouble. The Tigers decided to keep the General Motors logo on the fountain however, and also added the logos of Chrysler and Ford, with the statement “The Detroit Tigers Support Our Automakers”. In 2010, GM again sponsored the fountain, renaming it the Chevrolet Fountain.

Which is why, while watching copious amounts of baseball on MLB’s various iPad and web products I get a kick out of this every time:

The Admiral Motors fountain! MLB Advanced Media certainly doesn’t want to give General Motors any free branding on its apps. And GM probably didn’t want to do a deal. So, we reach an impasse, and Admiral Motors is born. Our national pasttime, putting an ad on every possible surface, meets our national automaker, not spending much money on marketing.

But what about all the other fields? Well, of the nine hosting games this afternoon, Wrigley Field, O.co Coliseum, Busch Stadium, Fenway Park, Tropicana Field, Minute Maid Park, Nationals Park, Kauffman Stadium and Sun Life Stadium, only Busch and Minute Maid have any branding for anything other than the generic team name or Major League Baseball, MLB.com products (like “MLB 11 The Show” videogame). Minute Maid has a nice big logo where it presumably appears at the stadium, and Busch has a big fat ‘Cola’ sign where a Budweiser billboard would be. Certainly a case for Gladys at Product Displacement.

I can’t really fault MLB.com for trying to monetize it all–I’d rather blame them for the crappy display inventory that’s rusting their brand like sea air, or the auto-renewal of the MLB.tv package, a $100-something charge that hits your bill every February, or the fact that even once you’ve bought MLB.tv you have to pay more to watch on your phone, or your iPad, or the lame-ass Saturday blackout rule that has me listening to the Tigers and missing my beloved Mario and Rod while Boston and Texas go at it in the national broadcast on Fox. But Admiral Motors, really? If I ever run into Bob Bowman again, and he’s back on the trail to become the governor of Michigan, there are going to be some questions.

Applause: RDTN.ORG

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In times of crisis like the world has been watching for the last week or so in Japan, our contributions to alleviate suffering will not entirely be counted in dollars. More and more the tools we build to help those afflicted return to a peaceful existence will be measured as essential.

I’m proud of some friends that joined together to build a hub for measuring the radiation levels in Japan, and hope their effort will bring calm to a few of the many lives changed by the crisis.

The ongoing nuclear crisis in Japan has highlighted our collective reliance on trusted sources. With conflicting reports of radiation levels in affected areas, Portland-based Uncorked Studios has built a way to report and see data in an unbiased format. Inspired by talking heads on news programs who could at best speculate about the nuclear crisis based on the dearth of data, Uncorked decided to create a platform that will crowd-source data to individuals, volunteers, and experts.

Introducing rdtn.org, a website that aggregates radioactivity data from throughout the world in order to provide real-time hyper-local information about the status of the Japanese nuclear crisis. The site is not meant as a replacement for government nor nuclear agencies. Our hope is that clear data will provide additional context to the official word in these rapidly changing events. While the site will focus primarily on readings from Japan, it will also incorporate data from the West Coast of the United States, hoping perhaps to quell the fires of paranoia that stem from a lack of credible information about radiation, the jet stream and its potential effect on US citizens.

We welcome users’ thoughts on how to improve the site/functionality, and appreciate any insight or feedback that will provide a richer understanding of this crisis. We will continue to implement improvements and functionality as soon as possible.

If you are interested in contributing in an official capacity, either as a scientist, journalist, or member of a government agency, please contact us at info@rdtn.org.

RDTN.ORG.

A Resurrection From Cannes

Phew, it’s been too long. I’ve been busy. I’ll catch you up as we go along. But expect more here. The organizers of Cannes’ Lions Daily newsmagazine were looking for the U.S. perspective for this year’s festival in June, so here’s an article I did for them. It hasn’t aged too poorly. Enjoy.

cannes lions daily

‘Everything is clean and shiny but oddly threatening’. / J.G. Ballard, 1999

Although J.G. Ballard was actually talking about technology, this late, great chronicler of Cannes-based mischief came pretty close to explaining what’s happened in the United States and Canada since its ad folk last convened on the Riviera.

Budgets and spending are beginning to come back, but there’s the sense things won’t be the way they were before last year’s slump, both in outlay and style of communications and messaging. Optimism is returning, but how to connect with the NEW new media is still baffling to many. Why should my home plumbing fixture brand be on Facebook? What’s the value of creating a badge on Foursquare for a paper goods company?

The realignment currently taking place is forcing us to reconsider the fabric of our communications landscape, and it’s taking very interesting forms.

FINELY FORMED PLATFORMS /

The first of those is platform-building, the digital terraforming smart marketers are engaging in. This is an evolution from the act of adapting content to work on the web to creating or steering content that works within the Internet’s connective tissue.

Electronic retailer Best Buy has seen its Twelpforce program, which encourages employees to help customers on Twitter, service a massive amount of people. But, all that data it’s pumping into Twitter ultimately belongs to Twitter. And it’s finite, given Twitter’s propensity to hide tweets from search after 1.5 weeks. So what did Best Buy do? It built BBY Feed, a site that scrapes all the interactions from the Blueshirts, threads them into easy-to-read interactions and tags them for search engine optimization. If a month from now, I can’t remember how Best Buy’s folks told me to put the SD card in my camera, when I search for the answer it’ll show up on BBY Feed.

Meanwhile, brand communications platforms are growing up and evolving. Gatorade’s fantastic ‘Replay’ effort through TBWA/Chiat/Day, Los Angeles was initially shot as episodic online content by an advertising production company. The conceit was simple, and on-brand: any athlete’s performance can be enhanced by Gatorade, so why not convene and re-play crucial games that ended in ties, or were called because of injury, ten or fifteen years later? The idea of older athletes getting back in shape appealed to many, interest in the property grew, and Gatorade partnered with Fox Sports Net for the second round, with the cable sports network producing it just like it would a big-league game, and simulcasting it on the web.

Parallel to platform-building, disruptive hacker behaviours have begun influencing marketers looking to place content not only on their own platforms, but in unexpected and intriguing places as well. A great example is the ‘Lost’ flight on Kayak.com. The travel search engine listed Oceanic 815, the flight around which the TV series centred, in its search database. Word spread among Losties, and thousands looked up the flight on Kayak, performing all the behaviours of any other user, an introduction to the brand’s great interface through the thrill of finding the ‘Easter Egg’ of content—the actual flight listing for the mythic Lost flight. Great content, presented in its natural environment, is set to spread, and to maximize PR value.

Similarly, Burger King put a message on Digg’s failed search page, which is served over 600,000 times per month. When you look something up that isn’t there, you get a message from Digg and BK playing on the humorous ‘Tiny Hands’ campaign for the company’s double cheeseburger: ‘Looks like your search had a typo. Maybe you’ve got tiny hands?’

MAKER CULTURE & LASHED-TOGETHER TECH /

This maker culture, along with the rise of electronic hobbyists building projects to interact with the universe, places emphasis on solutions and speed, in the classic Bernbachian sense of ‘It’s ugly, but it gets you there’.

In fact, just over forty years after the moon landing and that classic piece of Volkswagen print, Nike and the Livestrong Foundation’s Chalkbot, from Wieden + Kennedy and the robot-making punk rockers at Pittsburgh’s Deeplocal, fits the tagline–the trailer-pulled robot sets a standard for the post-digital transition in its employment of ‘guttertech’–using the lowest available technology to solve the problem. The robot, towed along the route of the Tour de France, sprays messages of cancer support and memoriam people have tweeted onto the course. The system then takes a photo, geotags it, and sends it back to the participant on the other end of the connection. Chalkbot’s no-frills, simple-yet-elegant setup and movement through digital and physical elements nimbly skitters like Wall-E around a landscape where tech bandwagon-jumping is in danger of creating a proliferation of clutter and junk.

The sensor array in our smartphones is currently the fastest track to bringing about the ‘internet of things’ – the practice of integrating digital capabilities to the most ordinary of objects. Ranchers are using RFID to track beef from pasture to abattoir and researchers at the Asthmapolis project are using GPS-triggering asthma inhalers to learn more about pollutants, and all are contributing to the proliferation of data. The objects around us are becoming networked, either through built-in communication hardware or software elements fitted on top.

MASSAGING THE DATALAYER /

A company called Stickybits, which had its coming out party this year at the South by Southwest Interactive conference, allows you to add content–a video, a comment, a photo–to any barcode scanned with its app. Essentially the company has turned every barcode-carrying product into a media node.

Keep an eye peeled this week for Contagious’ special Stickybits treasure hunt, centered on our Issue 23 cover (which you can scan from the illustration here), and has Euro RSCG London’s new Dulux spot attached to it. Find the pink bits around town this week, scan them with your Stickybits app, and win Contagious prizes.

While our Stickybit challenge is but a small example, building games is, to me, the most exciting element of future-facing marketing efforts.

Think of the devotion a good videogame commands: players often log days at quests, or facing rivals online. And unlike a film, or a magazine, the hefty price you pay for a console game doesn’t even guarantee you get to experience all the content–you have to be patient, persist, and earn the ending.

THE POINTS ECOLOGY /

Location-based services like Gowalla and Loopt and Foursquare represent a simple employment of game motivations using the sensors we carry. Get the most points. Be seen the best places. Unlock achievements.

Ultimately, brands are developing new ways to register loyalty and reward people choosing them, while enticing possible conversions from nearby consumers–nearby both in physical location and adjoining mental space (think of a hairdresser who promotes on check-ins at the beauty supply store).

Will location-based service companies wind up being overgrown, social-enabled supermarket points schemes? No one can tell yet. But as the unique user behaviour, the check-in, the acknowledgement of presence in a space-time-byte matrix, spreads and becomes more familiar, and our sensor-augmented actions begin to throw off more and more data, the smartest marketers will be engineering access to it, and in turn creating experiences and narratives all the more relevant.

Returning to Mr. Ballard’s quote, there’s good reason for these shiny things to feel threatening. The firmaments of this business are shifting, and we can’t see where they’ll settle yet. But without threat, we drift to complacency. Now is the time, more than ever, to re-examine what is useful, relevant and entertaining as the world keeps turning.

Spimes and the evolution of the Missed Connection

sophie blackall

Spime. Spimey spimey spime.

Spime is a portmanteau of ‘space’ and ‘time’ coined by Bruce Sterling, who envisions a world full of spimes. It’s fun to say, and important to think about. A scenario just crossed my mind that might help.

A spime, as he defines it, is a “location-aware, environment-aware, self-logging, self-documenting, uniquely identified object that flings off data about itself and its environment in great quantities.”

We’re seeing stuff that’s spimier every day. Your smart phone is a pretty good example. While I was looking at Sophie Blackall’s fun illustrations of Craigslist Missed Connections it seemed like a pretty interesting way to think about spimes.

Thousands of people have potential Missed Connections every day in big cities. (Essentially, if you’re not clear on how the Craigslist section works, say the cute dude walking his dog makes eyes at you, and you reciprocate; if one of you gets up the guts and wants to make contact you post about the encounter on the board.)

Continue reading “Spimes and the evolution of the Missed Connection”

More efficient than efficient, or, how crowdsourcing agencies can prove themselves

More efficient than efficient, or, how crowdsourcing agencies can prove themselves
This week saw the auspicious launch of a new agency called Victors and Spoils, made up of two former Crispin Porter + Bogusky folks, Evan Fry and John Winsor (who specializes in cognitive science and is a nice guy) and Claudia Batten, a former VP at Microsoft-owned in-game advertising facilitator Massive.
Fry, in the Times piece, makes an impressive statement:
“Crowdsourcing is looked at as a trend du jour,” Mr. Fry said. “We want to be the first agency that gets it right.”
I want them to as well. But perhaps in a different way than they do.
Advertising execs have been in love with Clay Shirkey’s ur-crowdsourcing text “Here Comes Everybody” since it made its debut last year, but they haven’t been able to get it right.
There’s a reason why; marketers have focused on using executions from the crowd (eg Doritos’ tone-deaf Super Bowl spots) to replace things they’d usually pay specialists lots of money for, like logos and commercial scripts, instead of the simplified tasks crowdsourcing excels at, like being able to draw a rough sheep (as in Aaron Koblin’s Sheep Market) or retype a blurry word (as in Luis von Ahn’s CAPTCHA).
So, to succeed, Victors and Spoils has to find the middle ground.
And, by the power of the crowd vested in this tiny node in a remote corner of the internet, I have it for them. Here’s your assignment, guys.
Build a community around the DARPA network challenge and one of the “household-name brands” you allude to pitching for in the Times, win the challenge, and donate the $40,000 to charity in the name of the brand.
Hire a mathmetician to figure out the best way to allocate your immense human resources and flex them to comb the country for the eight balloons. Issue incentives to players, keep them honest, allow the whole thing to develop near-realtime with streaming content and all sorts of extra goodies.
It’ll be tough, because you’ll be competing against ultra-efficient networks, the likes of 4chan, which is unfortunately the closest thing we have now to an effective megalith of distributed energy. But what they boast in adolescent drive they don’t necessarily hold in technical expertise.
In as much as advertising has become a highly-efficient substrate for many of our emotional responses, so too will you have to be the surface underlying the network, giving it nutrients and making it robust.

balloon

This week saw the auspicious launch of a new agency called Victors and Spoils, founded by former Crispin Porter + Bogusky folks, Evan Fry and John Winsor as well as Claudia Batten, a former VP at Microsoft-owned in-game advertising facilitator Massive.

Fry, in the Times piece, makes an impressive statement:

“Crowdsourcing is looked at as a trend du jour,” Mr. Fry said. “We want to be the first agency that gets it right.”

I want them to as well. But perhaps in a different way than they do.

Advertising execs have been in love with Clay Shirky’s ur-crowdsourcing text “Here Comes Everybody” since it made its debut last year, but they haven’t been able to get it right.

There’s a reason why; marketers have focused on using executions from the crowd (eg Doritos’ tone-deaf Super Bowl spots) to replace things they’d usually pay specialists lots of money for, like logos and commercial scripts, instead of the easy tasks everyone can complete, like drawing a sheep (as in Aaron Koblin’s Sheep Market) or retyping a blurry word (as in Luis von Ahn’s CAPTCHA).

So, to succeed, Victors and Spoils has to find the middle ground.

And, by the power of the crowd vested in this tiny node in a remote corner of the internet, I have it for them. Here’s your assignment, guys.

Build a community around the DARPA network challenge and one of the “household-name brands” you allude to pitching for in the Times, win the challenge by finding the eight balloons first, and donate the $40,000 in prize money to charity in the name of the brand.

I’d hire a mathmetician to figure out the best way to allocate your immense brain wattage and flex it to comb the country for the eight balloons. Issue incentives to players, keep them honest, allow the whole thing to develop near-realtime with streaming content and all sorts of extra goodies.

It’ll be tough, because you’ll be competing against ultra-efficient networks, the likes of 4chan, which is unfortunately the closest thing we have now to an effective megalith of distributed energy that has the get-up-and-go to mobilize quickly. But what they boast in adolescent drive they don’t necessarily hold in technical expertise.

In as much as advertising has become a highly-efficient substrate for many of our emotional responses, so too will you have to be the surface underlying the network, giving it nutrients and making it robust.

A public service announcement from nickparish.net

A public service announcement from nickparish.net

“Nothing like the Apollo missions has been seen since, and some believe nothing ever will be.

Leading spacecraft expert Professor Andre Balogh, from Imperial College London, argues that the level of commitment and risk required to get astronauts to the Moon and back in 1969 would simply not be possible today.

He told the Press Association: ‘It was carried out in a technically brilliant way with risks taken … that would be inconceivable in the risk-averse world of today.

‘The Apollo programme is arguably the greatest technical achievement of mankind to date. And it was carried out successfully, against the backdrop of a difficult political situation in the USA, caused in large part by the worsening of the human and financial cost of the Vietnam war.'”

HeSays-SheSays

UPDATE: Last night’s meeting went great. I schlepped on about becoming a better geek, Matt from McCann introduced some tools to make anyone into a rabid Twitter fiend and James from Saatchi poked the crabby bear that is the age-old debate on advertising’s merits as art and the ethics of creative borrowing. Good times. Hopefully the ladies enjoyed as much as we did.

Continue reading “HeSays-SheSays”