Archive for the 'Comment' Category

27
Sep
10

Whose space?

Over the last two years myspace.com has gone from 43 billion page views to 12 billion, and from 125 million unique visitors to 95 million. These numbers are a reflection of many different factors; but this coming October we will see a new and improved myspace. Or so one would hope, but things aren’t looking good. This week we hear the news that Vice President of Communications Tracy Akselrud has jumped ship less than a month before the anticipated re-launch. She isn’t the first high ranking myspace executive to have left during recent months – and I dare say she won’t be the last.

It seems that as the users drop away and abandon the site, so do the people who run it. This re-launch will either bring new life to the site and revive it or kill it off completely. The reason that I left myspace was that there was too much choice, too much variation from page to page, some profiles were difficult for my computer to load and it became an all round chore. It seemed even more arduous when you had Facebook’s simple and clear uniform style to compare it to. That’s where it seems to fall down: their product simply isn’t as good as that of their competitors’, it became too complicated and too much like hard work. That’s why myspace went from being the dominating force in the social media landscape to falling down a steep decline in popularity.

With the re-launch I hope that myspace will lean towards what it’s good at and not try to be all things to all men. Where I think myspace does a good job and always has, is providing a good platform for bands and unsigned musicians to promote themselves. If myspace has a future, I think it’s there.

The relaunch is set for October, so we don’t have long to wait and see what they plan to do; but it can’t be a good sign that another top myspace exec has left the company less than a month beforehand.

24
Sep
10

Jumbo Jumo

At the Mashable and 92Y Social Good Summit, Chris Hughes spoke to his audience about the new social networking site he is developing, Jumo. Chris Hughes, a former co-founder of Facebook, is developing the site to connect people with non-profit-making charitable organisations. The site is intended to have the infrastructure to allow the user to find, follow and support different charities around the world.

Hughes believes it’s difficult for people to actively support charities  as there is no central facility where you can find the right charity for you to support, and then maintain a relationship with is  – Jumo is planned to do just that.

Although there are no other apparent sites which have all the functions that Jumo proposes to have, there are sites which house a wide range of charities enabling you to donate online –  such as charitychoice.co.uk. However, they lack the ability to maintain a personal relationship with the charity. Maybe the collaboration of these three functions, currently missing from online donation websites, will increase the amount raised for organisations  in need in both the short and long term.

The only obvious drawback is that small charities fare disproportionately badly on combination sites: their lack of size and public awareness means that the larger, more well known charities (or more popular causes) can make more effective use of them.

Hughes is also the former director of online organising for Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign and based on his experience, the site should be a success. He used the example of the Haiti disaster in January, saying that $31 million of the $1.3 billion raised was donated through text message donations. Despite this being a small proportion of the total raised, it is still a handsome sum. To me,  this level of donations through mobile technology, a social medium, implies the site should be a success – for larger charities, at least.

14
Sep
10

There is no such thing as Scandinavian design

If we take Scandinavia to include the mainland of the Nordic region (excluding Iceland and Åland), there is a persistent view through the media that Scandinavian design is a consistent and homogeneous design culture and ethos which leads to a consistent and homogeneous design product.

It isn’t true. It’s a construct of the need to find a convenient label, much like there is meant to be such a thing as ‘middle eastern cooking’ or an ‘English accent’.

Despite the laudable efforts of such firms as the new pan-Scandinavian design firm Muuto (from muutos, ‘new perspective’ in Finnish: muuto.com) which is intentionally bringing designers together from across the region, the concept of Scandinavian design itself needs to be deconstructed.

Here’s why. Historically, the four nations of Scandinavia have spent their time dominating, or being dominated by, each other. The Danes and the Swedes were on top (intermittently, of each other); the Norwegians and the Finns underneath, though the Finns as a Russian archduchy did have a degree of freedom the Norwegians did not. The historical picture is therefore informed by the desire of two nations to spread their culture – and of two others determined to build up theirs under the pressure of others.

The assimilation of foreign styles, and making something unique of them (Gustavian neo-classicism in Sweden, the National Romantic Style in Finland, the assimilation and use of Schleswig architecture in southern Denmark, for instance) provides a concrete backdrop to national difference. The way architectural and visual design styles were used, particularly in Finland and Norway, not to identify the nation with the wider world (as they are in Denmark and Sweden, for instance) but to identify them as something other, something different and unique, continues to inform the design ethos of the various countries in many ways.

If the view of the outside world of Scandinavian design is blond people making beech furniture, then it is equally easy to stereotype – though with a greater degree of accuracy – the various nations (spoiler alert – wild generalisations imminent).

Danish style is actually the one people in the outside world, the influence of IKEA notwithstanding, think of as being ‘Scandinavian’. Human proportions, clean lines, whites, greys and blacks with some silver and red as an accent colour. Precisely engineered, beautifully thought out, intensely practical. (en.ddc.dk)

The design of Norway comes across much as its people do – thoughtful, ecological, distinctly different – and frequently quirky. In fact, this sense of humour, almost Italian in its approach, is one of the most striking features. (norskdesign.no)

As for the Finns, they design their products to fit their country – though they do have something truly unique in the rya rug. Finnish design is closer to Danish, though they won’t like me for saying so – its preoccupations are the same, but with more of a stress on the use of wood and glass, and a move in colours away from the greys of Denmark to whites, light colours and wood tones. (designforum.fi)

Sweden is interesting. IKEA seems to have sent the product design industry into a bit of a spin – taking their cues more from their history than their present, Swedish design seems to be trying to find its feet as its ideas, and its talent, are increasingly plucked to make some kind of affordable mélange which whilst practical, lacks the intensity of workmanship and attention to usability that, ultimately, is the mark of design excellence. (svenskform.se)

Four countries. Four histories, deeply intertwined – but four clear and distinct design cultures, informed by that history, by geography and personality. Paul Simpson, in his Summer 2009 piece for the British Design Council (designcouncil.org.uk), makes the argument clear, by making it more complex. His ‘Myths of Scandinavian Design’ include ‘Myth 1: There is such a thing as Scandinavian design’ – followed soon after by ‘Myth 5: There is no such thing as Scandinavian design’.

You can’t have it both ways. Spend enough time in the countries of Scandinavia and it becomes clear: there is design in Scandinavia, some of the best in the world. It’s just that there is no design of Scandinavia, but instead four unique and independent design worlds which cross over and cross fertilise – but which ultimately stand on their own.

scandinavian design

10
Sep
10

Has Mr Murdoch scored a spectacular own goal?

MacBook Pro displaying The Times website.I’m an avid Times reader, from the headlines to the Cricket, and I’m especially rabid if there’s a new restaurant revue, or an opinion leader from Giles Coren, A.A.Gill, Jeremy Clarkson or Alpha Mummy.

It’s been almost five years since I had a regular subscription to a newspaper delivered to my house and, if I’m honest, quite a lot of that had something to do with The Times moving to the horrific tabloid layout that’s plagued its paper version ever since. I’m now a digital reader – I rarely buy a newspaper in print form, unless I’m travelling or fancying an idyllic weekend curled up with tea, papers and good books; something my iPhone and my obsessive e-mail checking syndrome almost always curtails.

As a digital reader I enjoyed Times Online, it wasn’t quite as pretty as the Guardian, or quite as interactive as the FT, but when it was redesigned I started to get excited. The layout was clean, easy to navigate and retained a certain sense that you’re reading news rather than just seeing news between a hundred flashing adverts, social media side bars and endless inane comments; but then along came Paywall Day.

Some predicted it would be like all the lights going out (you won’t be able to survive without it), others (sneakily calling themselves the majority) thought otherwise, but a month and a bit in, the Paywall hasn’t destroyed The Times, at least not yet.

The most obvious change was that the amount of articles, carrying significant amounts of user generated comment, dropped dramatically; the blame americans/europeans/arabs/the left (delete as applicable) ramblers and loons have been silenced, replaced instead by people that understand the importance of an argument and capital letters. Threaded comment system has also made it possible to engage users directly, resulting in branch topics and a real ability to pull up those who haven’t thought their comments through or are, in your opinion, just plain wrong.

The quality of the articles has also increased – almost all feature pieces have video, photo galleries and associated stories surrounding them; something that the previous incarnation of the site used to struggle with, So it’s here that I’m seeing the real value of the subscription; The Times is now regularly rivalling the BBC on the integrated nature of its copy, and that can only be an improvement to the often trivialised articles that appear as fillers on other news sites.

So it’s all good? Well not quite. There’s no denying, it’s a quieter site than it used to be – there’s still a significant amount of similar content available free elsewhere, and it’s clear that The Times is going to have to work hard to get people into its site. What is interesting is that with the exception of the initial trial period when the website launched there’s now no sample, no tasters, no giveaways – nothing, nadda, zip. If you want the Times, great, if you’re not sure they give no reasons to reassure. It’s this lack of a reason to buy that I think is their main barrier to increased subscription sales; only time will tell if Murdoch’s real conviction that content should be paid for acts as a limiter or an enabler for The Times. What is for certain is that other than rumours that other News International publications might follow, The Times is currently standing alone on the shoreline, and only time will tell if the tide washes over them or they change it’s direction.

23
Jun
10

Mobile Apps: Beware of Standing Still

“There’s an App for that”

There can be no doubt that Apple has changed the way we use the web on the go. Since opening in 2008 over ‘200,000 ways to make your iPhone even better’ have been added to the App Store. If you visit the Android Mobile Market you’ll find more than 25,000 apps to enjoy, whilst Blackberry’s App World offers 5,000. It’s hard to keep an accurate track on the total number of apps available across the platforms, but one thing is for sure: We are surrounded by mobile apps.

Retailers, game designers, social networks and publishers have all pushed to get their own mobile application into the App Store. Now they are constantly pushing to get their apps into the top spot and receive positive user feedback. This multitude of apps fascinates users and keeps blogs full of “Ten of the best mobile apps” list. A company recently made news when they launched an auxiliary app that taught users how to use their main ‘killer app’.

In the face of this app frenzy, it’s good to keep in mind that some apps have longer lifespans than others – and this lifespan usually correlates to how useful they are in the long-term. While trying to break the score of ‘Robot Unicorn Attack’ reaches its saturation point very quickly, an application that lets you read content from your favourite newspaper, or that makes navigating social media much easier, offers a longer and more valuable user experience.

Many of us will have downloaded and accumulated too many apps – attracted by what’s new and what’s trending. After a certain point we realise that they take up too much space on our phones, and the less engaging apps end up in our trash folders. It might be time to consider the use of our beloved mobile apps.

Mobile search company Taptu have released a report arguing that the future will belong to mobile browser optimised sites, not apps. They make a very good argument. The proliferation of new smartphone models, different operating systems (Symbian, iPhone OS, Windows Mobile, Android, Blackberry OS…), and tablet devices means that optimised sites that work across platforms will have a larger audience than a platform specific application. Current estimates put web optimised sites at about 326,000 – and this number is likely to increase with more companies moving to a mobile-web app strategy.

Mobile sites can be optimised to work well on most devices – they are also less expensive to develop, and have the structural advantage of being constantly updateable, without having to rely on a user to download an update. A mobile website makes economic sense.

That’s not to say that mobile apps will die out – we think their best days still lie ahead. But for a lot of companies and brands, a mobile website will be cheaper to develop and provide a better return on investment in the long run. We’re happy to offer our thoughts on your mobile app or web dilemma – give us a call (it’s the green app with the phone symbol).

Camille le Goff is a Junior Brand Staffer with Vivid London.

17
Jun
10

Did you leave Facebook?

“Sick of Facebook’s lack of respect for you data? Then ‘Quit Facebook’ on May 31st!”


Of a worldwide user base of about 400m, roughly 36,000 felt strongly enough to sign a petition asking Facebook to change its policies, or face a drop in membership.

The furore about Facebook’s privacy was widely covered in new and mainstream media. It brought about a rare submission from the company – who have faced complaints from users about everything from changes in site appearance to missing ‘dislike’ buttons – into simplifying its privacy options.

Why? Because Facebook gets it – its active users make its business viable. The larger the user base, the more valuable the platform, the more targeted advertising can be sold, the larger the audience for brands to interact with. With each new genuine user, Facebook increases in value for its investors, advertisers, marketers and its users.

Which is why you probably clicked a link on Facebook to get to this post. You’re still there.

The platform adds value to your life by connecting you with far flung friends, old classmates and ex-romantic interests in a social setting that has never quite been captured elsewhere.

If you did leave Facebook, how would you keep up with what your friends were doing? Do you think they’d remember to create an ‘e-vite’ for their (massively oversubscribed but otherwise very fun) party? How about the pictures from said party – are they going to email around a link to their Flickr account? Send a round robin email to let you know which news story they liked the morning after? Probably not.

Facebook has changed the way that we as consumers interact with the internet. One-way communication was replaced by email; two-way communication was replaced by social media. The world’s a buzz, and you want to stay part of it. Social media has taken the social out of our email inboxes, personal homepages (remember those?) and instant messengers, and collated it in one place.

Who gets to see this data remains a sensitive topic – you don’t want to end up losing your job or flat because of a social network – but just how much super-private data are you sharing on the internet? Would you share the same information around the water cooler, in class or over a PA? If the answer is ‘no’, then you might want to rethink sharing it online.

Facebook’s overcomplicated, default ‘social’ privacy settings and its decision to switch all users to these settings can’t be excused. The company’s move to simplify privacy across the site is a significant waypoint in the development of social media – throngs of users are seeing the value of sites like Facebook each day, but platforms are now seeing the true value of an engaged and positive user base.

“Quit Facebook Day” may have been a flop – Facebook actually grew by 5.5m users in May 2010, and social media as a whole overtook search engines as the main destination for UK web users – but the concessions made by the company will have massive repercussions. Social media offers a real opportunity for brands to interact with their consumers, something platforms have encouraged as a means of monetising their services. This ‘democratisation’ of business has now made its first major impact on the platforms themselves.

Adam James Morecroft is PR & Social Media Associate at Vivid London

Image by Anisha Chandarana, Junior Design Staff at Vivid London.

11
Jun
10

Web saved the video star

Remember the Macintosh TV that was released in 1993?

No, you don’t and it comes as no surprise – the product was a flop. It does represent one of the first attempts by a computer manufacturer to turn a large computer monitor into a casual television.

2006 saw Apple return to this sector with the Apple TV, a hard drive based box that plays streamed content from your iTunes library on your television. The equation changed – this time Apple were turning to TV into a computer, not vice versa. It’s a brilliant of technology, but commercially, it’s been a flop compared to Apple’s iEverythings.

Web TV is a sweet dream; it’s fascinated us for a long time, but has never been able to meet audience expectations. Times are changing: last month’s “Google TV” announcement attests as much. The idea is simple: bring our computer-like experience on to a friendlier screen through internet-enabled television or digital set-top boxes. Basically, TV will become an extension of the internet.

Google has expanded out of its usual business sector by investing the TV market, which gives Apple the opportunity to counter attack with an updated version of its Apple TV. Though still largely unsubstantiated, the rumour mill is churning out prognostications of a flash-memory based device running iPhone OS that will cost a lot less than the current Apple TV. Rumour, yes – but Apple rumours have a tendency of coming true (at least eventually).

The idea of a Google or an Apple TV is seducing and will imply big changes in our viewing habits –A keyboard in my living-room?! No more fighting over the remote?! No more buttons on the remote?! We’ll be able to find related streaming videos instantly. Ad targetting will take a huge leap forward. Forget your phone or pad – web apps are about to invade your front room. We can probably agree that the information overload we’re now presented with could soon replace the modest pleasure of sitting in front of the TV while hanging around the net with a laptop on our knees.

Google is first and foremost an advertising company, and its TV offers many advertising opportunities. Google’s model will allow TV advertisers to target specific keywords searches to reach their audiences precisely. Audience demographic information is going to become a lot more useful.

The concept of web-browsing on television would enable advertisers to have a privileged access to our viewing habits and the ability to offer ads based on what we are watching. It would be the best way to collect data and to enjoy lovely bespoke ads. It’s a win-win situation. But there is more.

Businesses will have to start thinking in a different way. With the apparition of a browser tool on TV, businesses have to  bear in mind the optimisation of their online content to fit on a TV screen. Search engine optimisation on Google and YouTube should be a top priority because obviously users don’t perceive information on the web and on TV in the same way.

We are not putting the cart before the horse, but if Google TV does really take off, there will have a lot of implications for businesses; not least because advertising will become more attractive (and potentially more effective) than ever before!

See you in 2012.


Camille le Goff is a Junior Brand Staffer with Vivid London




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