Dawdlr has just updated for the first time. (What's dawdlr?) I think it's worked rather well. People have sent excellent things. Some florid, some restrained, some silly, some thoughtful. It's like twitter; people are making up 'what it's for' on their own. And, of course, even though there's been six months to get one in some people are late.
I wasn't quite sure whether to scan both sides of the postcards but mostly I did, unless there was really nothing on the other side. The only problem thus far is tumblr only lets you do fifteen posts per page, which means the first update stretches over a couple of pages. Apart from that I like the way it looks.
I wonder what'll happen now. Is this lot just a first novelty flurry or is this somehow interesting or useful? We shall see.
Next update May 21st. At this rate we'll be out of beta by 2312.
This is by way of floating an idea. I wondered if we could get together an interesting sounds, in the same ad hoc way we did interesting2007, except this time I don't even have a venue and a date. It came to mind when I realised that there were quite a few people who came to interesting who'd built their own musical instruments, or done musical stuff with odd toys, or generally made, you know, interesting sounds.
What I was thinking is:
I'd organise a venue and a PA system, and that would be attached to a mini-jack.
'Performers' would get 10 minutes (or is that too short?) to bring their sound-maker along, plug into the mini-jack and entertain us all.
We'd do it in the evening, so there'd be beer and chat too. I'm thinking it'd be good to do it in Brighton.
And we'd try and keep the tickets as cheap as we did for Interesting2007.
And I'm hoping for interesting sounds, not necessarily 'music'. It's not about plugging your guitar in and singing. And hopefully it's more than just laptops and ambient noodling. It's got to be, you know, interesting. Too look at as well as to listen to.
Does that make sense? At this point I'm just trying to gauge interest and find potential performers. Anyone fancy coming? Anyone want to perform? Anyone got suggestions for good venues? Answers to these and other questions would be most welcome. Drop me an email (russell at russelldavies.com) or comment below if you fancy. Ta.
(Also, what do we reckon about doing Interesting2008 proper in the summer? Fancy that too?)
I've sort of written about this in Campaign (over here) but I don't think I quite got what I meant. So here's another version.
One of the perpetual interactive marketing memes is the idea that somehow, one day, we'll make marketing that's so relevant and so well targeted that it'll stop being advertising and become pure and delightful information. This idea has been re-ignited by the advertising plans of the various social networks; using what they know about their users to enable more effective targeting.
I've always just assumed this was true. This was going to happen. Bound to, it makes so much sense. But then, this evening, I had another thought. Because there are some prototypes for this kind of activity already knocking around. And they're working really, really badly.
Here's what I was thinking:
For this super-target advertising idea to work you need to know a lot about the individual you're talking to. You need to know their interests. What they do. What they buy. What they like and don't like.
The kind of information you might get from a blog. That might be the kind of rich but unstructured information you'd be hoping to mine.
And, if it's going to work, it's presumably going to work best for high-cost, high-specificity items. Things that it's worth spending some effort on marketing to exactly the right person, in exactly the right way. So not baked beans. But maybe high-end technology or services like conferences.
I think you might have worked out where I'm going.
Because it strikes me, that, if this perfect marketing-disappearing-itself stuff is going to happen it should be emerging in the interactions between people who've shared a lot of information about themselves and people who have a lot of interest in reaching them effectively. It should be happening in 'blogger outreach'. And is that going well? No, it's not.
There's a lot of information about me on this blog. I get lots of emails about conferences I'm going to want to attend, new advertising I'm going to love, and new websites I definitely need to check out. And is this stuff transmuting from spam into information as I share more and more information about myself? No. It's not. Because most (not all, I do have to emphasise not all) of the people emailing me cannot be arsed to think, for one second, about who they're emailing. It's mostly just spam.
And, what's both worse and more interesting is that the people who can be arsed to do a little bit of research send even more annoying and frustrating emails. They plunge into a kind of direct marketing uncanny valley where the more desperately they try to personalise their message the more I'm reminded that they're not really my friend. The more 'personal' information they utilise the more it freaks me out. (But again, not always, and maybe it's in the 'not always' where salvation lies, but I doubt it.)
And this is a person doing this, not an algorithm. This is someone who's going to email maybe 1000 people about their conference or website or whatever. They've got common sense. They can read my blog and understand it. (To the extent that anyone can.) And they're mostly delivering pointless spam. And yet it seems we think that we're clever enough to write genius marketing software that will analyze social network profiles, deduce what folk are interested in and create such targeted and relevant communications that people will be delighted to click on them because they're overwhelmed with their percipience and utility. I'm not sure that'll happen. I suspect we're going to get flashing, dancing, animated equivalents of the mis-spelt welcome message you get on your hotel TV when you check in.
It's Interesting South next week, in a theatre overlooking a beach, not that I'm jealous or anything. Lauren's talking there and she's making some really interesting stuff based on the original logo. It looks great. I really like the way Emily and the folks are inventing a new way of doing interesting. It's got me thinking.
I did a little bit of work for Eurostar recently. Not much. Just a meeting really, talking about their blog and flickr stuff, not enough to charge them anything. So I asked instead that they do something nice for my Dad, who's a bit of a train-nutter, show him around St Pancras before it opened, something like that. Instead, they very kindly offered us both tickets on the first new, high-speed, carbon-neutral train to Paris yesterday. Brilliant. Unfortunately, at the last minute, my Dad couldn't go on the actual trip, though he still came down to see us off. (Actually, I suspect he was quite glad, he spent almost the entire day at St Pancras, I think he had a great time.) So, instead, Mr Paul Colman, generously agreed to come with me.
Though, as you can see, he's not that different to my Dad.
It was a fantastic day. St Pancras is a real achievement, something I wasn't sure corporations could do any more. It's not quite finished, and some of the day had the air of when you invite someone round to your flat just after you've moved in and you can't yet find the sugar, but it's going to be a great station. The only obvious deficiency seems to be the glaring lack of bike-stands, which seems rather dumb given Eurostar's massive efforts to be green. Hopefully that'll get fixed soon.
The best new thing about the journey is the speed you get out of London, one minute you dive into a tunnel, the next you're saying 'is this Stratford?' the next you're whizzing through Ebbsfleet. After that it's a crossword and a cuppa and you're in Paris just in time for the strikes.
We only bumped into one march but it was properly French. Beneath the paving stones lie the hi-viz jackets.
We wondered aimlessly for a while, had coffee, croque monsieur and crepes (all the cliches).
We were impressed by the boldness of the local bird-life.
And by the Parisian commitment to neon.
And I was very struck, walking across the bridge at the back of Gare De L'Est, how much more beautiful rail travel is compared to road and air. I know this isn't an original thought, but a railway station is such a compact assembly of lines and crossings, all with tremendous implications of movement. Airports are too spread out to be interesting, or comprehensible. More rail travel for me in 2008, I think.
And then it was back to St Pancras, which looks stunning at night, and home.
The thing I wrote about expertise the other day was inspired by Jared Spool, but more informed by Malcolm Gladwell's speech at the New Yorker conference about genius etc. And more stuff that Gladwell said has stuck with me. So I watched it again and took notes.
His main topic is genius. And the types of genius we'll need to solve modern problems.
Ventris solved his problem through lots of thinking, a flash of genius and was, to some extent, a gifted and enthusiastic amateur. Or at least 'self-taught'. He did it largely on his own and his solution was relatively short and simple, only 20 pages. Gladwell describes him as a 'pre-modern genius'.
Wiles was more collaborative, his proof built on the thinking of many other mathematicians. His success seems to have been more about tenacity and focus than about an inspired moment of genius. His proof was incredibly long. And his was the success of 'thirteen smart guys' rather than one genius. (I'm summarising this drastically, you should watch the video.)
And Gladwell stretches that to a fascinating suggestion - that the problems the world faces now are more likely to be responsive to 'thirteen smart guy' solutions than 'one real genius' solutions. (I assume he's using 'guy' in the American, more gender-neutral, sense.) Because the problems we face are complicated and involved and are likely to require long, detailed responses. Unfortunately, he suggests, our education and social systems aren't geared up for that. The people we're taught to admire and emulate are the lone genius types. That's what education is pointing at, that's what the business press promotes, that's even how we talk about sport. And this, of course, has all sorts of echoes with Ken Robinson's talk at TED about how the education system puts academics at the top of the aspirational tree. (I can't believe you've not watched that yet, but if you haven't you should.) He then talks about how we're under-capitalising the human potential of various ethnic groups and not giving us ourselves enough smart people to meet the challenges of the future.
"We will require, from a larger and larger percentage of our work force, the ability to engage in relatively complicated analytical and cognitive tasks. So it's not that we're going to need more geniuses, but the 50th percentile is going to have to be better educated than they are now. We're going to have to graduate more people from high school who've done advanced math, is a very simple way of putting it."
And all that makes complete sense to me. And clearly we should pay attention because he's talking about some important sociological effects and issues. Stuff that could matter to everyone.
But what he's talking about also explains a lot of behaviour you in see in our trivial little worlds of 'the creative industries'. Because the elevation of the genius is certainly big in advertising. Agencies are always looking for the genius creative director or planning director that will dramatically turn around their fortunes. (Reinforced, of course, by the press. No-one's going to issue a press release saying Agency Hires Fifteen Quite Good People Who All Promise To Work Really Hard, instead they want to announce Agency Hire Creative Genius With Many Awards). And actually, I suspect that if you're product is a 30 second ad or a poster then the lone genius approach might be the way to go. An ad, in the old traditional sense, seems like a Linear B kind of problem. And so, maybe, does a piece of graphic design. Or a book cover. That kind of thing.
But the kind of problems we increasingly face now; experience design problems, experiential marketing, big, complex, thorny interactive design issues, social network strategies, the stuff that businesses are increasingly spending their money on. All that kind of stuff. They seem more like Fermat-style problems. They're 13 smart guy problems. And require different kinds of thinkers, more about analysis and tenacity than the flash of inspiration after lunch. And maybe that means that we need new structures and practises, not copied from the agency model but new inventions or borrowings from elsewhere.
Just a thought. Basically, though, you should just watch the video.
Rob at Snowbooks has been kind enough to write good things about ebcb but his review hints at one of the problems I think the book faced, and I pass it on as a potential aid for future writers of bits of amusing fluff. No-one knew where to put, or find, the thing. It's officially classified as 'humour' (which personally I always find is a bit of a kiss of death when tearing open the Christmas presents, I'll read that one last) but of course the name suggests you might find it in 'food', or maybe if you knew it's guide-booky nature maybe 'travel'. I'm not sure there was a lot we could do about that, but it's worth thinking about if you're planning on writing a book. Where in the shop will it go? Somewhere obvious, or all over the place?
The good thing is, I don't think that matters in the long tail, it just means there are more places to play.