Wednesday, October 31, 2007

thames clipper update

I sail past a bloody warship on the way home from work!

A warship!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

i'm not clever, i'm creative

Kids have wonderful imaginations, as we know.

But we seem to have a fairly black and white distinction between child-like innocence and grown-up understanding. I for one, can claim to be very smart in some ways and very stupid in others even though I'm old enough to drive an articulated lorry and foster a Romanian child. If you feel that way too, then I offer you hope.

While working my way through Stumbling on Happiness (I should be on commission), I read a fairly obvious but well-crafted point about the way we 'imagine'. In short, it said that when we construct visions of the future, we use a particular material more than any other. That material is the 'present'. Author, Gilbert, goes on to say that this is why futurology studies always presents us with worlds very similar to the one we live in at the time of writing.

I started to think about the people I've met that 'understand the present' better than others and I was reminded that often, in my professional experience, the people who have the most robust understanding of the way things are now usually turn out to have the least original creative ideas. Then I thought about myself. I'm very creative and have a vivid imagination, but I can get lost easily in the nitty-gritty of very complex ideas. I tend to absorb just enough of a topic to get the gist of it, rather than dissect it and explore it in huge detail. (like the way I read newspapers)

As my brother said when I mentioned this, 'thinking outside the box is easier when the box is loosely constructed'.

In my defence, part of my consumption of culture and media is deliberately sparse to cast my net wider, but part of it is my brain. I'm just not an academic in that sense.

The point I'm making is is not necessarily that new, but it's something I've been thinking a lot about recently. Because we naturally desire to be more "knowledgeable" as we get older. Indeed, I evolved from Creative to Strategist because it is natural to, over time, ask bigger questions. Question is: If you want to harness the power of your imagination, when do you stop asking questions?

If you can identify with this at all and at times find yourself feeling a bit dim when your peers start talking about a new sewage plan and its likely impact on a new legislation about public service charges, then just remember, you'd probably be better at devising an original sewage system than any of them.

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Monday, October 29, 2007

my other bus is a boat

When you think of commuting in London, you think of this:

And maybe this:

But never this:

That's how I felt too, until this week.

I'm living on the Isle of Dogs for a few weeks while I wait for my flat to be refurbished. It's a bit out the way of everywhere, but the ferry stops right outside the front door. It's absolutely the most exhilarating way to travel through London - although, granted, you're limited to the watery parts.

I work in brand comms, but my particular passion is causing people to rethink something fundamental; something that doesn't need rethinking because it is what it is. Well, travelling on the Thames Clipper has done that to commuting for me. It's almost like being transported to another time, not just another part of London, because even the etiquette on board and the lack of crowds makes it a completely different experience.


Thursday, October 25, 2007

new england

I was away from the UK for three months. What changed while I was gone?

Well, there was a female commentator on Match of the Day. (I don't know what she looks like so I've put Goldie Hawn's face on John Motson:)

Banksy (presumably) reclaimed the space above that nasty KCFC chicken-place on Old Street (previously the Pulp Banana Fiction image) with this:

And there's a new TV Channel (UKTV relaunched) called Dave, which is quite interesting and worth a brief analysis.

But the little green man was reassuringly unchanged and made me smile.

If I've missed anything, do share with me. Are there any new buzzwords I should know about? Or reality TV stars I should want to punch in the face? Don't keep them to yourselves.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

an argument for action

Very, very good.

Thanks Faris.

Monday, October 15, 2007

blog action day - my strip of green

Last month, an initiative called Park(ing) Day took place across the United States. The idea - supported by the Open Planning Project - was to reclaim parking spaces in major cities and turn them into parks in order to:
"Encourage New Yorkers to imagine rebalanced public streets in favor of increasing community interaction, renewal and the facilitation of safe and sustainable transportation."
I set out with my camera and headed for the densest collection of these mini park(ing) spaces that I could find on their map. Stuyvesant Street seemed to have about five parks on it so off I went.

Sadly, upon arrival, I found only one park(ing) space. It was being preened and prepared by this English lady whose name I forget.

I was immediately disappointed - not only that I wouldn't get the great picture I was hoping for (ahem) but that such a smart idea designed to 'create visibility' was almost entirely invisible. I even had to ask them if this was part of the Park(ing) Space project and that they weren't just arranging some plants outside their house.

When I decided to join Blog Action Day today, the first thing I thought was: Is there much point? I have a pretty small readership.

In many ways, this entry is like that small strip of green on Stuyvesant Street. A nice gesture but pretty insignificant on its own. The power of good ideas though, is in spreading them and not always in their execution. Currency is king.

This post has elevated the Park(ing) Space above by documenting it and sharing it with a few more people. No one walking past it would have looked twice. And I think that even for bloggers with the smallest audiences, the point in Blog Action Day is volume by participation.

My 'strip of green' is nothing much, but add it to a few more thousand and - like a city jam-packed with mini parks would have been - it becomes quite the spectacle.

If you should come across this and think of relevant links or thoughts to add, please do.

Bloggers Unite - Blog Action Day


Friday, October 12, 2007

what's it worth to me?

OK, I've just finished listening to In Rainbows. (See below post)
To work out what to pay for it, I'll start at £00.00 and adjust the price based on different factors:

But I think it's a great idea that affected my conscience:
Plus I've loved Radiohead for years
In fact some of it made me nostalgic
And I'm about to move back to London after 3 months in New York, so I feel quite reflective and have some mixed emotions that the album accentuated
Also, knowing I was evaluating it as I listened made me listen closely and appreciate it more than most music I come across
I bought Gomez's first album on iTunes yesterday and that was £7.99 -- This was much better
But considering there are no packaging costs, it seems like it should be a bit cheaper
Plus, music gives me far less pleasure than it used to - it'll just get lost in my iPod and I'll forget I even had it. Or realise that my mood and this experiment made me think it was more valuable than it really was
I do think though, as I said earlier, that you need to pay for things properly to enjoy them. I'm only cheating myself
But all I get is music, right? All this clever marketing and no extra content?
And hang on - I have to enter a long form and register to buy it!

£7.50 it is.

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i just stole in rainbows

Choosing the price before you hear the album says a lot about one's feelings towards Radiohead, but it seems to make more sense to listen to In Rainbows and then decide how much it's worth. I couldn't bring myself to enter £0.00 into their website, so I stole it from somewhere else. I feel dirty.

I'm listening to it now and I'll decide how much to pay for it afterwards, at which point I'll do it properly through the Radiohead site.

I'm quite intrigued about how much I'll think it's worth and why. The price is fluctuating in my head as I listen. It's a strange experience - the price consideration has become part of the listening experience. How post-post-post-modern.

Monday, October 01, 2007

the happy haggle upwards

Why I'm sharing this embarrassing story I don't know. But it's a nice lead up to a conversation about value:

In 2004 I read an article in a UK newspaper about retro mobile phones. I was doing a lot of work for Motorola at the time and had already developed an interest in their vintage phones, like the StarTAC and the DynaTAC. The article told me these handsets were now worth about £50. Whether I thought about the money or whether this merely reignited my interest, I'm not certain. But I did go onto eBay and buy myself a beautiful StarTAC and a MicroTAC, still in their pristine boxes.
The following week I ran into a friend. I told him about my new toys and about the £50 price tag I had read about. He laughed and asked me where I read it. I told him and he laughed again. Apparently he knew the journalist that wrote the article. In fact, the article's author had phoned him up whilst writing it and asked: "how much do you reckon they're worth?" "I dunno," my friend replied, "about fifty quid?"

To spare me some embarrassment and perhaps partly because he believed it, my friend (whose name I'm omitting only because I don't want to tarnish the reputation of journalists) said to me: "Look Andy, things are worth whatever people pay for them."

He was right. I still deserve ridiculing (the comments button is below), but he was right. Things are worth what they cost us and this means we often value them more if we pay more. I recall hearing about some leather wallets being sold cheaply in WH Smiths, or rather not being sold. With such a low price, people didn't value them. Only when the price was doubled did they start selling. In some instances, we want to pay more for things. If something is free, it isn't worth anything to us.

Another example is one from my student days. I was in Tower Records and reluctantly rubbed away the foil on a scratch card the teller gave to me. Surprisingly, I won - and a minute later I was awarded ten new albums, free. I remember distinctly, walking away with all these albums and feeling a bit odd. I wasn't excited. I felt cheated, because I liked the ritual of saving money, making a choice and then living with that choice. In fact, to refer to Daniel Gilbert's Stumbling On Happiness (again) it's been proven that we subconsciously force ourselves to have more positive feelings when it's in our interest to. I.e. When we've paid for them and want to enjoy them more.

All this came flooding back when reading that Radiohead are allowing fans to choose how much to pay for their new album. This isn't the first time someone has had this idea. Songslide came up with it a while ago and research has shown that chosen prices are higher than expected. However, it's also clear that for the unknown bands on Songslide, family and friends make up for a good proportion of purchases.

I think this concept of price-choosing is a really interesting area and definitely worth exploring for digital (read: copyable) products whose markets need rethinking. Things are worth what people pay for them. And this means to some degree, you control the value of what you consume by how much you decide to fork out. When I bought those Motorola phones, my pleasure was increased by what I was convinced they were worth, which means - until the truth was revealed to me - they were worth more to me.

So the question is, if you decide to be tight, are you cheating the musicians, or yourself?

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