Thursday, January 31, 2008

a design question

We've all been in that position where you're in a toilet cubicle (sorry) and you're holding back, waiting for the person in the next cubicle to leave. You know there's air in there and there's no telling what noise will accompany it when you relax. If only everyone would leave the room completely...

This is a well-known phenomenon. So, I have a design question: Why are toilets designed to basically amplify that noise?

I just spent five minutes listening to a guy - in effect - shitting into a tuba. C'mon designers, there must be a better way.

Again. Very sorry.


last rolo

I like this. Via Popgadget.

Only a matter of time until they do a Last Rolo virtual Facebook gift I guess.

google map freakout

Very funny.



Wednesday, January 30, 2008

sleeveface in motion

sebastien antoniou

Seb is 50% Cypriot, 50% French and 100% brilliant. He's funny too. If you're into that sort of thing.

Check out some more of his work. Painting and Illustration.

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

is later the new now?

Well, probably not. But here's some food for thought...

People are bad at thinking ahead. Daniel Gilbert tells us this is why we can't buy dinner if we're not hungry and why we think marriage will make us happy. (ouch)

And companies - which presumably are made up of people - suffer from the same thing. PowerPoint documents across the land are bursting with graphs that demand instant results. Which is a shame, because sometimes longer term thinking can lead to better things.

When I heard the news this week, I took a little pride for having been a member of it for over three years (when it was still called Audio Scrobbler). Then I thought - slightly off-topic - wouldn't it be nice if the earliest users of a service were rewarded later on. (OK, I was hardly a beta tester - but stay with me)

I joined Streetcar before it got really big and because of that I remain exempt from the monthly charge new members face. I pay nothing and get my original deposit back if I ever leave. That is a genuine reward for joining early. The thing is I didn't know this would happen when I joined. And neither, probably, did Streetcar.

Now, imagine all start-ups promised reward for 'retrospective loyalty'. It would turn all these companies into a kind of attention stock market. You would be rewarded for spotting them early and seeing their value in them before others.

Here's the thing. If one company does this, nothing happens. But if lots of companies adopted this approach, the entire culture of beta-testing would change. In the same way that users of Amie Street are given an economic incentive to be the first to hear a band, people everywhere would have an incentive to sign up early to try services. Time is the one thing you can't give later. Unfortunately, 'later' is not something that is thought about enough.

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the idea graveyard

I'm going a little Ze Frank at the moment and throwing out ideas before I know what to do with them. It feels good.

I'm bored of having ideas rattle around my head forever. So I'm sharing them, starting them without a clear plan and even giving them away.

The longer an idea stays in your head, the more it folds in on itself and gets stuck. And eventually it will die, like a horrifically overweight woman on a sofa.

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Monday, January 28, 2008

pdf to mp3?

God, I'm on fire today.

I tell you what we need, a bit of software (of course) that turns pdfs and word docs into mp3s/podcasts. I've still got Faris' IPA thesis to read, but it's 60 bloody pages. I can't read it on-screen and I feel slightly guilty about using the printer where I'm freelancing for that much paper.

Anything out there that can do that?... Faris, maybe you could read it out Willie Rushton-style and record it..

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Sclipo is a social* skills-swapping video site. Lovely idea but will take a while to get some really great content, I reckon.

*I feel like 'social' is getting quite tired. Isn't everything social now? I'm hungering for some antisocial media - rude ideas that no one is aloud to look at.

Link via the Poke NY blog

improving the world a flush at a time

I'm always interested when people focus their attention on odd details. For example, I visited the prison on Robben Island in South Africa a couple of years ago and the first thing that struck me was the colour the walls were painted. The colours exuded hope, which I would have thought was the last thing the wardens had in mind.

Anyway, on a lighter note, I just saw this post by Jeff Jarvis about an interesting toilet at the Davos WEF. I love it. Quirky little observations like this are why the Internet is such a rich resource for coverage. And it's nice that for people like me that aren't clever enough to comment on the complexities of some issues that we can just take a different skew. You could also argue that this toilet fulfills the forum's promise: Committed to improving the state of the world.

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more sleeve play

Sleeveface has been doing the rounds recently. It reminded me of this image I found ages ago:

Another game in the making? I might try it next time I'm in a record shop.

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tom ups turns scary up to 11

Not sure how I missed this until now. Wow.

Via Fimoculous

Sunday, January 27, 2008

world clock project

Nice idea. Here's mine. Isn't she a beauty..

Saturday, January 26, 2008

my one cent

This is my 100th post. But I'm not going to go on about it. This blog is of endless value to me, but doesn't need a fanfare.

Instead, I'm going to celebrate the three key things I've learned and appreciated since starting this thing with no particular agenda in April 2006:

1. The chopping board
This was one of the most memorable comments I received (the one by Anonymous). I have no idea who wrote it, but it was one of the first times I truly appreciated how public my waffling was. It was a little rude, but also very funny.

2. Meeting people
Through this blog and/or commenting on other blogs, I've made some wonderful connections with people, both professionally and personally. I met Noah in New York after taking an interest in his blog and he was amazingly helpful, connecting me with people on and offline. More recently I've had some interesting conversations as a result of blog interaction with the likes of Adrian at Zeus Jones and Faris.

3. Support and appreciation
As of today, I have a measly Technorati authority of 9. This makes it all the more special when people like something I wrote enough to plug it. Nathan has me higher on his blogroll than I probably deserve, given the others in the list. My friend Willie continues to be a great ambassador of the site, quoting it as his top blog read in a Gridskipper interview. Noah (again) has linked to me from both his own site and the House of Naked blog. I got a couple of very complimentary mentions by LA-based Think Personality and Erin has supported me too. Oh - and a special thanks to Marc, the only person who has ever declared himself to be a now in colour "fan". Considering he's the other side of the world, that was very nice to hear.

If you don't have a blog, start one. If it isn't interesting to anyone, no one will read it, so it doesn't matter. The positives of being part of conversations outweigh any concerns you might have.

That's my one cent.

Friday, January 25, 2008

eats, shoots and decimates

I've always been fascinated by etymology and the abuse/reappropriation of language. When I was growing up my dad used to beat us with with a bag of Scrabble tiles attached to a stick. OK, that's not true, but we couldn't get away with stray apostrophes - if he found one in your wardrobe or back pocket you were in trouble.

The battle I'm interested in is between being correct - true to a word's origins - versus being understood, but wrong! The success of books like Lyne Truss' Eats Shoots And Leaves tells me that I'm not alone in my curiosity.

I'm of the view that being understood is most important. Words are man-made. Which means they only stand because we agree they do. The 'we' that invented the first versions of words aren't alive anymore, so I'm much more interested in the 'we' that exist today understanding each other. Obviously it's a shame to lose touch with the origin of words. It's interesting to say the least, but surely learning where things came from is more important that keeping them as they were?

My brother (he still has nightmares about that Z tile smacking across his lip) just sent me this link examining the history and misuse of the word decimate. Fascinating stuff to know, but sod it, we are where we are and when it comes to word usage, pride in the past is of no real value in communication today. Sorry. Language belongs to all of us, so the majority rule.

As an aside, I once learned that 'gymnasium' came from the Greek word gymnos meaning 'naked' - in Ancient Greece the finest male specimines would show off what they've got, discus or no discus. When I later found out 'gymnasium' in Swedish was a school, I was a little concerned. But apparently gymnasium can also mean 'everything in one place' in germanic languages. Anyway, I digress.

My passion is communication. Yes, it annoys me when Zs appear in words that should be Ss and yes, plurals should never have apostrophes but above all communication is about 'infecting'; Getting what's in my head into yours. I guess the secret is to keep that pathway as unpolluted by error as possible.

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the downfall of words

Last year I found myself at a big ad agency in London discussing the brand blueprint/positioing they had just finished for a large drinks brand. It was three words. It was really bad. It was meaningless AND it was being used by another company.

When I tactfully mentioned some of this, I was told: "Yeah, we know. But we've had the thesaurus out and this is pretty much the best way to say it."

Here's a thought:
If words alone are too blunt a tool to express the beauty of an idea, use another medium.

Why not use sound, or moving image like this Samaritans ad? (via Nathan)

Don't get me wrong. I love words. But we've run out of them, mostly. You either have to use lots - each one a brush stroke in a rich painting - or look elsewhere. How many unique and emotive three-word slogans are still out there to be found?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

failed demos

I just decided. I love failed demos.

Public humiliation. Brilliant. Like Microsoft's little mishap below:

In fact, I think Microsoft have probably had a few moments like this. Or when James Seddon's dry egg-boiling machine didn't work on national TV. They're great. Why isn't there a huge archive of them? I just did a little searching but only found the above and this rubbish robot below. It's barely worth watching, but that almost makes it better. Damp squibs we call them.

If anyone find some good ones can you send me the link? I want to bring them all back together.


Sleeveface is indeed brilliant.

Nicked from Made-in-england.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

chris rocked

I saw Chris Rock at the Hammersmith Apollo last night. Here are a few worth ripping off as your own jokes:

On sex:
"The first time a woman sucked cum out my dick.. it felt so good I could read Arabic."

On childhood:
"When I was growing up, we were so poor, I couldn't be five until I was nine."

On Hillary Clinton
"Being married to a man doesn't give you his experience. Would you want your pilot's wife flying you home next week?"

OK the last one doesn't work that well in written form, but two just looked wrong.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

reassembling information - part 1

I'm about to completely rush and under-sell a thought. But hey - here's to being always in beta. I'll follow it up properly soon.
This idea was reinvigorated the other day when I read the following words via Russell's (must start linking to other people) post on Peak Advertising:

"2008 is the year we hit Peak Attention. You can either carry on encountering as much as you do now, giving every input less and less attention every year, or you can start managing it, keeping some back to take long-haul attention flights. What are the consequences of living post-Peak Attention? Nobody will be able to understand anything hard unless they make sacrifices."

These were the words of Matt Webb, over at Interconnected.

I for one have lots of little yellow stars next to all the lengthy - more 'academic' - posts in my Google Reader. I find myself skimming through the easily digestible items and marking more demanding posts to "read properly" later. Sadly I often don't get round to them for weeks.

Point is: We're getting really good at filtering the 'pieces' we want from everywhere, but I feel like we need to get better and bringing them back together again into more valuable, 'proper things'. We could succeed where all the king's horses and all the king's men failed and put - ahem - humpty back together again (in new forms where he.. oh god Andy, stop talking) Let's just say I'm a little bored of snacking all the time.

I'm running out of time so I'll finish this post later, but I have the beginnings of an idea that I think could be an interesting evolution of blodget* culture.

*Blogs and widgets. Throw me a bone.

Monday, January 21, 2008


The Barbican is currently exhibiting: Seduced: Art & Sex from antiquity to now. Bit of a mouthful, but perhaps that's the point. I'm going to skip the lengthy review (it is what it is - if they stick it in a thick book, it'll be a great resource) and instead give you a quickie:

I learned a new word: Secretum (secret museum).

"The Secretum was a name given to Cupboard 55 in the Department of Medieval and Later Antiquities at the British Museum, London. It previously contained the collection of ancient erotica given to the museum by George Witt. Inaccessible by the public, it was a repository for exhibits of an erotic nature."

Basically Britain's biggest porn stash.

But I love the idea of a Secretum. In the West, the idea of hidden content has become a vague wisp of foreplay we enjoyed some time in the Eighties. Nothing is exclusive any more. The final nail was probably when T-Mobile launched their 'secret gigs', which were btw promoted on Myspace.

I'm all for openness: Dopplr-ing this, twittering that, FFFFinding and sharing etc - up to a point. But I also long for a spattering of Secretums too (with or without erotic etchings in them). I only ask that if you find one... you don't tell me, or anyone else about it.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

your views on news

Last night in the UK, ITV's News At Ten returned after a nine-year absence.

Some reviews have been harsh and others more evenhanded, but I don't really care about all that. What I'm curious about is all the interest around its return. It's clearly big business and a flagship programme in the channel wars, but for us - the people with the tv remote and that other thing.. the internet - do we really care?

The purpose of this post isn't for me to try to answer that question (although I will share some thoughts). Rather I'd love to know what you think.

For me, choosing your newspaper is a significant consideration. I read the Guardian, partly because of the choice and style of the 'news', but even more so because of all the other bits: Society; G2; Arts etc. But when it comes to catching the news on the telly, I really can't tell the difference most of the time. I don't care who reads it. I don't have a preference at all. For me, it's pure information, with a dab of laziness preventing me from reading it myself.

The late-night news does carry some nostalgic appeal for me. It both regresses me to childhood at the same time as making me feel like I have actually become my dad. But is the evening news still an "event" in the way it once was? Is it different if you're over 35? Would you ever think: 'I don't like the way this guy pronounces Middle-Eastern names, I'm going to try the other channel? Do you watch the news daily or just catch it when it's on?

Please do share your thoughts on this. I'm curious to know if anyone cares about the battle of the news other than TV stations and advertisers.

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Monday, January 14, 2008

do throw stones at this sign

Taken in London today.

I wonder if 'smug tax' is added at their discretion.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

computer says no?

Is this the most ridiculous message on a Macintosh?

I'm sorry, we're out of Mars bars. Would you like one anyway?

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

the axe (your production agency) effect


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if jack stopped to blog...

I love awkward location-specific marketing. You can almost see the creative team trying desperately to post-rationalise a link between the product and the place. The coffee cup ad above for 24 reads:

If Jack stopped for coffee millions of people would die

You clearly don't know Jack like I do. He would not only stop for coffee, he would use it to scold an enemy, spill it onto some top secret papers to reveal a hidden message and signal a colleague by dropping sugars into it in morse code.

p.s. Why is the 3 mpx camera on my Blackberry Curve shitter than the 2 mpx camera on my Nokia?


I recently read Iain's post about ditching the free newspapers in favour of better commuting brain-food. I must admit I've faced the same demon and often been defeated. Well today I found a solution. It's called RSScalator. Basically, don't spend your entire tube journey reading the Metro: Read a book (or sleep or whatever) and then grab a newspaper from the pile people dump on the way out the station. You'll find the time it takes to get to the top of the escalator is just right for reading all the headlines and getting a gist of what was in it.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

no promises

I have this belief. It's not unique and sadly it's become a bit of a catchphrase for me. It's about 'doing things, not saying things'.

Saying is easy. I'm saying things right now. It's never been easier to just say stuff. But saying things is hot air - a filler until we actually see them through.

Seth Godin writes that marketing is about promises: Making promises and keeping them. Fine. And true in many ways, but a promise is just an attention-seeking tease. I believe the best brand promises are not words, but standards set by doing things. By consistently doing great things, you are making a promise.

What would you rather receive; something great, or a promise of something great.. a few weeks of waiting and then that something great? The latter will play on your mind and perhaps be much more tantalising (more in it for marketers) but there is huge risk of disappointment and rare surprise. I say promise through doing. It's happening already. It should happen more.


Friday, January 04, 2008

in your face

I love it when signage has a bit of personality. Seen in The Calf - a nice pub in Clapham Old Town.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

you're only a shoe

When I was a teenager I was really bad at buying trainers/sneakers. I would stand in the shoe shop, studying a trainer as though it was a piece of art. Only when I found a perfectly balanced design, with great colour combinations would I be happy. The problem was, once they were on my feet the picture changed. It took me years to appreciate that the shoe was merely an accessory to the outfit - and that sometimes a simple white trainer worked the best, even if it looked dull on its own.

I was reminded of this over the month of December when I looked up at billboards in town. Every brand screamed at me that it was the centre of Christmas. Forget everything else. If you wanted to enjoy Christmas then you could do it only by drinking it, wearing it or tasting it solely through this one product, depending on which billboard you were looking at at the time.

Christmas heightens a problem that is still everywhere in marketing: Brands behave as though they are the centre of everything. But they're not. None of them are. They are are merely one shoe. Every company, product and message is merely an accessory to a bigger picture that none of them can control.

I threw my shoe metaphor at Faris a couple of weeks ago and he mentioned Wieden's strategy for Lurpak: for the product to be a companion to foods and not the outright dinnertime hero. I think this is a great example of the kind of thinking that works well. I can't be bothered to try and finish this post off in any interesting/clever way. The end.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008


Which gives me a neat opportunity to link to Alex Trochut's excellent work (nicked and remixed above). Lovely.

Found via Made In England.