Saturday, November 22, 2008

Life magazine photos on Google: is it good?

I'm sure most people now know about Google's digitization of the Life magazine photo archives:

It may be thrilling but what does it mean? How are you supposed to find anything? I remember reading in 1964 or 1965 an article in Life analyzing the Zapruder film of Kennedy's assassination (the 45th anniversary of which is today). (As I remember it, the accompanying article indirectly expressed amazement that such a document existed at all. That may seem hard to believe today where cellphones capture and transact images of everything.)

I also remember an article from 1965 about the Russian conjoined twins Masha and Dasha. I tried searching for these things in the Life photo archive but with no luck.

Assuming that they've not yet digitized these yet, how is one supposed to search photographs? It's a question everyone's asking: how do you search a photograph for content? What if you're looking for a photograph of something whose content is not your main interest, but rather an association?

We have many hundreds of years to understand the classification and cataloging of book and book-like material - material that has text. But as far as I know, we don't have any standardized manner of cataloging photographs. To my knowledge, there are no efforts underway to try to come up with system that could be used beyond the domain of those who invent it (perhaps the Getty Center is working on something)?

Librarians, museum specialists, academics, or people from related fields should start an effort. The risk is that this will be another project Google or another for-profit institution) will undertake - and rob it from those whose thinking has greater historical, intellectual and sociological depth. (Interestingly, motion pictures have been around few years than plain photographs, but their nature has led to a greater cataloging history.)

So where's the effort to come up with standards for describing the content of photographs?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Initiative and leadership

"Churchill also understood, better than his own generals and admirals, the vital important of taking the offensive. As he told his generals in 1940, "the completely defensive habit of mind, which has ruined the French, must not be allowed to ruin all our initiative."

[Winston Churchill, as quoted in Carlo D'Este's Warlord: A Life of Winston Churchill at War, 187-1945, reviewed by Robert Kagan in The New York Times Book Review (November 9, 2008), 48.]

I used to think that once you pass a certain point in your career, then you can take on leadership roles. While that might be true for some situations, my current feeling (based on current books and articles) is that you have to take such leadership steps from the outset of whatever you do. You have to be active and show that your leadership qualities are an integral part of your personality, of who you are. You can not be passive; you must be active.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

What would I learn from this?

Several months ago I was informally interviewing a someone for a position. I emphasized archival collections and mentioned some famous names that would be recognized. After acknowledging these collections, the prospective interviewee's response took me off guard:

"What would I learn from this?"

I was so flabbergasted I repeated the question in case I had misunderstood it. Here we were, a world-famous library, and a college student was asking what could be learned from working in it. In retrospect, the interview was over at that moment, and I should have told the prospective intern directly and sent them on their way. (If a person can not understand that working with people's personal documents has tremendous value, then there's no point in going on.) But I was nice and continued on for a few minutes.

I still feel justified in wanting to end the interview, but now I see the question is a useful one. Here was a typical college student who had very limited experience using a library. It was an potential opportunity to expand the mind of someone that was clearly limited. (Having worked on an elevator speech several months ago, I supplied what I felt was an appropriate response.)

How many countless other college students are like this? Students who've had all that they need or wanted in their textbooks, and never had to research anything that wasn't already known in their personal libraries or space.

I guess I'm spoiled in that I've always been curious about the world around me and have gone sometimes to great lengths to find out more about it. So maybe we have to get rid of the notion that a library is for "books" and start remaking and marketing ourselves as places to obtain knowledge, a space where one can not only relax but let one's mind expand - and that this is a healthy and necessary endeavor for life. Experienced researchers know how to do this. It's those who don't know and don't care that we must reach and move.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The end of print media is coming

“We have the luxury — the opportunity — of making a leap that most newspapers will have to make in the next five years.”

-- John Yemma, editor of the Christian Science Monitor, on their discontinuation of their print publication (from the New York Times, 10/29/08)

If one belongs to a smaller (especially non-profit) journals, one has seen this coming. Most newsletters and smaller print publications have already (or are in the process) of discontinuing their paper editions and moving to an online-only format. Many magazines have either folded or have limited the number of issues they print in a year.

This represents a huge change: in less than 5 years, I predict most average-budgeted periodicals will move to an online-only system. Any publisher that's a non-profit or that works with a low budget will similarly feel impelled to give up on print since it is too expensive.


"Almost every study of performing arts institutions in the United States reports that dynamic artistic leadership is the most crucial factor in energizing companies and attracting new audiences."

- Anthony Tommasini, At City Opera, Concern Over a Visionary Whose Eye Seems to Wander (Oct. 4, 2008)

I may want to believe otherwise, but clearly personality is a (the?) driving force behind institutional management. Some leaders may prefer to be quiet, but those people who are extroverts will probably be able to do more (certainly in
areas usually seen by external forces, such as fundraising).

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Web 2.0 Expo: Museum 2.1

Now that I've finished summarizing the sessions I attended, I'll mention one social/networking aspect of the Web 2.0 Expo. There were plenty of opportunities for networking and socializing, from the various lunch venues and the waiting areas in the Javits Center that allowed one to plug in and charge one's batteries (literally - if your laptop was dying).

One of the lunches was a bit more scripted - and it was much better than just an open-ended meal. Tables were labeled based on mutual interest and one could sit down at the table of one's interest. In cases of excess interest, additional tables were created. I could have gone to the big choices (marketing, media, programming), but instead found something more in tune with my work: "Museums 2.1" as they called themselves.

It turned out to be a great lunch - not for the food, but for the interesting conversation. Most were staff of a variety of museums, as well as a staff member of Apple and 2 representatives of commercial firm (whose name and function I forgot, but who were interested in talking about what museum folks were doing).

Unfortunately the majority of what I remember was how we were all lamenting how difficult it was to get coworkers and bosses "on board" with recognizing the importance of the Web 2.0 world. I think all of the museum staff at the lunch table were greatly impressed and inspired by the Web 2.0 Expo. The problem most faced was communicating our interest in the value of Web 2.0 it to others at our institutions.

The people from commercial firms asked several interesting questions about how we deal with information/metadata about our materials. I remember we mentioned TMS - The Museum System as a way that many museums deal with their holdings. I remember seeing that some of the commercial firm people were surprised at the amount of metadata we had to use to create records of our holdings, and we tried to give reasons on why so much was needed (e.g. to distinguish between slightly different samples or manifestations of objects).

At the conclusion one of the participants collected everyone's name and email address and send us all a message so that we could keep in contact.

It was a very nice lunch experience. I wish more conferences and meetings would do this. It would be a great way to enhance networking among participants.

Web 2.0 Expo: Tying It All Together: Implementing the Open Web by Joseph Smarr

The final talk I attended at the Web 2.0 Expo in New York City was appropriately titled Tying It All Together: Implementing the Open Web given by Joseph Smarr of Plaxo. [See also his blog and his Plaxo page.]. His PowerPoint presentation is here.

Being on the staff of Plaxo, one would think he'd promulgate Plaxo as the answer to everything - but he didn't (and that was welcome). Although Plaxo was clearly present in some of his slides, his goal of achieving a broader topic was what made his talk very good. He really believes that we are close to wiring the web to become the social web, so that information people have filled out on social websites can be easily transported to others. As usual, I take any responsibility for any faulty transcription of his talk.
There is an important fundamental change going on the web: The entire web is going social and the social is going open. Here are some of the open Social Web building blocks: OpenId, Open Social, Jabber, microformats.

How does it all fit together? What will new Social Web look like?

Today the Social Web is broken: we have to register anew for each site. We must re-establish our relationship, our profile, etc. It's a pain (and disuades one from trying out new sites). Current social applications have limited options. At least more and more people have the same info somewhere on the web (in various sites).

But we know how to make things better. The new building blocks of social apps can establish important identification of people and their relationships. Here's how. There are thee significant ways to define yourself in relation to the Social Web:
  1. Who I am
  2. Who I know
  3. What's going on
1. Who I Am. You create create a lasting, portable, durable online identity. For example, OpenID allows you to link profile data between sites.

Then consolidate your online identify with me-links: rel=me (XFN)
You can use Google Social Graph API to see what your users said about themselves.
In Plaxo it's called the Pulse Stream - a stream of all your contacts and what they're doing on the web.

2. Who I know.

You build and maintain real relationships. Sometimes it's just a way to keep in touch with already known people. Traditional ways of friending people can now give way to these techniques:
  • Contact APIs (ex. find people from your address book), and leverage previously established relationships (learned from address books)
  • OAuth - share private data between trusted sites.
  • Friends-list portability - to create continuous discovery across multiple sites. (Most robots just scrape just once.)
Some examples: Flickr and Gmail - allows one to import your address books to set up network of existing friends. Dopplr also has a unique way of doing this.

3. What's Going On

Staying up-to-date with people you know. OpenSocial -- You can build apps that can run anywhere. Aggregates activities all over the web - brings all feeds together. Examples: Plaxo, Friendster, Orkut, Hi5, Myspace.

RSS/Atom -- open standard for aggregating open events. one can syndicate activity with others.

Jabber - XMPP - real-time update stream between sites.

Imagine a picture of how it might be: You want to interact with many different websites. So there's an emerging service layer between you and the sites.

The Social Web Ecosystem:

Who I am: Identity providers
Who I know: Social Graph providers
What I know: Content aggregators

Social Graph (i.e. Network) Providers will be emerging.

The virtual cycle of social discovery: John checks out a new site, finds people he knows there (using his address book/friends list), then creates some content and shares it on the site; his friend Joe then discovers that content and site and continues the cycle.

There are hurdles to overcome:
* How does friends list portability work?
* Tell the site your Social Graph Provider: XRDS Simple (discovery tool) + OAuth (access - method to interact with protected data)
* Site fetches your data to find local friends (no standards way to do this yet)
* Site lets you connect to people you want - can periodically look for new matches

The missing link: Portable contacts.

Currently there are efforts underway to standardize contact schema, discovery/auth, and common operators. There's a focus on ease and speed of adoption with active involvement from large and small players

For more info see (one of Smarr's projects)

Picture of how it will work:
* User signs on with OpenID
* Site tries to get contacts with API - no go
* Site sends user through OAuth flow to grant access
* Users now access users' contacts data via API+

The future of the Social Web will really be where all interconnections will work smoothly.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Web 2.0 Expo: Enhancing Engagement and User-Experience Beyond the TV Screen: Some Lessons Learned from a Transition to web 2.0

Enhancing Engagement and User-Experience Beyond the TV screen: Some Lessons Learned from a Transition to web 2.0 by Tony Carbone of VH1.

His PowerPoint presentation is available for download in this zip file.

This presentation was good, but somewhat disappointing compared to most others. Most speakers understood that they had to look beyond their specific corporation and look to the abstract ideas that are behind Web 2.0 and make them extend their reach. While this talk did include some of that, most of it was focused on VH1 - to its detriment. But the speaker was good.

Tony Carbone began by talking about viral video brainstorming games. Then asked: What were the two or three most memorable viral videos that you recall seeing in the last 6-12 months?

The lesson is that viral videos increase metrics.

Wikipedia definition of web 2.0:
Web 2.0 is a term describing changing trends in the use of World Wide Web technology and web design that aims to enhance creativity, information sharing, and, most notably, collaboration among users. These concepts have led to the development and evolution of web-based communities and hosted services, such as social-networking sites, video sharing sites, wikis, blogs, and folksonomies…Although the term suggests a new version of the World Wide Web, it does not refer to an update to any technical specifications, but to changes in the ways software developers and end-users utilize the Web.”

Tim O'Reilly has said:

Web 2.0 is the business revolution in the computer industry cause by the move to the Internet as a platform, and an attempt to understand the rules for success on that new platform."

"Groundswell: a social trend in which people use technologies to get things they need from each other, rather than from traditional institutions like corporations."
- from Groundswell by Josh Bernoff and Charlene Li

So, 2.0 means for:
  • Everyone: more creativity, more collaboration, and better access to information and entertainment
  • Users and consumers: Less reliance on traditional institutions
  • Traditional institutions: They have a lot of stuff to figure out...
The key is to define your attack plan, define your measurable objectives:
  • Increase user engagement, and increase brand and product awareness -- and figure out how to measure them
  • Increase revenue and leverage community (members' activities, talents, and ideas)
Lessons learned: You must be able to measure it
  • Define measurable objectives - recognize and realize the value of social media and social platforms
  • Don't cut corners on reporting functionality
  • Reporting and data should influence your technology decisions
  • Don't over report
  • Research and data are how you assess and meet needs of your customsers
  • If you can't measure it, you're only guessing.
Carbone then gave an example of a disparity between search data (for the star Lil' Wayne) and result of highest result of artists.
The fact is that Lil' Wayne went to become as iconic as any pop star or recording artist. So VH1 reached out to Lil' Wayne on advice on stuff.

You can do it: Effective user (activity) assessment = success.
Build your ideas around natural (quantifiable) activities.
Pay attention to the rules of social media and to what's been successful for others.

Embrace it!:
  • Sharing, syndication and ubiquity are good, measurable, and monetize-able things
  • Use research and data to prove or disprove hunches
  • Assess your audience, define your objectives, and execute.
Case study: VH1's Superpoke!Fest - a campaign whose idea is to send it to friends on Facebook and MySpace. Result: 2.500 branded Superpokes were sent resulting in 1,500 new fans for VH1.

Nobody owns the Internet.
  • In Web 2.0 everyone can participate
  • Communicate and enforce best practices
  • Integrate systems and technology
Invest in success (e.g. VH1 blog,, optimized by posting items to Twitter and iPhone)

Is it working? Your objectives:
  • Increase engagement
  • Increase brand and product awareness
  • Increase revenue
  • Leverage the community
  • Recognized the value of social media and platforms
Carbone concluded by showing figures illustrating VH1's successful move into the Web 2.0 world.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Web 2.0 Expo: What Would Google Do? How Media Must Revolution Their Thinking

The second session of the Web 2.0 Expo in New York that I attended on Friday, Sept. 19 was "What Would Google Do? How Media Must Revolution Their Thinking," a panel discussion led by Jeff Jarvis (, with John Byrne (executive editor of Business Week and editor-in-chief of, Steve Adler (also of Business Week). Jarvis was the center of the show. My guess was that his points were taken from What would Google Do? his forthcoming book on lessons intuited from Google, taken to business world to see how these lessons work. He was a passionate and dynamic speaker, speaking to-the-point with these axioms below.

Google's rules:
  • Give the people control and they will use it
  • Dell hell [lessons learned from Jarvis's own experience with Dell]
  • Your worst customer is your best friend
  • Your best customer is your partner
We have a new architecture:
  • A link changes everything
  • Do what you do best and link to the rest
  • Join a network / be a platform
  • Think distributed
Additionally there is a new publicness:
  • If you're not searchable, you won't be found
  • Everybody needs a little SEO (search engine optimization)
  • Life is public, so is business
  • Your customers are your ad agency
We live in a new society: You don't start communities, they exist already. So the question is: How do you harness them? ou give them: "Elegant organization" - Mark Zuckerberg (founder of Facebook)
  • Small is the new big
  • Maintain audience
  • Join open source - it's a gift economy
  • The mass market
Welcome to the new business reality:
  • Atoms are a drag
  • Middlemen are doomed
  • Free is a business model
  • Decide what business you're in
New attitude
  • There is a inverse relationship between control and trust - David Weinberger (author of Cluetrain Manifesto)
  • Trust the people
  • Listen
Google creates new ways of listening to people - us.
There are ten signficant things in our lives [this is evidently a pun on Google's corporate philosophy. Sorry, I didn't catch them all because he went way too fast].
  • Make mistakes well
  • Life is a beta
  • Be honest
  • Be transparent
  • Collaborate
  • Don't be evil
Michael Dell (co-creator of computer company) has these aphorisms:
  • New speed
  • Answers are instantaneous
  • Life is live
  • Mobs form in a flash
  • Be transparent
From this we derive new imperatives:
  • Beware of the cash cow in the coal mine (i.e. can blind us to strategic necessities)
  • Encourage enable and protect innovation
  • Simplify, simplify
  • Get out of the way

Once Jarvis was finished, the talk part of the program switched to how Business Week has embraced the Web 2.0 world and aesthetic. Byrne and Adler's Powerpoint presentation is here although it appears kind of cryptic. [I apologize for the brevity of my notes, and how they trail off at the end.]

How has Businessweek opened up? Through simplifying URLs, tagging stories, staff training sessions, more SEO-friendly headlines.
Now Google refers 38% of search traffic to

They've create their Business Exchange: a place to relate to others - a user community optimized for search. It's "a more sophisticated" and helps people find what they want. User profiles can link to their profiles on Linkedin.
They've made a widget for bloggers so that readers can see what they're doing at that moment.

Today, content is no longer king; rather, context is king. Journalism is no longer a product but a process. questioning what are the rights of users.

In comparing the print audience to the one online, Businessweek found their online audience about ten year younger, smarter, more women, more global.

Web 2.0 Expo: Micro-Interactions In a 2.0 World by David Armano

(I'm still trying to catch up from the Web 2.0 Expo, but I'm sure my memory of these events are receding. Apologies if these are not as detailed as previous ones.)

The first session Friday morning was "Micro Interactions In a 2.0 World" given by David Armano, vice-president of Read his blog at:

(David's Powerpoint presentation is here.) While many of the ideas we had heard in other talks, David's presentation of them was direct, and among the most forceful and powerful.

David recalled Randy Pausch's story. He went to Disney World and purchased salt and pepper shakers with Mickey Mouse ears. He broke them (and fully acknowledged so), and brought them back to the store. Unexpectedly, the Disney representative gave him new ones. Pausch estimated money he spent on his family trip was $100,000 – but his story explains customer loyalty to Disney. Was it a design issue? It was one tiny interaction.

So he asked the execs at Disney: "If I sent a child into one of your stores with a broken salt and pepper shaker today, would your policies allow your workers to be kind enough to replace it?" The execs confessed: probably not. This illustrates a new paradigm in the marketing world.

The idea of the marketing funnel - that is, where all consumer interest heads into one doorway - no longer exists. Consumer behavior is changing from passive consumption to active participation.

Social networking is now bigger than porn. This makes us more complex to understand. Companies have to understand us in our complexity. We are: users, consumers, communities, participants, producers, customers. The old marketing tactics don't work anymore.

Technology has changed too, from front/back ends to an endless fragmentation of services, services which can be mixed and mashed like melodies. You don't have to build from scratch, but can leverage. can create mashups.

The end result are touch points which seem infinite. The pre-digital age had finite touch points. The "digital age" had multiple connected touch points. But now, in the "post-digital 2.0" age, there are now infinite touch points.

We influence each other differently. It used to be that celebrities and public figures received all the attention, but now anyone and everyone received attention. We no longer depend on a hierarchical structure to society. We broadcast to each other all the time.

[Slide from Critical Mass - Always in Beta whose website carries the legend: We believe that creating great experiences for your customer is an open dialogue and a never-ending process. Always in Beta reflects our belief that the pursuit of excellence is an evolutionary progression that is never static.]

Lifestreams. Every time you create an online profile you create a stream of your life. People create multiple streams. Right now, we are overwhelmed by these streams. They intersect in junctions and aggregations. There are services like FriendFeed that aggregates all your feeds from acquaintances.

Why do we want to keep up with all these people? Because we trust people who are like us! Surveys indicate that consumers trust friends (like themselves) more than anyone else when recommending new products or services.

A brand is not what you say it is, it's what THEY say it is. For example: "A collective experiment in brand perception. All tags are generated by people like you and do not reflect the opinions of the site owner or anyone else he knows. Have fun."

We are becoming more demanding about brands. We want fewer promises, and more actions. "Companies stage an experience when they engage customers in a memobrable way." It's not just the talk, it's the actions - it's what they do.

Where it's moving: to interactions which engage, interact, and empower the customers. This is rocking advertisers' world.

The 3 U's in the application economy: Usefulness, Utility, and Ubiquity

  • Usefulness: serves a purpose
  • Utility: fosters meaningful interactions
  • Ubiquity: effective across multiple touch points including social
Some examples: Craigslist. Nike Plus: it went from a brochure-like website to everyday experiences and interactions (Nike Plus - the jogging tracker - insures that you'll visit every day - it's a new experience). Domino's Pizza Configurator and Pizza Tracker - example of a brand that merges personality with utility. Similarly with the Vegas Planner Tool MyVegas.

Engagement [with the user] is the new sticky:
  • Borders: their website replicates a shelf that allows one to move things around just like a real shelf.
  • Fiskar's Fisk-a-teers - ordinary people made ambassadors, showing what they've done.
Your brand is the some of your interactions.

"We live in a world where the little things really do matter. Each encounter no matter how brief is a micro interaction which makes a deposit or withdrawal from our rational and emotional subconscious. The sum of these interactions and encounters adds up to how we feel about a particular product, brand or service. Little things. Feelings. They influence our everyday behaviors more than we realize."

Micro-interactions are the new thing. They are fast becoming the building blocks of Brand 2.0 (and Google is leading the way).

Interactions + Feelings = Brands

Extraordinary customer experience. Google got the basics right and then perfected it.

The five pillars: Useful, Usable, Desirable, Sustainable, Social [see slide 48 in presentation.]
Built upon 3 foundations: Users (emotional wants and needs), Business (measurable goals and objectives), Brand (core values and brand objectives)

Getting the basic rights means a willingness to embrace change.
We're going from websites to web applications.

Examples of positive interactions: Netflix, Google,

Thinking about things in multiple channels.

Users can't be restricted by their browser – loads of people use cellphones – each object has its own set of rules.

The social experience is composed of millions of micro-interactions.

Old style: the brand as broadcaster.
New style: the brand as facilitator (among influencers and friends).

Example of the new style: Jeff Jarvis (who publicized about his unfortunate experiences with Dell Computers) and Dell. Now Dell acts as a facilitator of their social network of users for user support. They were desperate, they had a senior person at top who gave their decision, and overrode their lawyers. Now on Dell's blog you can find 485 comments to one post.

Faceless companies now have faces. They get you help. Social networks amplify positive and negative social interactions.

Micro-interactions become especially important when brands stumble. Starbucks is a good example. Their stock began to slip, so they are looking at their roots and going back to their core values and what made it special. Now they have a social network: My Starbucks.

Social media is evolving. Twitter good example. It was never designed for what it has ended up being: a multi-touchpoint conversation ecosystem.

Brands are moving from being canned to live and direct engagement. Positive interactions lead to trust and loyalty.



Treat everyone like an influencer. Make every interaction count.

One of the post-presentation questions asked David to characterize the difference between mobile and fixed experiences. He said it was a matter of situational design. Understanding the context of how the device (e.g. mobile phone) is used and developing and creating right experiences with it.

Brands that don't invest in these (social) areas will never get it. But brands that do invest in them will put a lot in them. If you're doing it for the sake of public relations, you will not achieve it. And if you're going to invest in a social network, then put plenty of resources into it.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Web 2.0 Expo: The Seduction of the Interface by Chris Fahey

[Chris Fahey put his Powerpoint presentation up on the Web 2.0 Expo site here. So I've reworked my summary to serve as an accompaniment to his slides, each of which I've indicated in brackets.]

The Seduction of the Interface by Chris Fahey [slides 4, 6] (blogger at and works at - a web design firm) [slide 5]

Fahey began with a question: How many believe in "love at first sight"? [slide 2] Even when it happens you need to work through it -- that is the meaning of seduction. Think of the fad of mixtapes to impress an amorous venture: you had to do work of compiling the recording, which could be considerable.

Now think of the web: We need "interaction designer," or "user experience designer." They know the secrets of seductive with regards to web design.

Rethink merchandising [slide 7]: It's not about that extra click nor about market strategy but rather about web-centric design.

What is merchandising versus marketing? [slide 8] Merchandising is a subset of marketing. But forget about them. It's not about branding. [slide 9]

Marketing [slide 10] is creating business relationships with partners, and is manifest in advertising, delivering messages, retail environments, immersive advertising. [slide 11]

Merchandising [slide 12] is the strategy and implementation of how a product is presented to customers as they decide whether or not to purchase it. There are three tiers [slide 13]:
  1. Selling context
  2. Packaging
  3. Products that sell themselves.
1. Selling context [slide 14]: It's the design of retail environment, the design of marketing, or a planogram. [slide 15] [slide of a shelf in the Apple retail store in New York City.) It's how we shop. The lesson to be learned: the consciousness of the psychology of shopping. [slide 16-17 - shows the deliberate planning for an Apple store]

E-commerce is about selling contexts [slide 18-19]. We're still learning how to optimize automated recommendations, wish lists, product reviews, etc. (so that accurate recommendations are revealed and tied to users' preferences).

2. Packaging [slide 20]. It's about the presentation of an object before you open it - part of the user experience (on Flickr people take and post pics of their unpacking of an object). [slide 21 - think about the success of the L'Eggs panty-hose campaign of 30 years ago.] [slide 22 - an Apple laptop about to be unpacked] Is packaging like a selling contest? [slide 23] Today the box and the store are now the same. For example: Basecamp. [slide 24] The product markets to you directly once you're in the website. [slide 25-26 - from Fahey's] So don't think of your product's box. [slide 27]

3. Products that sell themselves. [slide 28] The seductive qualities must be built into the product. (This subject is discussed in Henry Dreyfuss's book Designing For People.) [slide 29]
Again a definition of mechandising [slide 30]. But we must go beyond merchandising. [slide 31] It's a metaphor for designers. Marketing and design have always have bumped heads with each other. Today they are each other [slides 31-34]

In the Web 2.0 world designers are now responsible for marketing. [slide 35] Think of the product as a vehicle for continuous seduction. Today the new equation is marketing equals design, where design equals all aspects of the user experience.

Web-centric: [slide 36] the broad category of services that are on the web but can exist elsewhere. For the web-centric - the user experience must be about pleasure. [slide 37] It must appeal (if possible) to all the five senses. [slides 38-39; a joke: Homer Simpson's sensory experience] It can be achieved in other ways: through psychological pleasure, e.g. "attractive things work better." (See Don Norman's book Emotional Design [slide 41] and his website as well.) When something pleasures you it primes your mind for more creativity and effectiveness. [slides 42-44]

You don't see web services advertising web companies. On Google? nada, nothing. You don't see TV advertising for faccebook. It goes purely by word of mouth. In traditional mediums, the market has to convince the user that it's great. But in Web 2.0 [slide 45] the user experience is everything.

How the design of the Web 2.0 user experiences changes how products are marketed. [slide 46]

The conversion: [slide 47] An example from yesterday's method of seduction: Think about all that junk snail mail one received from Publishers' Clearing House [slide 48] - their campaign was about submission [slide 49] - that maybe some people would answer their packets.

But today it's not about submission. [slide 50] Seduction is about making someone fall in love with you. [slides 51-54] The conversion method is obsolete. [slide 53] Rather: today's method is connection.

Seduction. We want users to fall in love with us. [slide 55] There are three stages:
  1. inspire their attention, interest and desire
  2. draw them in
  3. capture their ongoing devotion
1. Inspire their attention. [slide 56] Choose your victim. [slide 57] (Look at Robert Greene's book The Art of Seduction - website and on Amazon.) He has these methods of seduction [slide 58].

Look at Margaret Mark and Carol Pearson's book The Hero and the Outlaw: Building Extraordinary Brands Through the Power of Archetypes [slide 59].
Think of users as distinct personalities - You can't do that if you think of them as marketing segments. That's a different way of coming up with ways to communicate and design.

Yahoo's Competitive Spectrum outlines these characteristics: caring, collaborative, cordial, competitive, combative [slide 60).
You can make up your own criteria that will help shape the design process [slide 61). Also think of "user personas" a nd personal useage guidelines [slides 62-63]. These are tools for allowing designers to generate ideas.

Techniques for seduction:
  • You need to make the first move!! [slide 64). Use moton, words, video. careful with audio [slide 65].
  • Create a sense of mystery [slide 66] (example of upcoming product with ambiguous web front - slides 67-69].
  • Appear desirable [slides 70-72], because nothing draws a crowd like another crowd. Present testimonials - not user media testimonials, but real user testimonials, too.
    Flatter them [slide 73]. Assume that they're slightly more sophisticated than the marketing data says.
  • Tempt them [slide 74].
Stage Two: draw them in (lead them astray) [slide 75]. Dazzle them with wonder [slide 76]. Fahey cited Fredric Wertham's Seduction of the Innocent [slide 77; I think his point was the effectiveness of the title, since the book was devoted to the specious claim that comic books promote juvenile delinquency.]

Seduction is not just about love but also abandoning responsibilities to one's childlike desires - indulging in products like a fantasy. [slide 78: note the entrancing nature of this bookstore with an entrancing name.] [Slide 79 shows examples of types of victims from Greene.]

Have a sense of humor [slide 80]. Why not spice up the cancel button? How about this slide [slide 81] which suggests "just kidding - i remember my password now."

Be stylish [slide 82]. You can redesign based on style since don't want to be out of date.

Affordances of desire [slide 83]. You imagine a website as part of your life. Think of Or Dopplr [slide 84) where you can share your travel itineraries.

Distract them from their responsibilities [slide 85].
(I forget what was the point of the two slides, 86-87, showing 43 Folders and a thought about redirecting one's energy.]

Stage three: Capture their ongoing devotion [slide 88].

Continually grow [slide 89]. Create an endless cycle of continuous seduction. Fahey showed the example of how Nike has created website [slides 90-91] for runners where probes are placed in your sneaker and iPod, to allow you to create charts of running progress which you can share. Of course, there are also widgets for you to put on your blog.

The design process [slide 92]: plan it out: goals, scenarios, and paths [slides 93-94]. Remove obstacles - users know what they want [slides 95-99].

Plan for delight [slide 100]. Plan for these enjoyable user experiences.
Evaluate with psychology and emotion [slide 101].
Understand yourself [slide 102]. What kind of seducer are you? [slides 103]. Perhaps you're one of the 30-second seducers [slide 104] - from 30-Second Seduction by Andrea Gardner.

Closing thought [slide 105] seduction is: [slide 106-111]
  • Is about love, togetherness, enchantment and pleasure.
  • is user-centric. not victimization.
  • is a journey
  • is proactive
  • and nothing to be squeamish about!
Seduction is no longer the responsibility of the marketing people. It's a design job. So do it! [slide 112]. Thank you. [slide 113]

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Web 2.0 Expo: Designing for the Internet(s) of the Future with Genevieve Bell

Thursday afternoon, Sept. 18 at the Web 2.0 Expo in New York had one of the best speakers: Genevieve Bell, who works for Intel. Though it might have eschewed the technical, the talk was fabulous for opening our eyes to other peoples and cultures that use the Internet. As always, my words should not be accepted as an accurate transcription of her talk and I take responsibility for any errors of transmission.

Bell introduced herself as an anthropologist. Her desire is to tell stories as a means of understanding people and their thinking and to recognize it may be different from the way we think.

She told one story of a bar in Adelaide, Australia (her home country). From this bar, the closest Internet connection was 100 kilometers away - in a McDonald's. When asked, a person inside the bar questioned his need for the internet -- he has a TV and a cellphone. "What more did he need?" So for a person like that, what kind of value does the Internet have? (Apparently he thinks he's not missing anything.)
Genevieve made us question issues such as democracy, transparency, openness. Though we may be used to them where we live, they are not necessarily universal truths. They can be politically influenced. For example, if you're in a country that lacks a town hall, a virtual town hall will be meaningless.
What do we do next? We do it by calling on social behaviors that are universal.
The Internet goes feral. It has gone from domestic to wild, and is available on all sorts of different devices (not just computers, but cellphones, games, etc.).
Thus the Internet is transformed by the medium on which it is delivered, e.g. TV, phones, computers.

We have to realize that this transformation of the Internet means that it may not be first encountered on a computer, and recognize that makes a qualitative difference. People don't want keyboards on the sofa. In Africa (for example), one's first encounter with Internet is on the phone. In that case it's a highly transactive medium where people are looking for specific data.

Genevieve then proceeded with the story of another person : A woman who claimed to use the Internet. Yet she's living in a house with no electricity, she's illiterate, and has no computer in the house. So how does she access the Internet? She told her son to send a message to her daughter who lives far away. The son went to cybercafe, sent a message, went away, then returned to receive the daughter's response, and then reported it to the mother. So that's how the mother uses the Internet. She didn't need to have electricity, a computer, or anything. For her, the Internet meant she can reach out to family that lives far away.

It makes a very different experience of Internet and how to design it.

Talk about language: Chinese has now exceeded English as the most prevalent language of communication. Undoubtedly the use Chinese (and other non-English languages) on the Internet will continue to increase, so that English will never again regain the dominance it had. What does this mean? Think about the rise of these languages, particularly those that use different alphabets. Each language implies a different culture and a different set of cultural practices.

For example, take
Mandarin: It's idiomatic, visual, and carries subtext. So its characteristic form of communication is not about what is being said, but what is NOT being said; it's also what the words you're hearing relate to. In Chinese there are plays on words. To provide an example, Genevieve mentioned the Australian colloquial word for friend is which is "plate." While the surface meaning may be obscure, the derivation brings clarity: There use to be the phrase "China plate." This rhymes with "mate" and thus provides an understanding of why a plate can be a friend (mate).
When dealing with language issues such as these they move us beyond hypertext into metasubtext. How do you encode these things on the web? Think about the situation that exists in many countries where people read the news for what is
not said as much as what is said. How can we and do we think about what is NOT said or written?

With so many languages, and so many different characteristics, there is an inevitable incompatibility. Now, multiply this issue out when you consider that each language (at least) will bring a whole different set of cultural references among the users of that language.

Some examples of unusual cultural traditions making their way on the Internet: From Beijing, there are state-sponsored online shines for one's deceased ancestors. In South Korea there is Cyworld (here is the Cyworld US version ): There has been the practice of dressing oneself in actuality based on the appearance of one's avatar.

How do we search for things when they're not in English? How do work the Internet when the reference points are profoundly different? A Chinese search site (for example) is tagged with terms filled with cultural references.

There are different models of connectivity. Video content requires more bandwidth. Different payment structures are evolving.

The Internet is about the value it has for us - whenever we need it. But different modes of satisfaction yield to different payment structures.

How can we explain the popularity of cybercafes in some countries (whereas they seem to not be popular in the US).

Think of the growing size of material that people download. No doubt we'll see an increasing numbers of caps (i.e. maximum size and rate) for downloading, and probably it will become more frequent in future. Think of the United Kingdom and how they are pondering out to fund the upgrading of their Internet connectivity.

The future: you can't expect to rely on the current structure of the Internet (without extra charges for increasing demands on service). Sometimes there is prioritization: the government of India decided that water is a higher priority than the Internet, and has put resources into getting everyone clean water.

Regulating the net: Who else is going to demand a seat a the Internet? Bell told a story of how the Maori of New Zealand have traditionally received a portion of government assets, but with the rise of the Internet, have put out a claim for that too (which the government disagrees about). This story makes a link between citizenship and a right to technology.

This is part of the social regulation side of the Internet. It magnifies social concerns. Researchers at Cornell University found that 100% of those participating in a survey lie about something. Also social "regulation" and "stalking." For the Chinese, the idea of trashing people's reputations is a very serious matter.

Imagine the Internet as not "all that is good" in society, but rather a part of our society: People can be anxious about things unnecessarily. New questions arise: What's the state of my reputation, what's my accessibility, etc. Questions of authenticity, issues about ownership, piracy, and cultural health in general. The question arises: Is the Internet destroying local culture? Bell doesn't believe so, but people still worry. The Independent (UK newspaper - see the picture above) asks: "Does the Internet know too much about you?"

We need more info about ex-users or non-users of the Internet. We need information about those who never used it or stopped using it. Some of this issue is money, but what about other issues?
There are people who want to buy their way out of technology. Vacation destination where it's not possible to connect to the Internet are becoming very popular with people who want to "get away." What is the future of net: We possibly might find those who want to be connected, and those don't and finding how they achieve that.

At the conclusion of her talked, I asked about her position - clearly that of a cultural anthropologist, yet working for Intel. She responded that Intel felt it a necessity to be connected to the rest of the world now and see what's happening in it.

As I look back on the Expo, Genevieve Bell's talk was the best because it stretched our thinking and forced us to look beyond ourselves. Brava, Genevieve!

See also her blog entry:
The revolution will be televised and then switched off (April 10, 2007; Blogs@Intel)

Monday, September 22, 2008

Web 2.0 Expo New York: Trends and Technologies in Where 2.0 by Andrew Turner and Mikel Maron

Trends and Technologies in Where 2.0 presented by Andrew Turner and Mikel Maron.

[At this point in the Expo, nothing looked interesting to me, so I went to this presentation. So much of the information was new that I wasn't quite up on it, but it was a fascinating session anyway, jam-packed with lots of interesting information. Since GPS and mapping is not at all my area of expertise (or knowledge), many of my notes are just transcriptions of their slides. Use them together to come up with explanations. At least you can follow the links to see what kinds of programs they're talking about.]

They've been nice enough to post their presentation promptly:

Part 1: The state of the geospatial web - presented by Andrew Turner.

Trends in the geoweb - what's really going on locative media and technology. web aligned - KML, etc.

Open data what's building the geoweb. People can gather data on their own. Asides from infrastructure data, every web service is adding geography, even on Flickr - namely Geocodr. It's continually being created [many cellphones and camera include geotagging].

How do you gather all this data together? Mapufacture - mapucommons. Finder.

The speakers felt that user-generated geospatial content is a key to more creation. They noted example of submissions for Hurricaine Katrina.

Another trend: mobile devices have GPS tagging.
Socialight - placemarking with cellphones or other mobile GPS data.
Resulting devices thanks to Google's Android Developers Challenge innovations: Wertago, Life360

Software such as Omnifocus for the Mac, iPhone app: ambient location info can tell you what needs to be done near byou

Urbanspoon can provide you with nearby restaurant recommendations. They hope to understand users more by soliciting reviews.
Mapvertising - geolocation advertising (ways to monetize this new info).
Geomods - urban mapping.

Privacy issues -- geoprivacy? On Flickr - there is casual privacy, and ways to control it to an extent.

Some other developments in geography and the web:
Yahoo's Fire Eagle Platform (here's a press release from PC mag ) - a "trusted location broker," an arbiter of trusted locations.

NeoCartography - company that develops mapping applications. - focusing on data on top of street, rather than the street. - render maps for bicycles, car, etc. seeking accurate depictions of roads
Geocommons maker - project (to launch soon) to help you design your own map.
GeoAnalysis - environmental database management.

Part 2: Technologies - presented by Mikel Maron.

Case study: mapping the 2008 Burning Man event which is "a blank canvas on which to dream and create anything." A single week long social experiment.
They thought it was a good test of Where 2.0: open, collaborative, amateur, cheap, iterative.

Tools for amateur remote sensing:,,

GeoDjango - platform city layout (django is a platforM)
MapWarper - for rectifying online maps
Mapserver - open source tool kit for map making [site was a little buggy when I tried it]
OpenLayers - allows to put a dynamic map on any web page.

In the future:
  • Pinax for networking [probably means PinaxProject ]
  • BRC media artifacts are socvial objects
  • city layout and camp planning tool
GPS mapping and people tracking
mkgmap: osm to garmin maps or cGPSMapper

vehicle tracking


..."our new tools will allow us the leverage to pull ourselves up from the ashes and build ourselves anew."

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Web 2.0 Expo: Man Versus Machine: The New Conundrum of Web 2.0 Advertising Automation

Man Versus Machine: The New Conundrum of Web 2.0 Advertising Automation
A panel discussion by David Kidder, of, Max Kalehoff of, Jim Barnett of, Mike Kelly of Clearmeadow Partners, Tim Hanlon of Denuo

The first session on Thursday, Sept. 18 of the Web 2.0 Expo here in New York was this session on automation. [i.e. It's recognized that automation is needed to capture information about people's behavior when interacting with the web; the question asks how it should be done.] Since it was a panel discussion there were plenty of digressions which made it difficult to follow the train of thought. These are just my notes and should not be taken as a totally accurate transcription of the session. I'm not sure it makes a coherent picture, but that also would be a reflection of the session.

In the world of Advertising 2.0, what does automation mean? Automation is looking for different criteria that changes advertiser to advertiser - media planning. The media company is looking for yield, which is difficult to forecast accurately.

How to improve inventory without conflicts and how to automate it?

A new industry is built on top of this -- necessary due to its complexity.

Are machines replacing people? Complexity is in the nature of companies. It's time to question these traditional models of advertising. And it's impossible to use traditional methods of planning and assessment. One needs to augment staff with MIT programmers. It's not a replacement but enhancement.

How to go about moving into a 2.0 world? Automation is about performance and response. We're overwhelmed by the volume and diversity of content. How do you manage thousands of sites? One company focuses on search [and others on other specific aspects]. This makes it simpler and drives efficiency.

Where is the greatest friction in the market? Too many factors can defeat you. Marketplace = incumbencies. Additional hurdle: compounding. user experience. behavior.
Bringing simplicity to where the frictions lie. We're on a march toward transparency. The environment becomes clear to seller and buyer whether a marketing technique works or not. Up to now,agency business has been traditionally opaque.

Media publishers now have no control over their inventory (because it's dictated by consumers). They're not sure what's going on. What transparency does to the old way of buying and selling: Transparency can mean different things to different people. Traditionally, supply leads demand. But in the current digital media: demand leads supply. Charging for scarcity of return.
talking about massive amount of non-premium inventory.
If you can find potential return of investment (roi) of inventory all way to impression level.

Transparency: customers want to be able to see performance in real time. You must be able to prove performance. [predicting in advance doesn't really make sense - can be unpredictable.]

What do I do to change my business to be responsive?

Automation. It's a new type of creativity.

Niche marketing is the prevailing view nowadays. You need to create multiple messages for multiple audiences.

Advertisers are no longer are satisfied with just TV reporting because they now see how the web is measured, and it makes TV report look crude. So we have to come up with new ways to measure TV.

We're on the doorstep of a new wave of creativity in understanding how to use the new medium.

Automation - how does it change personal relationships? It doesn't really. There's a diversity of content and variability of performance. To think that automation will take over everything is nonsense. Automation will take over tactical ideas, but not great ideas.

Relationships are still important.

Restructuring of relationships: less people, but smarter and more strategically used people. The down economic market will exacerbate and accelerate this. Classic media companies are disproportionally staffed up. We need fewer people and more systems (and intelligent ways to use them).

Ability to invest in digital assets. What kinds of investments will we see?
*cross-platform - more important.
*advertiser desktop solution - no integrated software that's good.
*display problem
*need investment in new talent models - leave old traditional models
*figuring out connection with agency and performance
*solve friction of finding all enterprise software - giving what client needs, saving time, allows them to do their job well.

Web 2.0 Expo: Web Analytics 2.0: Rethinking Decision Making in a "2.0" World by Avinash Kaushik

One of the highlights of the entire Web 2.0 Expo in New York City was Avinash Kaushik's talk (given on the afternoon of Wednesday, Sept. 17): "Web Analytics 2.0: Rethinking Decision Making in a '2.0' World." Filled with confidence (i.e. with loads of chutzpah), Avinash, a consultant currently engaged by Google, explained the idea behind web analytics. Again, what follows is my summary of his points which were flying too fast to be captured accurately. Do not take them as the absolute summary of his talk. I assume they are distilled in his book (free copies of which were distributed at the end of his talk.

In the traditional world, there was always a struggle to obtain more data. Today, there is more than enough data on user habits - in fact, so much, that we may not always know what to do with it. There is clickstream (i.e. recording the number of clicks on a web page) but this data does not give much insight into behavior. Why not? Because we don't have all the infomration we need from the interweb. Thus the birth of Web Analytics 2.0.

The aim of Web Analytics 2.0 is to measure more and different things from websites. All the current data is telling you what happened. But these tools are bad at measuring "how much"? Some explanations:
  • The what: clickstream
  • The how much: multiple outcomes analysis
  • the why: experimentation and testing, the voice of the customer (missing from the web today!)
  • the what else: competitive intelligence and insights
It's about competitive intelligence. If you're not using competitive intelligence data, it's as if you're driving in a car with opaque windows. At Google we use bounce rate. Search engines determine where you are going to enter a website. If you look at your top 20 pages you'll see which ones are the poor ones. It's a question of "sacrificing usability at the alter of sexiness." With Google Analytics you can understand what sends the top ten users and why lower traffic comes to a website. Traditional analytics are about collecting information whereas Google Analytics are about analyzing data and deriving meaning from it.

For example, take a comparison between the web and television: on television you can't track things. But on the web, a viewer's actions can be entirely measured. Indeed, this is how movie studios are producing movies - by seeing how people watch them on the web (as a product of web behavior, which is entirely measurable).

Let's talk about conversion rates. There is macro conversion rates (the transactions of an entire website) and micro conversion (transactions needed to create a action). These are ways to quantify value.

A website must have multiple goals and in analytics, must have many different goals. But you must track your goals. What about the metric of recency? Are you encouraging return visits? You can ask: Why do you exist? If you can say what yo uare trying to do with your website, there's no reason not to be able to measure it.

This gives you a way to understand "the why." It gives customers a real voice. The primitive way of doing this was with surveys - all of which had three questions: Why are you here, were you able to complete your task, and if not, why not? The goal was finding segments of discontent.

[At this point my notes are less focused - Avinash was going a mile a minute and it was hard to keep up with him, especially since I wasn't totally familiar with his terms.]

Avinash collaborated with iPerceptions to create a questionnaire.

Scalable listening. Experimentation and testing. Axiom: Hippos create bad websites. (Hippo = high paid person's opinion.)

Learn to be wrong. Or prove others wrong, fast.

It's irrelevant what web creators want. Let the customers tell you what works through use of analytics. Don't guess or impose - partner with them. Competitive intelligence will enable you to benchmark expertise. Instead of "ready, aim, fire!" you'll be able to say: "research, target, fire!"

Learn your targeted keywords. Study Google Insights For Search. But you need a holistic view to understand all of people's behavior with regard to a website. We're still far away from it.

Web 2.0 Expo: Web 2.0 and the Reinvention of Marketing and PR - Brian Solis

Brian Solis of FutureWorks had the last morning session on Wednesday, Sept. 17 of the Web 2.0 Expo here in New York City. Here are my notes of his main points (and not necessarily a neat prose rendition). As always, these should not be taken as an exact transcription of his words.

He pointed out that Web 2.0 is more of a dialog than a broadcast medium. He dared to ask rhetorically: "When was the last time a press release worked for you?" Web 2.0 has created a new era of tools, channels, communities, and methodologies to connect with and cultivate relationships and influence. (This has resulted in a realization: public relationships people aren't the most popular people in marketing. )

Web 2.0 is the social web where anyone can facilitate conversations. It's the democratization of information with the potential to transform people. Today, markets are conversations - read about it in The Cluetrain Manifesto. You engage them through conversation; if you attempt direct control, they remove you from their radar. Markets are not conversations and are cyclical. They're driven by the voice of the people. Controlling the message is no longer a goal, because every conversation with consumers is an opportunity.

Everyone contributes to the definition of a brand. The perception of a brand is the sum of all conversations.
How do you define influence? You need new metrics for a new era of public relations. How Web 2.0 redefines the landscape: through curation, content creation, forums, blogs, social networks, new influences, events, and traditional media. Public relations is no longer defined by "hits' (on a website), because Web 2.0 creates many new opportunities. Now, the "conversation index" is the new form of measurement: videos, podcasts, tweets, etc.

And they're trackable: A conversation index indicates your placement, status, ranking, perception, and participation in social media.
The roadblocks are that some marketing people are perceived as "not getting it." They belong to the "sell rather than tell" school of thought. But today it's a new world of public relations and marketing. We're no longer the sole content creators, but should just be part of the community. It requires a new hybrid form of marketeer.

What are the qualifications for this new kind of marketeer? Empathy, market exposure, understanding the competitive landscape, relevant stories, benefits, true intentions, customer approach, observance of online cultures, and experience with social tools. This all sounds like common sense but should not be underestimated.

There are new rules for "breaking news." Be wary of bloggers, because they don't adhere to the same rules of traditional press. They want scoops. The rule guiding this landscape is: less is more. So identify a list of newsmakers and build relationships with them.

The Magic Middle and the Long Tail

Today we're in a world of social media, conversational marketing and word-of-mouth marketing. The key is people - they are what makes something viral.
None are rooted in old-style broadcast, i.e. one-way marketing. Who's responsible for participating? Everyone -- including you.

We must become sociologists in order to become participants. How do we listen? Through the conversation prism -- everywhere where conversations are taking place.

But how does this translate into delivering value to communities? You must participate, have conversations. Humanize our story (and beware of what not to do). Conversational marking is not a campaign. It must be done every day.

New elements are introduced into public relations for measuring return of investment and success -- web analytics are useful for this.

It's about how to change the way we are perceived. The public relations/marketing world of today is about less noise, and more listening. You are the brand: respect the communities and they will respect you. Ultimately, companies get the relationships they deserve.

After the main part of the talk, an audience member, responsible for maintaining decorum in his online community, asked how do deal with constant complaints. Brian retorted with a smart answer: "How does Batman sleep at night?" One does what one can.

Be a champion of your brand. Invite others to lunch in order to proselytize . Find champions in your company.

I was particularly taken when, at one point in the talk, Brian said: "Research librarians are better than marketing directors." (Meaning that their depth of knowledge is richer.) Bravo.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Web 2.0 Expo: Viral Marketing 2.0 with Jonah Peretti

The second talk I attended on Wednesday, September 17 was “Viral Marketing 2.0” by Jonah Peretti. Little did I realize he is already a well-known "star" in market research and his talk was well attended. He went extremely fast and I couldn't capture any pics of him (his hair is brown or black, not red as in the Wikipedia photograph) or of his presentation slides which whizzed by.

The core concept of his talk: the Bored At Work Network (BWN). Some facts (as seen by Peretti):
  • Millions are bored office workers, ready to share media, blog post and instant messaging all day
  • The BWN is bigger than CBS, NBC, or any traditional media network
  • The BWN is a decentralized network that enables media to go viral if ordinary people enjoy sharing it.

The old broadcast model is simple and reassuring – broadcaster is at the center and decides what's important and what's popular. (Examples: television, newspapers, and similar one-way media.)

The new networked world is confusing, counterintuitive: BWN decides what is popular, so it’s a more complex thing to understand. (Perhaps even irrational.)

What can make something popular on the web? The key research is: Influentials, Networks, and Public Opinion Formation by Duncan J. Watts, Peter Sheridan Dodds (Journal of Consumer Research, December 2007). There are no movers and shakers, or “special influence people” who can make something popular. Rather, the network decides what is popular.

A network structure is more important than influence. Whether or not something spreads depends mostly on network structure. If a network permits diffusion, anyone can start something and if not, no one can. Some examples of diffusion: forest fires, early Facebook apps (the platform was perfect for spreading applications), blogs, embarrassing homemade videos, etc. Compare these phenomena to viral marketing. Why videos? Because of YouTube’s existence – it’s a platform that allows the spread.

Hindsight bias. Beware of people’s recollections of what happened:

  • after the fact, influential people seem like the key factor (aggrandizement)
  • East Village hipsters wore lots of ridiculous clothes besides hush puppies
  • Jeff Jarvis complained about many things on his blog besides Dell
The problem with hindsight bias is that it is not repeatable in the future. If not repeatable, then it’s less interesting because it means it's something one can do with consistency.

Key research: the music lab experiment:

  • subjects are shown a grid with mp3s from unknown bands
  • they choose, listen, rate, and download favorites
  • behavior is tracked in several different worlds to measure social influence.

The results of this experiment shows that people don't know what they like

  • different songs were popular in different worlds – no consistent hits
  • social influence increased inequality and unpredictability
  • best songs never do badly and the worst never excel but all other results happened

So the big problem is radical unpredictability (sounds like Dan Ariely’s Predictably Irrational)

  • the latest research shows that we can't predict who can make something popular or what will become popular
  • the web is confusing, counter-intuitive and unpredictable
  • So: how do we succeed on the web despite this?

Solution no. 1: Contagious Media

  • Make something that ordinary people want to share with each other
  • Make it easy to understand, easy to share, and include a social imperative
  • Make media perfect for the BWN

Examples: The New York Times’s list of articles most shared and most blogged – shows behavioral patterns of ordinary people.
Another example: Nike sweatshop email story

  • Nike offers to custom-print a word on sneakers, so Peretti ordered a pair of Nikes customized with the word “sweatshop” (i.e. so that the sneaks would read “Nike Sweatshop” – unflattering to company)
  • After some back-and-forth, Nike rejected Peretti’s request
  • Peretti then forwarded the exchange to a few friends – who continued to forward it until the email led to a viral cascade – and became legendary on the Internet.

Compare these: People dedicate their life to fighting for human rights whereas Peretti did not even know much about the sweatshop issue. In the first case people deliberately try, whereas Peretti didn’t even have to try and yet got more coverage.

Another example: Bogus website that nevertheless developed following of those who thought it was racist and those who didn’t.

The lessons he draws from this are:

  • The BWN trumps influentials
  • The BWN network creats its own influentials

The limits of contagious media: most things are not viral. Contagious media is usually silly, free, shocking, simple – for BWN. (For example: the Montauk Monster, or other things on

(See article: Viral Marketing For The Real World – by Duncan Watts And Jonah Peretti)

Solution 2: Big Seed Marketing

l small seeds lead to failure

l but subviral growth is still growth

l big seeds lead to successs

l examples; Proctor & Gamble, Oxygen,

(see article: )

Tide Cold Water campaign. by making it sharable and social, it increased penetration.

World of mouth without tipping points.

Solution 3: Multi-Seed Marketing

l try lots o creative ideas- no one can predict what will be popular

l test to see what's working using real data

l big seede the stuff that is worki9ng

l more data enables more creativity tracks these viral feeds

Solution no. 4: Mullet Strategy – (a mullet is a haircut cropped in front but long in back)

Businesss upfront, and party in the back - use this as a webstrategy

Example: Huffington Post: real news upfront, and crazy stuff in the back.

An editor's view of huffington post: you can analyze it immediately, know how many clicks and how often people visit.

The power of mullets

l the front always looks sharp

l no need to find influentials and predic thte future, just let good stuff bubble up

l other examples: YouTube, MySpace, Digg

Solution no. 5: personality disorders

The web is ruled by fanatics like Perez Hilton, Ron Paul, Apple fans, , blog commenters, animal lovers, and other crazy people.

Examples (a catalog of personality disorders in real life that inhabit the Internet):

histrionic/narcissistic personality disorder – great for bloggers!

obsessive-compulsive persoality disorder (wikipedia, online games,, etc.)

and so on.

If we had more time, we could discuss other disorders such as paranoid, schizoid, antisocial, etc.

Learn advertising from this humorous example: Jews vs. Mormons

While Judaism may be a quality religion, quality has nothing to do with it. Quality is extra constraint and liability. Instead, learn from the Mormons:

l quality is not a growth strategy

l make evangelism core of your strategy

l focus on the mechanics of how an idea spreads, not the idea itself

Conclusion: This is what is Viral Marketing 2.0

Contagious Media – make media that works for the BWN

Big-Seed Marketing – do viral marketing without needing elusive tipping points

Multi-Seed Marketing – try many ideas and optimzie on the fly (think of

Here’s another summary of the session: