Some interesting videos

The first 2 are about facial substitution or puppetry. I think they are pretty intriguing especially the one that is looking to replace a human face with a human face. It’s impressive as tech today, but one day it will be impressive because the tech will be so good that you won’t know if the face you see on your computer screen has been substituted or not.

Next up we have Quang + Ellie: Slow motion booth. I’m pretty sure that Quang + Ellie are the bride and groom, that the slow motion booth was set up at their wedding reception and that whoever did the editing job did a damn good job. A great concept, awesome souvenir of a wedding and probably works so well in that particular context because of all the booze. Nice and uplifting.

[edit – well we did have Quang and Ellie until the rights holders for Robin Thicke’s blurred lines, which was the backing track to the video, went to killjoy entitlement towers and sent out a load of takedowns. I suspect that they acted within their rights but the people who made this video make wedding videos, not songs, or websites that profit from songs and i can see no conceivable loss to the rights holders whatsoever, especially as anyone can find the song in a whole bunch of places, some controlled by RT’s setup. Meanwhile here is a different version with the soundtrack missing]

There’s a deep message in this one, but if you don’t fancy working it all out it’s also a very engaging piece of visual awesomeness

Finally a short brain burner. Don’t give up on this the payoff (and to manage expectations it’s not so awe inspiring, but it is fairly cool) is all in the last 15 seconds, but don’t just skip to the end. If you are that short of time then this is not for you anyway.

Social media in 2013 as a social utility shocker

citizen talking with police on her doorstep

Friendly conversations with the police

About 5 years ago I spent some time talking with a company that was developing a social media platform that would provide value specifically in disaster and crisis situations. It was to be a resource managed by the emergency services themselves, that amalgamated all manner of social properties and thereby facilitated communications, both broadcast outwards and narrowcast inwards. The logic was quite sound and had the potential to provide value not only for the police, fire and medical emergency services but also for larger industrial concerns that may well wish to have disaster contingency plans that included an element of social media insight. Alongside facilitating live and critical information transfers relating to a particular problem (from employees or the general public – imagine a series of channels that could observe and report the fast moving boundaries of a wild fire, for example) it would have also served as a broadcast platform, through multiple channels, that could be used to help coordinate localised evacuations and the like. I was helping them out with some development strategies but we didn’t do a lot of work with them in the end and I am unaware of how successful, or otherwise, they have been. It was, however, one of a series of boundary moments for me and my developing understanding of how the social media model could be utilised beyond the mundane and trivial exchange of status updates and amusing content.

About 2 weeks ago I had another social media revelatory moment that was also emergency service related, although of a considerably different timbre.

Matt Murray, the Chief of Staff for the Denver police department did a Reddit AMA (ask me anything) specifically in order to clarify some of the issues relating to the new status of the marijuana laws in Colorado. He was supported by DPD Sgt. Howard, the Colorado police’s marijuana expert. Regardless of your views on whether weed should or should not be legal I challenge you to find this use of social media as anything other than valuable.

But there is a but. These police officers didn’t just do a Reddit AMA. Specifically they did a Reddit AMA with class and intelligence, and in so doing, in my opinion, demonstrated some simple principles for using these kind of communication channels as official channels for..…well almost anything.

1. Straight up, right off the bat they set out the terms of the discussion and what they would engage with and how they would engage. They foresaw potential flash points and disarmed those potentials before they occurred and they offered other channels of communication for the questions that were deemed as off topic for this particular conversation.

Setting expectations

2. They were friendly but they were also unapologetically cops. This means that they could deliver both warnings and advice in the same sentence.

we are the cops

3. They were funny and personable and appropriately so. Not always an easy path for police officers to take.


4. They didn’t shy away from what might have been touchy questions but instead answered honestly and in a non-inflammatory fashion.

We will enforce this

Opinion on policy

In marketing circles, ever since the publication of the Cluetrain manifesto (although you’d be gobsmacked to know how many marketers have never heard of it), and even more so today as content marketing becomes the big trend du jour, generating a conversation with customers and prospects has been a genuinely tricky challenge.

Firstly it was a technical challenge, something largely solved by social tools. More recently it has become a content challenge. We all want to have these fabled conversations, but we can’t afford to be the boring or bland individual at the party that everyone ignores. Pushing crafted messages, of course, avoids this problem by, amongst other things, changing the expectations (which is essentially a nod to the modern history of marketing communications and still the current hallmark of many uninteresting social initiatives). The long and the short of it is that being the responsive half of a real marketing conversation is an intimidating and tricky thing to do well.

Perhaps the most scary element of a true conversation, in this context, is that some of the people in the conversation might disagree with you and might even be unnecessarily antagonistic as well. Even more problematic these adversaries might be cogent, intelligent and valid.

Again, this conversation (and it was a real conversation) with the Denver police shows an effective way to engage in these circumstances also.

When the AMA was announced it was also publicised on the Denver sub reddit itself which led to one of the architects of the new laws (u/A64Attorney) being invited to join in the discussion. As you can see the invite was based on a pre-existing distrust of the police in Denver and how they had been perceived to react to the new laws.

Some slight distrust

This is a perfect demonstration of yet another reason why this is such a great forum for this kind of discussion. The fact that anyone can join in enables both sides of the story to be told, which in turn (if done well) enhances the credibility of both sides of the story (assuming all parties are sincere and not behaving disingenuously).

Here is an exchange involving both the police and u/A64Attorney. Just brilliant.


This is a great example of how to use social media to foster a real conversation. A lot of brands use twitter as a live Q&A forum, and that makes sense as twitter can be ‘always on’, but I do believe that this example from the Denver police demonstrates that the appropriate use of longer format social locations have massive value potential also.

However, there are challenges beyond simply the content. Reddit by its very nature delivers both the platform and the ‘other half’ of the conversation. Reddit, though, is not always receptive to naked marketing plays, however well intentioned, and is quite good at sniffing out the disguised ones as well. Fortunately there are other places that this kind of exchange can occur but this needs to be planned and thought out. Like all marketing communications there is the what and there is the where, the messaging strategy and the media strategy. The media landscape for these conversations is not complex, nor is it particularly broad although it is under managed in my opinion, and in that vein it is instructive that this post isn’t exploring the media side of the equation at all either (mea culpa).

On the other hand though this AMA has some great pointers for managing the content side, even if some of the learnings are more poignantly valuable for the tricky job of being a modern policeman.

But here’s the thing. If the police in Denver can navigate the problematic waters of hosting a social conversation about something as controversial as marijuana policy…….then modern brands should be able to host valuable conversations about something nice and straightforward, such as their (surely desirable) products.

4 quick bits

I was reading a reddit thread this week that was complaining that people, generally, are totally unaware of the huge and existing advances being made in technology right now, today. The thread was in the futurology sub reddit, so it’s understandable that some frustration was being vented. The debate was not terribly sophisticated if i’m being honest and the solutions discussed, sensible as they were, simply came down to showing people the articles instead of breathlessly telling them what was happening. One of the existing technologies discussed was driverless cars, something we are all probably aware of through Google’s activities in championing the concept. One of the posters on the thread pointed out that Rio Tinto the global mining corporation was already using driverless trucks in its mining operations in Australia. He claimed that 30% of their trucks were driverless but didn’t link to a source. I couldn’t verify that exact number but did find the following article that does indeed back up the claim that driverless technology is not simply a west coast tech hipster near future but actually part of today’s industrial reality.

Here is the link

For some time now I have been of the opinion that the generational change in technology adoption would be followed by a generational change in an understanding of technology. So while it’s obvious that today’s teenagers are growing up in a world that is digital (no digital analogue divide for these guys, just one reality that they don’t question) and as such adopt technology without thought, this article is arguing that actually the increasing invisibility of the computing layer is creating a generation with no greater knowledge of the underlying functionality than today’s 40 – 60 year olds. This is worrying. Everything in today’s teenagers’ futures will be governed by code, right now, even, your average new car contains over 100 million lines of code. There is an important distinction to be raised here between using computers and understanding computers, between the graphic user interface and the command line interface. I know that most of you, will fall on the side of those that don’t understand computing in the way that the author does. That includes me, and I am more up to speed than most people my age, I couldn’t install and use a Linux distro for example (I even had to use google to make sure I used that phrase correctly), although it is on my list of things to learn. The concerns are huge because computers will affect everything in the future, not least the quality and effectiveness of our laws. Take, for example, Cameron’s ridiculous porn firewall. Nothing wrong with his stated intentions to protect children, but everything wrong with his solution simply because it will not protect children while simultaneously creating a host of negative externalities that are nothing to do with child access to the internet. Moreover by creating a false sense of safety a whole new raft of parents will be given an excuse to ignore their parental responsibilities. I was hoping that 20 years hence we would have a computing literate population and these problems would be a temporary issue. Apparently not. Doh.

Here is the link

This is awesome. Money and the scale of it presented in a fantastic, and huge graphic by Randall Munroe at xkcd. Be warned this could swallow an hour of your life before you’ve even realised. It must have taken an enormous amount of time to research, let alone draw. Full of mind blowing observations.

Here is the link

As our current coalition administration ponders a potential loss of world influence as a result of the parliamentary no vote on military action in Syria (and kudos to Cameron for not charging ahead anyway, not something Blair would likely have even considered) I’d suggest they should have a look at this interesting infographic produced by the MIT technology review. It’s a cursory analysis of 8 global technology innovation hubs and even though the data points aren’t terribly wide ranging they don’t paint a pretty picture for Britain. The key scare stat for me is that of all the hubs listed (silicon valley, Boston, Paris, Israel, Skolkovo, Beijing, Bangalore and London) we have the smallest available budget (whether that be private or governmental monies) by a long margin. There are only 2 hubs who don’t have funding potentials in the billions, London and Bangalore, and at 161 million to 300 million Bangalore has almost twice as much going on as London. Simply not good enough.

Here is the link

r/pics September 2013