Tracking ideas not people


In 2003 I developed a concept I called AISS, which stands for All Ideas Start Somewhere. It was just a series of thoughts, nothing was ever built.

By today’s standards it isn’t anything to make you look twice, it was simply an idea to track what I saw would be the vast publicly available reaches of content. And then to understand how that content moved through the various technical layers that presented it to us, the public.

It was clever, for its time, but I still couldn’t get anyone to spend money to put it together. It is, of course, a lot easier 10 years later to claim with hindsight, that it was a good idea.

Since then, of course, various parts of the concept have come to pass, completely independently of me, and none in the exact format that I was suggesting. My logic was not unique, just early and unconnected to working capital.

That said I still think that an opportunity has been missed. The thing that I think is still absent is best thought of as a missed turning, a right / left option that when taken led into a murky forest instead of an angelic dale or meadow.

In 2003 I was suggesting that the unit of tracking should be the content itself, and that we needed to monitor the movement of the content through our digital ecosystems.

Instead we track people.

The internet is a vast looking glass that hardly anyone uses to its fullest potential. Instead of understanding what people want and giving it to them, we instead understand where people are and give them what we want them to have.

As everything changes, nothing changes.

Marketing has spent most of its life pushing crafted messages at vast demographics hoping for response rates that are typically less than a fraction of a percentage point. Brand marketing has hitched its wagon onto any number of perceived positive memes hoping that some of that positivity will attach to the brand itself. It’s a logical idea, but I’m at a loss as to why no-one seems to use the internet’s salient visibility to track the ideas or memes that are naturally liked by the target demographics.

Instead we have built a vast people tracking infrastructure that is so sophisticated it was co-opted by the NSA and GCHQ. This isn’t about the Snowden revelations, or at least it’s not about the morality of the Snowden revelations, it is instead a short note to point out that we have built such a great and vast tracking panopticon that even the spies wanted in.

And in return? Well, we still don’t get response rates that beat what we could get 20 years ago while we are failing to build trust with our customers over the use of their data. And the key words in that last sentence? …their data…  it might sit on company databases today, but it is still their (the consumer, the prospect, the customer) data. It should be treated as such. 

r/pics 2013 best of the rest

Reading impro by Keith Johnstone


I’ve read 2 recommendations for this book, both emphatically positive, overwhelmingly so, and so far 100 pages in I’ve not been disappointed at all. My favourite quote at the moment…

The first school I taught at had one woman teacher. When she went out shopping at lunchtime, the men pulled their chairs round and told dirty stories non stop. Down in the playground, as usual, the children were swopping similar stories, or writing ‘shit’ or ‘fuck’ on the walls, always correctly spelt; yet the staff considered the children ‘dirty little devils’ , and punished them for saying things which were far milder than things the teachers themselves would say, and enjoy laughing at. When these children grow up, and perhaps crack up, then they’ll find themselves in therapy groups where they’ll be encouraged to say all the things that the teacher would have forbidden during school.

The book is about teaching improvisation in the theatre, but as billed by those that recommended it, its much more than that.

Internet toys….


The less said about this the better, i don’t want to preempt whats going on with a description. Click the link and then work out what its all about. Keep going, its not obvious at first at all.

This one is more obvious. A nice interactive image generator.

The radioactive orchestra is a dose of geeky nerd musical awesomeness. In the vein of simple online mixers this one is based on the real properties of thousands of radioactive isotopes. Not massively flexible if truth be known but fun.

I must have had at least 5 or 6 kaleidoscopes for Christmas when I was younger, over the years. Is this what children of the future will get instead, a url and 10 minutes in front of a screen (which was about how long my attention was kept by the non digital versions)

Finally my favourite strobe illusion, nicely showing how much of our perceptive data input can be gamed by fairly simple mechanisms. The effect of this is really emphatic.

Culture Shock (just a little) via Youtube

You need 1 big warehouse, about to be demolished, owned by decent folk willing to hand it over to some graffiti artists, a film maker with a nice handle on stop motion, some inspiring tunes….and what you get is this. Very cool.


I only knew of Max Headroom as the first ‘computer generated’ TV host from British telly in 1984. I hadn’t thought about him for years until I came across this clip of a pirate hijack of Dr Who on a Chicago PBS affiliate in 1987. Very surreal. I think if i had been calmly watching Dr Who when this happened I would have been a little perturbed, perhaps depending on how late it was.


I think there are a few different types of moments when a cultural artifact can be considered to have come of age, or at least to have revealed a relevance and subsequently has a chance of remaining in our cultural record. This, for me, is the moment that Chatroulette showed why it should exist. Miley Cyrus’s Wrecking Ball as you’ve never seen it before.


Finally, a nod to higher production values. Its advertising, but it is also a lovely little bit go film making too. from Google India.

r/pics December 2013