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Internet of Things… (the Human Connected Experiences)

Years ago, we were developing ideas and kicking the tires on a number of projects for clients that were human-connected experiences. This term is now classed the Internet of Things / Everything, that some will try and class or ™ as their own – but in essence it is the interconnection of human awareness, understanding and interactivity with everyday items.

From your fridge - to your TV, from your smartphone to your car and from your Glass to your train station… Internet of Things, is a loose term, and as well as being subjective, it has an air of chaos and disorder. Just because we can now apply a 13” touch screen to a fridge, doesn’t necessarily allow that appliance to be connected to anything apart from the internet.

It’s taking that idea that you can apply computing power to an appliance like a fridge, that is the first step, and then apply human focused logic and application to it. It’s not about tweeting “Hello from my fridge” but your fridge messaging you, “Hello Brad, your dinner is in the red container, heat at 400º for 20 mins” – where you can also ask, “what is for dinner” – these are the human interactions that the Internet of Things will bring – it is of course based on data and semantics.

The fridge example would of course not be the fridge making the meal and having it ready for Brad when he returns, it truly is the art of social storytelling in a digital landscape…

Mary, Brad’s wife has to take the kids out for soccer practice, she notices on the family calendar, displayed on the fridge LCD, that Brad is due home at 7pm, while they are still out at practice, Mary also knows, via the calendar, that they are going out for dinner with another soccer family, so they will not be around for when Brad gets home. Mary put’s some lasagna, in a red tub, and adds a note for Brad on the fridge’s alerts that when Brad arrives (via BT, Bluetooth4) that “there is lasagna in the red tub for dinner, just heat it up for 20mins at 400º” the semantic context that the fridge delivers are

<greeting = Hi>

<family member=Brad>


<location=red container>

<cooking temp=400º>

<cooking time =20mins>

 as Brad wants to know what is for dinner


At this point, the oven could automatically come on to 400º, as it knows (M2M), in context, what role and function it has…

<BT Alert = family member>


<heat=cooking temp>

<duration=cooking time>

This is of course once Brad has arrived in the kitchen area, there are so many areas of connectivity before that from the garage doors automatically opening when Brad’s car arrives, keyless opening of the locked doors, automatically turn on lights, sensors that can pick up on body temperature – whether to add extra heat or AC, and even to Brad’s specified settings, play music / switch on TV as set channel, alerts Mary that Brad has arrived home, alerts Brad that there is new mail in the mailbox, etc… this is how we see the internet of human connectivity – it has feeling, purpose, intimacy, personalization and warmth – it is no longer a set of disparate and isolated protocols and applications each waiting for a prompt or input, but instead interconnected experience that is constantly monitoring, adjusting, computation & pushing / feeding / delivering an interconnected experience.    

This is just the beginning, but to understand the human & emotional connections is how the internet of things, turns out to be the human-connected internet of everything(s)!


Another UK Retail Casualty? What went wrong for Debenhams

So another High Street “icon” of the halcyon days of the 80’s & 90’s rings the alarm bell that Christmas trading missed by around £30m, and while their online sales may have risen, the gap between online & offline was so off that the old ‘profits warning’ has been issued’.

Why? Apart from the high street apathy of some of these old ‘department stores’ the instore experience is always… well outdated, boring, vast racks of merchandise with the strategy of housing everything under one roof, a one-stop-shop for most of your needs.

Yes, in the 1980’s & 1990’s that rang true, we didn’t yet see the Amazon’s, (call them the digital department store) rise yet, so a captive and frustrated consumer experience was had, shoppers would nudge, push and generally be stressed out while looking for ‘that gift’, these old department stores relied on the ‘impulse’ sale or at Christmas time, the ‘crisis sale’– where consumers, would or couldn’t find what they were looking for and would either elect to go for something similar or chose product ‘x’ because the store has them on early discount. Either way, as long as the stores were open and had stock – the cash registers would be a-ringing. During the late 90’s and into 00’s these behemoths were wary and worried about this new ‘internet’ technology and while they would scoff at the thought of people buying clothes, shoes, homewares online, they also couldn’t ignore it either – so the usual minimal investment, siloed teams  (or worse, ‘could you also look after the internet web thing’) As Amazon and co. ripped the online shopping world apart over the next 10 years, these stores struggled to keep up, to understand the dynamics of online retail and worse yet – the very same technology company that changed the way we think about mobile phones, were now delivering a retail experience that delivered some real “theatre”

Fast forward to 2013 Christmas time, Debenhams consumers would now be sitting with a cup of tea and browsing, selecting and buying from the comfort of their own home – complete the task in hand and get on with their lives – they are now the ‘smarter’ shopper that will take the time to check prices, compare models and most importantly – read reviews from others (well, most of the time) to make a more informed choice - generally have a one up on the physical stores. So why should they make the trip into the high street or Shopping Center to be stressed out? When it can be done with ease from home?

Debenhams and many others have failed to see or understand the power of the multi-channel retail experience, in-fact they fail to see any of the key trends at all around social relevance and their brand value. You ask any millennial who shops at Debenhams and you’ll find that it’s their mother or grandmother. You ask that very same mother and you’ll find an answer that is more in line with 1970’s thinking around ‘their mother always shopped there’, it has ‘convenience’, ‘trust’… the list goes on and on of a bygone age, an age that has left Debenhams behind.

I’ve spoke many many times about how to revitalize our high streets, and I’m not going to repeat myself here again, there are some simple fundamental steps that need to be taken – but greed and regulation will ultimately kill off any kind of resurgence, but what does Debenhams do?

Look at the £30m it just missed by and you can reimagine that by taking less than 10% of that, you could develop a truly wonderful online experience that would surpass Amazon (by that I mean experience not sales). Being dragged down by overpriced, over complex, bloated software is one of the biggest mistakes in eCommerce today. Nearly everyone will ask for an “amazon” experience? Why? The Amazon experience is awful, one of the worlds best at being awful, but again Amazon is still in the late ‘90’s / ‘00’s  in terms of its overall navigation, look and feel – but behind the scenes, yes there is a well invested network of logistical brilliance that means in some areas, are heading towards some day delivery!

As for the stores, time to reimagine, reanalyze, revitalize… & some rebranding.

Look at patterns, trends, footfall, inventory (stalled and star), demographic data around each and every store, location location location… what are the trends in the town / city, where are the shoppers who are out and about in their droves, what are they doing, what are their stimulus & drive to be out there, SKU counts… too many to mention here – but by doing some of this deeper digging and analysis Debenhams will actually start to paint a better picture of the consumer, their habits and how their brand and products relate to them in 2014!

It won’t happen overnight, but if they have the strategic vision and insight to reimagine what a 2014 ‘Department Store’ should look and feel like, there may be some life in the old dog yet.


用作万维网正在不断发展和增长,设备上,我们访问&与网站内容获得更多高级和不同程度的大小(以及可选方向视图)然而,作为我们在设计世界,吻了吻再见到“Web2.0”一词在2008后,一个很大的网站,即使在今天,仍然怀念那些基本的设计&经验的思想的2.0时代,继续无视或忽略了最终用户的需求,获得更佳的体验。 一切都交到技术/平台,将“推动企业发展”

,这本身就是令人担忧如果企业依靠其平台堆栈,吸引、保留和满足他们的用户群,而且更重要的是当我们看到软件正在开发一个“黑洞”或“开发者洞穴”,假设是什么,用户可能会喜欢,但是,最终是对这项技术,其目的是什么? 有什么需要? 让我们尽可能多建排列和方案,我们可以认为,我们可以稍后添加更多?




您的站点外观和查看时的反应在这些屏幕 尺寸?





“”-分支代码来嗅出,您的网站被访问的一个新兴的这些新“我”设备,这意味着至少要生活的期望的最终用户,但是您现在有其他一些问题,如保持x版本同步您的主站点。 就像银弹在一些人看来,Web平台(尤其是电子商务)的添加m.前缀在他们的平台,这意味着他们回答的呼叫许可证持有者的要求有一个“移动”版本。


,以便我们如何类响应网页设计? 也许我应当重申这一问题,以便读取,我觉得网页设计是响应速度,除了一个Web标准的方法,它应该是一个万维网体验,取决于在多点触控的个性化到最终用户设备环境和规格,以及执行、反应和相应的反应。

我一直想要添加多点触摸元素,以我的理解,大部分的智能手机的互动性,主要是触摸,所以通过设计元素从一个触摸起点,将有助纾缓任何潜在的“按钮”或“图标”配置问题的进一步下行。 认为智能手机多点触摸的设计出发点,设计可扩展的台式机体验,它将不会有任何影响,事实上它将开始创建一个更简单和直观的界面,你就会发现那里是更多“空白空间”和低杂波在您的设计。

然而,决定构建反应灵敏,也认识到,将需要更长的“咔哒咔哒的几万维网网页”在html5、为核心的工作将在CSS3和内容调整必须在服务器端完成的,而不是在设备端。 这本身就可以创造一些技术方面的挑战和问题,如前所述,这些应用程序中的一部分仍然是唯一的万维网1.0兼容的,并使其脚踢和尖叫,一个响应Web设计将需要时间和精力来完成。 在精细的细节设计在前端将需要不同的思维方式,它不再应用程序,但最终用户的体验。 但这种改变并不是什么是派生的,从驱动的应用程序或软件堆栈中,但事实上,再次考虑最终用户登陆页面,从他们的智能设备和工作从这一点来。


eMarketer最近的一项研究表明,“一致的客户体验跨所有渠道”是“非常重要”,84%的受访者中,有了更多和更多的研究如何出指挥的是公司客户通过他们的各个数字营销方式,其活动和内容,有一个真正的公司之间的差距,了解和获取经验的第一个屏幕和那些在奋斗。 直接营销新闻上报道adobes记分卡研究移动电子邮件的电子邮件营销活动,取得的结果是眼图开放的一个很大的公司,而且更重要的是,这些没有列出,但已经知道,他们有这种问题。



p.s. 我谦恭地对我道歉中国贫困翻译技巧。

2014: Responsive Design - the next web challenge

As the web continues to evolve and grow, the devices on which we access & interact with the web content get more advanced and varying degree of sizes (as well as optional orientation views) yet as we, in the design world, kissed goodbye to the “web 2.0” word back in 2008, a lot of websites, even today, still missed those fundamental design & experience ideologies of the 2.0 era – and continued to defy or ignore the end users needs for a better experience. Leaving everything down to the technology / platform that would “drive their business forward

That in itself is worrying if businesses were relying on their platform stack to attract, retain and satisfy their user base, even more so when we see software being developed in a “black hole” or “developers cavern” where assumptions are made on what the user may like, but ultimately it was about the technology – what is its purpose? What is its need? Lets build as many permutations and scenarios as we can think of, and we can add even more later?

This of course lead to bloated, over-engineered failed software that was not only in the market, but now had people trying to understand and use it, almost to the point where the people that spent every waking hour figuring out the complex patterns and justification process of just “why” the became somewhat of a maharishi figure and these were the people that you had to rely on to attain some level of authority on this monster that had been licensed.

There are so many examples of this kind of software in businesses today, (both internal software as well as consumer facing) of which would be too cruel of me to list here!

But, as we enter 2014, the number of smartphones, tables, hybrid laptops etc… are increasing at such a rate that it’s already the “First Screen” – that means your brand, your products, your services and your applications are being assessed and viewed on screen sizes that start around 3.5” (diagonal) with pixel dimensions of 320x480 (for iPhone 3Gs – yes they’re still in use) The average wait / dwell time is around 15s once your page loads on these devices (and that figure is relatively conservative – as I’ve also read 7.5s as a key wait time) – so if we average this out and say 11s;

  • What does your site look like and react when viewed on these screen sizes?
  • Worse yet, what if you rely on web sales, what is your commerce transaction experience like?
  • Can users actually browse, view, select, personalize, purchase & track all from their smartphone or tablet – with consummate ease and reflect your brand experience? 

Of course you have options:

  1. “lets build an app”  - was the war cry that started in 2008 and in some instances, continues today, where the perception was it is the ‘easiest’ option to just build an app, and within this, try to rectify the mistakes that were present (or aware) on the website today, by creating an app, all the issues disappear…. errr maybe NOT!
  2.” – by branching off the code to sniff out that your site is being accessed by one of those new fangled ‘i’ devices, meant that at least you were trying to live up to the expectation of the end user, however you now had additional issues, such as keeping your x. version in sync with your main site. Sounded like the silver bullet to some, to web platforms (especially ecommerce) by adding the m. prefix into their platform meant that they answered the call from their licensees who demanded a “mobile” version.
  3. However Google prefers a single URL to crawl and index, rather than being directed to duplicate content, stored on hybrid URLS, but a lot of developers failed to add the ‘Vary HTTP header’ and also used the “user-agent” detection that isn’t optimum as the user-agent list needs to be managed, maintained and updated regularly as not to mis-identify the type of user-agent accessing the content. 

Google posted its configuration recommendations of which its preferred method is, of course responsive web: “Sites that use responsive web design, i.e. sites that serve all devices on the same set of URLs, with each URL serving the same HTML to all devices and using just CSS to change how the page is rendered on the device.”

So how do we class Responsive Web Design? Or maybe I should restate that question to read, what do I think responsive web design is, apart from a web standard methodology, it should be a web experience, predicated around multi-touch, personalized to the end users device environment and specifications, and perform, react and respond accordingly.

I always like to add the multi-touch element to my understanding as the majority of smartphone’s interactivity is predominantly touch, so by designing the elements from a touch starting point, will alleviate any potential “button” or “icon” configuration issues further down the line. Think smartphone multi-touch as the design starting point, and as the design scales up to the desktop experience, it will have no impact, in fact it will start to create a more simple and intuitive interface as you will find that there is more “white space” and less clutter around your design.

However, by deciding to build responsive, do realize that it will take longer than the usual “knocking up a few web pages” in HTML5, as the core of work will be on CSS3 and the content resizing must be done on the server side and not on the device side. This in itself can create some technical challenges and issues, as described earlier, some of these applications are still only web 1.0 compatible and to bring them kicking and screaming to a responsive web design will take time and effort to complete. The fine detail in designing the front- end will require different thinking, its no longer about application out, but end user experience IN. The change is not what is derived and driven from the application or software stack, but in fact think again about that end user landing on that page from their smart-device and working from that point.

So as your 2013 year ends, and you review and look at what your key needs and requirements are for 2014, especially around your web properties, check your web logs for types of devices that are hitting your website, look at the dwell time and number of pages each unique user surfaces and interacts with, and look at what that conversion rate is through those devices, look at your holiday campaigns and view the click through rate and from what device, and was your website device ready?

A recent eMarketer study showed that “consistent customer experience across all channels” was ‘very important’ to 84% of respondents, and with more and more studies coming out on how companies are directing their customers through their various digital marketing methods to their campaigns and content, there is a real gap between the companies that understand and get the first screen experience and those that are struggling. Direct Marketing News reported on Adobe’s mobile email scorecard study of email campaigns, and the results were eye opening for a lot of companies, even more so for those weren’t listed, but already know that they have this issue.

Think 2014, think responsive, think you’re going to need some help?  

Maybe you should drop us line and let’s begin…

Media Industry Still Too Scared to Push the Envelope…

As Halloween is approaching, I thought I’d write about a scary subject, the future of the media industry and that as we approach 2014, it STILL can’t move away from it’s traditional & failing model.

Now of course if your a media executive, everything is great with their rose tinted glasses on, yet why is there then an under current and almost inexplicable sense of fear and loathing for the digital evolution. We’ve been here for over a decade and yet it’s still all “early days”, “toes in the water” “monetization of content” and of course for TV companies, “global syndication rights & deals at steak” 

Like most things, all you need to do is look back to history to understand the failing and issues that the greedy label and corporation owners went down and in essence destroyed their business model and have never really recovered since then, and always blame piracy for their failings, but if we look at some of those, “hide behind the cover” moments, you can shout at the screen “BEHIND YOU” and they never listen, but will TV & Movie executives listen…

After being in the music industry and watching with horror the deals and structure of how digital music would be packaged, sold and distributed - we tried to scream at our executives at the time, what they should be doing, but instead they scoffed at Apple and what a tech company was panning to do, as they (and we) had seen these come and go before - for those of us that had insight, vision and always looking forward - we knew that this time was going to be different, Apple were coming with a new product, but this time it was a walled garden experience between the device, the Mac and the software - the design was unique and would be a hit with everyone young and old - and the key element was the fact that, as Apple stated. “would just work seamlessly” and it did…

So, before we dissect the rest of the media industry,  it’s worth pointing out actually where they went wrong and what the strategy SHOULD have been that probably would have saved the music industry and if we were to rewind back to 2001/2/3, when these deals were being brokered, remember iTunes store didn’t officially launch until April 2003, THIS is what WE, the people in the background were saying. So 10 years ago this is our story and lessons learned…

Digitization of music and the initial DRM (Digital Rights Management (WMDRM,FairPlay…) content of music back in 2003 was, a big blocker - and ultimately one of the contributors to the digital revolt, there had been no DRM in the analogue days and the revenues posted by the record labels proved that Home Taping was in fact, NOT killing the music industry. There were kids all over the world creating tapes, playlists and giving them to friends - in fact had it not been a pen pal in San Francisco who sent a copy of a new band called Metallica, and their ‘No Life ‘Til Leather’ Demo, I would never have started my 30+ year love affair with Metallica, and subsequently in 1983, when I copied Kill ‘Em All for my friends would they in turn rush out and buy this new “thrash” music. THIS was original Social Networking with music and it’s how us Gen X’ers and to some extent the late baby boomers also bought into this, apart from the ones that were now enjoying executive positions on the labels board of Directors, and as such were turned to profits over passion.

So, as we moved into this new uncharted territory of digital music, and powered, in part , by the shiny new Apple iPod released in 2001- listening to MP3 rips of your CDs, but would be post-April 2003 that would be the pivotal moment for digital music with the launch of iTunes Store & 3rd Gen iPod where Gen-X’ers were now thinking about instant gratification and posting their playlists on forums, around the world in discovering new artists as well as posting their own music… there was a slight problem with this idea - DRM! 

Any digital music purchased at this point was wrapped with encryption technology that prevented the sharing of “YOUR” purchased digital music, well of course within the Terms and Conditions of iTunes, includes the little music label caveat “listen to the music on 10 Apple devices and burn playlists seven times. In that little piece of “digital handcuffs” it meant that labels would and could charge you for the same content but on a different format - you may recall the AAC to MP3 conversion that Apple introduced - I too was involved with the greedy record labels during these discussions and there was an “agreement” on how much each label wanted for “another format” of the digital albums that consumers had already purchased, if my memory serves me this would have been around 2008, 7 years after Napster’s initial demise. 

But I’ve jumped ahead here, rewind back to 1999, as the new millennium was dawning, Napster arrived and about the time Apple was buying SoundJam MP, and would a year later rename it to iTunes, there wasn’t much competition we had early iPods, Rio or iriver MP3 players and once you had exhausted your CD collection, or even back in those days your paltry 9Gb hard drive, you wanted more music - of course you had heard about Napster and Peer2Peer technology that would allow you to tap into other music aficionados that had copied their CD collections and were, in effect creating a place to share your collections without sending your tapes via mail. Sounded great, and for 2 years avid music fans were busy swapping and sharing music with new “digital friends” from all over the world - with rare and country specific versions and recordings being heard for the first time - digital life was good - however label legal teams were getting worried, not because of the old catalogue items that were flying around the ether, but suddenly new releases, promos and early versions of artists new music were now arriving on Napster. The aforementioned Metallica, and their I Disappear song in 2001, was case and point, where an unfinished version of the track showed up on torrent feeds - and as the band and management got wind of this, the shit really did hit the fan, as Metallica soon found out that ALL their music was available in MP3 form on Napster. It had been for the previous 2 years, yet nothing was done about it, until I Disappear turned up. The question that was never answered, and never has even today, was that the people responsible for the leak actually had to be industry insiders, for an unfinished version to end up there, it wasn’t a radio DJ, record stores etc… (although this would be the source of further leaks during the proceeding years and tighter DRM controls as well as digital fingerprinting that was added to stem the digital river of “illegal promo” material arriving weeks before the official release) but then the marketing teams realized that by “leaking:” their next release, kicking up a fuss in the media, would push people to talk about it, and even download it, of course some tactics employed were not all tracks were available, a lower bit rate, so sound quality would not be as good as the final release etc…

I always use this next example of where record label owners didn’t get it until it was all too late, Linkin Park’s debut, Hybrid Theory, sold 10million units (RIAA Diamond Certified)  by 2005, 5 years after its initial release, for a debut album was a great achievement, and to Linkin Park’s credit, a lot of this was their touring schedule and the follow up success of Meteora (4 million by Feb ‘04) pushed Linkin Park into the big league and Jeff Blue & Warner Brothers to reap the rewards of a band that were already a local hit in California since late 1990’s (actually under their original name of Hybrid Theory), However, Warners put themselves out as a mouthpiece against Napster, saying that Hybrid Theory had been downloaded illegally 6million times (from BigChampange’s Media Measurement of illegal file shares) and as such part of their case was that they missed out on $60m on potential lost revenue - however as Linkin Park knew and understood - these people were not immediate fans (as they would buy the albums regardless) but if a % of these downloaders liked the music they would come to see the band live, buy a t-shirt or other merchandise (better and more direct revenue for the band rather than the label) - and perhaps buy the next album or see them again on their next tour… either way, there were many other artists that felt the same way on how their music was being discovered and the impact of that would be seen on tour - it was the executives that were less concerned about the tour revenue, and missed sales - especially as CDs were declining and the digital music scene wasn’t making up the difference by 2005…

Of course going back to those early digital music negotiations is what ended up killing the industry - what we saw from further down our Executive chain was something more in line with how we understood the market, the direction and protection of the previous decades of change from vinyl > cassette > mini disc > CD and now digital, what we proposed as part of our negotiations…

  • CD Album price: $15.99, Digital Download $5.00, Single Track $0.75 
  • The album would be the complete album, you couldn’t buy individual tracks (apart from the single release(s)) 
  • All formats would be in MP3 format
  • Download would include additional PDF with artwork and weblinks to band / label sites for “further discovery” and to get artists & labels to understand digital better

Of course, this was shot down in flames and as such the industry is now as we see it today: broken, beaten and scarred! Scarred from the point of view that the public wasn’t stupid and could see the greed behind what the labels were trying to do, matching the output of a physical piece to the digital file distribution that was one and done from their perspective, compared to the manufacturing and physical processing of the CD/Cassette/Vinyl days… silly mistake and easily rectified, but not in retrospect, it had to be done at the outset.

So what has this got to do with the other media companies, simple digital is a faster, more convenient way to consume and immerse within your product, service etc… 

TV companies are dinosaurs that are reliant on their half a century business model and rely on this in the digital age - advertising, syndication rights & licensing models and sell through… Netflix, Hulu, Amazon et al have paved the way showing the old guard that you can do great programming and global distribution, while still including the old school models while they still exist (DVD sales, TV syndication) but the key here is that it was digital FIRST, not last, as others see and hope. The days of controlled media is coming to an end and the new internet upstarts are showing that by putting all 14 episodes online at the same time DOES work (think back to entire album vs individual tracks) Showtime & HBO are looking carefully at this, tied by their parent company (CBS & Time Warner respectively) and concerned by what the impact will be on the satellite and cable providers - therefore the impact of having a subscription only app on Roku, AppleTV, TV Apps etc… without having a cable or satellite subscription is that last bastion in breaking down the boundaries - yet it would work, just look at Netflix subscriber numbers to see how people are embracing media on their schedule, than on TV networks, built around advertisers needs. Advertisers and production companies need to be smarter about how they think about funding and in-screen ad experiences - people enjoy going beyond the initial experience - multi-screen experiences are become more interactive and creative. Technology helps enable this by audio queues to keep you on track with the on screen experience and as such you could kit out an entire cast of House of Cards from Macy’s and the multi-screen experience allows you to buy the relevant products “as seen on screen” This is just the very tip of what is possible, the only difference is, how you think about it and ultimately, how you embrace it.

Digital is not going away, and the new media evolution has already frustrated viewers with work-arounds to get their fix of Homeland, The Walking Dead, Breaking Bad, Downton Abbey etc… and in essence various flavors of Napster but for TV shows are cropping up daily, are TV executives going to go down the same dark path as their music counterparts - or can they truly learn from the mistakes in the past and deliver a truly digital experience for global audiences that bring in even greater revenues and set themselves up for even more revolutionary experiences later on… Let’s hope that there are visionaries within these organizations that can and will lead the digital evolution in 2014.

and lets not forget the “Golden Ticket” for the movie industry, 4 years on from my blog - still Hollywood can’t let go…

The Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Rolling Stone Cover - Commentary

I’ve not blogged in a while, whether laziness or lack of anything worthwhile to say, but after watching social media explode around the recent decision by Rolling Stone magazine to have Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (or The Boston Bomber) on its iconic cover.


First reaction from a generation who grew up idolizing and coveting the iconic pop culture magazine where heros of past, present and future gaze at us - as we too wish that we were iconic enough to grace the hallowed cover - was disgust!

My initial comment, and still stand behind it, is that Rolling Stone was wrong to have Dzhokhar untouched on the cover (and I’ll explain what I mean by “untouched” later)

Before I had even read the article, I had assumed that RS, and with journalistic respect, Janet Reitman, would try and piece together the events leading up to why a seemingly ordinary university student would turn into one of the most hated men in America. 

Twitter & Facebook exploded with likes, comments, tweets, retweets - and I joined in too, you can’t help but get involved when two distinct worlds collided from iconic pop culture with terrorism -  but 140 characters sometimes just isn’t enough, once you read the entire article - because what Janet raised, and perhaps didn’t dwell on, is that there were some fascinating insights, (to which nothing that happened to Dzhokhar can never justify what he did over the course of those 48hrs, but what led up to that point is something that America faces today, where non-white males in America are persecuted on a daily basis, you have to look and see how supportive or unsupportive immigrants to this country feel and where they turn to, to feel “inclusive”

Now what you can do is look at the circumstances that surrounded Dzhokhar and while we all have family issues and remembering being a teenager - you look to friends, trends, culture, family, relationships and to feel belonging to something - anything!

Janet builds the picture throughout the article, and I’m not going to regurgitate it here, but the essence that I kept taking away while reading, was at the point where Dzhokhar felt let down, where he needed somewhere to turn to, he turned to the only thing that he had left, his identity, his homeland and his religion. What he found when he went looking, as all teenagers do - on the web, was a multimedia onslaught of vitriol and bile about immigrants, about Muslims, that “America” didn’t trust, respect or understand them, “justified” wars and drone attacks killing innocent children in the name of the justified “war on terror”. The fact that the conspiracy nutters such as Alex Jones’ InfoWars was mentioned, shows that while we live in a free world and we have freedom of speech - that Alex Jones’ InfoWars is just as influential in “turning” fragile homegrown terrorists as the Jihadist recruitment tool Inspire, as this affirms to the already confused and vulnerable that yes indeed, America hates you too!

America seems so polarized with religious hatred, ignorance and color blindness and while we see it everyday,  America still keeps its head firmly buried in the sand. We live in a country where young black men are identified as ‘trouble’ for simply being around, and with that they become the pursued, persecuted and killed. Just as immigrants, and especially immigrants that are muslim, also feel that they can not be free to be who they are due to continued religious hatred, also struggle to fit into “normal society” to go about their daily business. White America defends and protects its own rights with so much, that it forgets that almost 50% of America is not white, but have a tendency and history to oppress those that are not white and bow to a smilar god.

So let me sum up what I mean, Jahar is about to go to trial with all the damning evidence against him that he, and his brother, committed those heinous acts in Boston and, if /when found guilty of his crime, takes his just deserved punishment. The reasons why or how he “turned” while not applicable to a jury or to the case, must leave something in the air about how America continues to defend its war on terror and why America’s mass media continue to force feed that Muslims are evil and a threat to America - until this religious hatred is eradicated  we continue to run the risk of continuing to turn other confused and vulnerable teenagers over to where a similar approach, but this time ant-american propaganda, aligns with what they have lived through and that to them seems like a better option.

So, about the cover, of course it is supposed to signify that here is a harmless looking student, how could he turn into the Boston Bomber - and entice you to pick up a copy and read for yourself how he turned from an integrating immigrant, into a insular Jihadist - but instead of the Jim Morrison style cover, some artistic licence could have been given over by adding the “cracks” to image, to the downfall of how America continues its perceived ”persecution of muslims” and as such could have created something more akin to the story rather than what it was seen as, glorification of the Boston Bombing suspect. In contrast Inspire also had a picture of his brother, Tamerlan, with his Americanized sun glasses on, looking cool - a role model for Jihadist Terrorists in the middle east, and beyond. You can be sure that the same is being said about the Rolling Stone cover as well. 

Small business you would think must find a better way to sell their services. This is the type of Junk mail that still drops into American households daily. Looking at the imagery here the logo is fuzzy & pixelated. The “showroom” images are blurry, not sure about the 4 images (of which one looks like a dubious stain) Who knows what Hunter Douglas is but their logo is also so fuzzy you can’t tell what they do. They seem to take all credit cards - so any need to show a poorly stuck on graphic. This company would have paid a premium to be on the front cover, seems a shame that so many small business owners will accept poor quality for their business. Maybe it’s just me - but I’d rather look at a website for better images, testimonials and location map from Google - probably cost the same and is not a one time only ad!

{Follow Up} Why Entertainment Industry still has Digital all wrong - Midem 2012

Thanks to all of you that have emailed me regarding my post, I do enjoy the emails that I receive from around the world - and there were a number of questions posed that I decided to add as a supplement Blog post to the original post from yesterday…

First off, questions around the iTunes image that was posted…

I used to live in the UK and probably spent a fair amount of UK ££££ on the iTunes store over there - I had a different email address and as such used to flip back and forth between my UK & US iTunes account where sometimes I wanted to download a specific UK only release, and as such I used to be able to do this. OK, I still can - but since Apple released iTunes Match and ‘Purchased’ - linkes your MAC address to your account, and as I did, download any older purchases from my UK account effectively ”LOCKS” your MAC address to your email address for 90 Days - so for 3 months I could not redownload or use my MacBook Air for iTunes Match (until today that is!)

Now here is the other issue, as you may recall, file formats from Google Music proved to be a slight issue, with iTunes even having the iTunes format causes an issue, as iTunes Match will not allow ANY of my UK purchased music to be added to my Match account. This may have been an early blip, and as I write just now, my library is being indexed and has 60% UK purchased music on it, so perhaps I’ll have more information by the time I’m finished this post.

This is again one of the issues that Apple, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Rhapsody etc… face is that in our ever shrinking global marketplace, Geo Locating IP stores, is that consumers of digital content, may have already purchased and owned content from Asia, Europe, Australasia & North America etc… and their digital collections will vary from store to store depending on availability - so to stop or prevent other countries content from being stored / managed or shared is quite frankly wrong. The consumer is not tied to regional or territory constraints, therefore why should an entertainment reseller or cloud storage company decide if you can or can not access YOUR content from their servers. I think we will see more cases like this as the Entertainment industry still tries to hold on to its 90 year old release format for movies and its 50 year old recording industry format. 

With the last few remaining big box retailers of Entertainment products about to vanish into the history books, and stores such as Wal*Mart, Target, Best Buy reducing their store footprint and in some cases removing physical Entertainment products completely - digital become more and more relevant to the end user - but the consumption and cost will play a big part in what happens next - as well as ability to transfer, move, share, play and use the content - the industry is not ready for that change…

Some people also didn’t realize that Spotify, had a device limit even on the Premium subscription - actually Spotify and Daniel Ek negotiated a worse deal in 2008 that we did in 2005, 2006 & 2008 - where like Apple we had 5 devices linked to an account (crazy, I know, I have 6 devices around me now that I have to leave one off being associated to my account) Spotify could only mange 3. Daniel was faced with mounting criticism form within the industry that subscription model just doesn’t work - users don’t understand the “library” concept nature, hate the re-sync of the device every 30 days - DRM directive from labels - (concerned of course that they will run off with 15Gb of music on their iPhone for one monthly payment)  else they lose access to all the tracks and artists hate the $0.001 per stream of their tracks! So when Spotify launched over here in the US, Rhapsody & Napster already had a subscription plan that wasn’t setting the world on fire nor setting any real revenue goals that could be sustained. Spotify was greeted with, well muted response, but still managed to get a number of subscribers on their service (albeit on a trial basis) and 2012 will start to see teh tru value and number of consumers that “can’t do without” their music subscription.

Finally a point that was raised from one of my readers in the UK was around Netflix and how does the service match the US, as I mentioned content and quality of content in my blog!

I think any Netflix or Love Film user in UK will find that once you move into an “all you can eat” model for a low monthly fee, the studios are not keen to deliver their prize content to these services. As per the above with record labels and Spotify, teh movie studios already have deals in place with the massive TV/Cable/Satellite companies on how their movies are rotated and shared around. So there will be a limit to the number of titles that are available for instant / on demand streaming - as ABC or CBS may have the broadcast rights to show ‘x’ number of titles from Warners for Q1 2012 - therefore Netflix etc.. will need to “take down” that content (depending on the deals stuck) in order to be compliant with the TV broadcasters, as they will see this as competitive and harmful for their advertisers as they will not be able to sell the ad space as easily if the title is freely available to all 24million Netflix subscribers. 

In the end it is sometimes easier, just to avoid sending the titles that are in constant heavy rotation between the television networks, and therefore have less Quality AAA titles on these services. So now you move into the scenario I described in my blog, where a family, couple or individual has Netflix, VuDu, Amazon, iTunes and is looking to stream a movie for the evening (notice I said stream, rather than “PURCHASE”) and after endless searches and flicking between services can not find the specific movie that they’d like to see - a simpel search into Google returns a list of services that seem to have the movie of their choice. From outset it looks like a “nice” website, looks professional and requires a few clicks and now the movie file is downloading… (just an added point, when doing research on this back in 2009, we found that over 70% deleted their “illegal” movie after watching it, to free up space, or that they wouldn’t need to watch it again, and if they did they could just download it again)

Here is where SOPA/PIPA etc… will kick in and have the site shut down, however as I mentioned, another 20 sites will still have the file as its mirrored and available. The other element is the consumer habit of streaming movies rather than owning them -  there has been a long debate around the differences between music buying and movie renting - i wont go into it in detail, but you are more likely to listen to an album or song multiple times than watch the same move more than twice in one year (once at the cinema, and once on another medium) and thats why there has always been the ongoing issue between the two industries.

CONTENT…CONTENT…CONTENT… by making your content available and searchable, the modern day 21st Century consumer wants instant gratification - an with the web, someone, somewhere will be able to deliver that content. But don’t think that the average consumer hasn’t tried to find it through all legal means necessary (again the same survey showed that over 95% looked for their content on legal sites before vanishing into the mirky world of illegal downloading)

So the debate WILL continue, revenues will continue to fluctuate (but still in decline for physical media) and digital will not deliver the revenue gap - until the traditional “physical” models are broken and embrace a true digital media strategy that accepts a more consumption based model - then I’ll still be writing these blogs for years to come… 

Entertainment Industry still has digital all wrong - Midem 2012

With Midem  only two weeks away, the South of France will again, be a stage for the music industry to work itself into a frenzy to figure out the best route forward into discovering how to rescue itself from the brink of its own self-importance destruction. I’ve attended, spoke & networked through many of these events in the past, and looking at the list of attendees I’m not sure that there will be much success in pushing forward any new ideas or initiatives. So while, I have been asked to attend again this year, at the moment, I will not be in Cannes for the weeklong extravaganza, I’ll certainly comment on the proceedings…


Since I first attended the event where digital was really an emerging format – we had the DRM fights and battles back in those days – where we had Microsoft and their WMA DRM and Apple’s AAC Fair Play – the mere mention of delivering MP3’s to the masses was cause for us to be ejected from the building by any of the labels.


Back then, if you were downloading music, you were indeed classed as a “potential pirate of copyright material, and should be treated as such” strong words from one the worlds biggest record labels…


Many years later – well we’re at the same juxtaposition where we, the consumers, may have won the battle and rights to have an open format, free of digital rights management (MP3), so we were free to use the content that we have purchased anyway that we wanted to. However rather than Peer2Peer services that exchange millions of tracks a day (as well as being used by record labels to legally “leak” their artists new release) we are seeing the advent of the new “cloud” sharing services – both legal and illegal.


I wrote a blog piece on this back in 2009 where Governments, lobbyists, labels and ISPs were trying to figure out how to stem this “disease” where copyrighted material was being distributed on a global epidemic scale across the P2P networks. This was easy for ISPs to block the P2P traffic going through their networks, and could be opened up easily for legitimate use by companies and consumers – by simply adding a disclaimer or T&Cs that stipulate “that by opening the P2P ports on your gateway you will abide to…….. “

ISPs were not interested in doing this, would take $$$ to enable some automated scripts on their BSS/OSS – and then their would be the throttling of data where ISPs like to show how much data is crossing their networks in order to raise prices to both business and consumers in order to keep up with the bandwidth requests.

Also and more importantly, using P2P and in particular Bit Torrent, both Twitter and Facebook use Bit Torrent to distribute content to their main server farms and thus speed up their appearance of real time. However, back in the day when we were discussing the ability for ISPs to block the protocol Twitter and Facebook were not even invented –so that door is closed for now. File formats from torrents were also discussed, as a way to enable or block the traffic and potential illegal files.


Fast forward to 2012, and even today we hear more from Governments, labels, lobbyists etc.. where SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and extension to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) where the rule of thumb to block IPs that a company claims to infringe their copyright(s) – this is happening now in Holland where BREIN (Dutch acronym for “Protection Rights Entertainment Industry Netherlands”) are censoring domains and IPs against the Pirate Bay, but legislation, like SOPA, actually opens the door for continued web monitoring & censorship. I’ll keep the in’s and outs of SOPA / BREIN for another blog – I digress…back to the “digital” Entertainment industry…


As both a practitioner and consumer of digital media and entertainment, I’ve seen both sides of the coin (or dollar) where I’ve worked with companies to help the monetization of their content, how to ignite and realize their long tail, defining the best customer experience online and offline. Through to an “early adopter” and consumer of all things digital, I had a better insight into what worked, what didn’t and what the triggers were for people to hit illegal downloading sites.


So recent developments from Amazon, Google, Apple et al with their cloud services and Spotify finally launching in the US (although having been a Spotify subscriber since 2008, it was about time) however there are still some fundamental issues that remain from an end consumer experience, that in essence, isn’t really the fault of Google, Netflix… but actually the music and movie companies that are providing their content. So lets have a look at the issues faced by consumers and why this is one of the reasons to drive people to illegal sites for their content – either on purpose or through search…


First off the newly launched Apple Match, $24.99 per year and have your music in the “cloud” – a few teething issues with versioning showed up early on where Apple’s method was to store, say Coldplay’s Mylo Xloto and attribute user IDs to the file, which made sense as one file is all that is required to distribute to millions. However, if you had a different version of Mylo Xloto for example, lets say you purchased a Japanese CD version that had different mixes, but you ripped the CD as Mylo Xloto, the version that Apple would deliver would be the standard US release. It’s all about metadata and leaving that up to the end user to be aware of how to attribute or add the correct metadata. Which isn’t going to be that great an experience based on research that we did back in 2006, where there were a lot of iPods and MP3 players that were ripped offline, and had no more information that Artist and Album – even the tracks would be missing – so identifying these from end users libraries is going to be a challenge.


Google music indexes your catalogue and at least uploads your material and ripped tracks. However there are issues with DRM. Which makes me think that they are not fully matching and indexing against previously stored material. The screenshot below shows issues with older Apple DRM files, that I decided NOT to pay the additional 29c to upgrade.



However from a user experience I am now missing over 200 of my previously purchased tracks – assuming 99c per track – that’s over $200 in purchased music that is not available to me on the new cloud services. Google does state that it can not support all file formats, but we have to assume that the are not storing your actual files, and as such should be running a different service that is a mix of user generated content against their existing streaming library?


Finally each of the services from iTunes to Netflix to Spotify all lock and handcuff you to a set number of devices. After working on 4 various music sites and negotiating the deals with the labels, I know that this is a stipulation from the labels and studios themselves that want to limit the number of devices to an account. Why? Well you can thank Napster and college campuses for this as one ID would allow multiple users (sometimes hundreds) to log in and access the content that was available against that one ID. The premise from the studios and labels, again is that YOU are potential criminals and will be treated as such – where they think that by using, say Spotify, 20 friends all pay 50c each per month and all use the service rather than what the labels want – which is that if 20 of you want to access the music then they expect $10 each therefore $200 revenue than just the $10 that they would be getting.

The argument here, is that the Napster issue was before iPhone, iPad, Android etc…so the number of connected devices was limited back then – fast forward to today, and at the last count – in my home alone we have over 25 web connected devices that, in essence can connect to all the above mentioned services, that I pay for, to stream all the content that I have purchased – BUT… that is the issue, that while households have expanded their digital devices and connect more and more to the web for content – the music industry, movie studios and TV networks have not moved an inch towards this, as they see this as detrimental to their business models – they have no cohesive digital business models and rely solely on the rights management that the music industry imposed back in 2003, almost 10 years ago – which is no longer workable or valid.


And its with this mistrust that we see Netflix and their mediocre digital streaming library not expand to what consumers are after – so the average consumer will search for a specific title, not on Netflix, they try iTunes, not there either – I’ll search Google – and before you know it, they are all aboard the Pirate Bay and the MPAA now come knocking on their door for illegal downloading of content – so we come full circle again, and this my friends is where SOPA comes into play – because Mr & Mrs Jones’ family can not find Pinocchio to watch on “family movie night” dad searches and finds it on a linked site that links back to Pirate Bay – and lo and behold the family movie night is complete and MPAA has a pending lawsuit against the Jones’


What SOPA does not realize that while Pirate Bay may be the initial vehicle for illegal content, by closing the door on that, 20 more will pop up and from that 200 affiliate sites will connect to it and then 2,000,000 more will share and link – trying to plug those gaps is a nigh on impossible task – unless you control the global internet, or you guard and control the American firewall – which if SOPA, BREIN etc.. are trying in essence to do – why? Because of lobbyists and payments from the industry to politicians to enforce these acts, without having ANY understanding of the root cause or issues faced.


So will this be discussed at Midem? Of course not, agendas will be set and new ideas that the industry will either adopt and buy ( anyone) or destroy… I’ve seen many great ideas vanish because it didn’t fit into the industry’s view of acceptable business models. The few of us at Midem that have always tried to change the belief and ideas that the Entertainment industry must embrace and explore new digital business models are always faced with criticism, skepticism and big dollop of fear, that if any of these “crazy” new ideas get out there their industry will be destroyed… as if its not on its knees just now, you only need to look at poor old EMI and the destructive path that Guy Hands took it – I heavily and publicly criticized Guy for his direction and strategy and that he was not embracing the future – well look what happened there…

Content is still very much King, and while the digital content is probably more like the Queen, to make way for findability, searchability and discoverability with relevant metadata, tagging and relationships to help you discover and unearth more of a deeper entertainment experience – the lack of quality and availability is what’s really hurting the digital content space today – add to that the device limiting chains of a bygone ghost and you can start to see just why the digital business models of today – don’t really work all that well for anyone!

2012 Search: Who will find you & how?

In 2011 Google did the unthinkable or for a lot of people, the “about time” by dropping their all new Panda algorithm that would change the old school way that it had spidered and indexed sites previously. This in part was a pre-cursor for Google+ and more social results, but more importantly to weed out and drop the spam and poor content that seemed to endlessly end up in your search results.
For the traditional Google end user, business as usual really, apart from some small inclusions from social sites that were now “near time” , for businesses this was the beginning of the end of their traditional SEO strategy and something that they would indeed need to sort out and think smarter around how their products, services and content was now going to be displayed to the Google global audience. 
The ‘Farmer’ update to Panda then just added another layer (or kick) to the already confuddled businesses and the SEO market suddenly looked out of touch as they tried to react and work with their clients to help them through Google’s new search rules and algorithms.
I have met a number of SEO “gurus” over the years, who quite frankly were not gurus, and some of their techniques, strategies and implementations were exactly what Google were cracking down on, and with mobility taking a firm grip on 2011 – Google needed to act to end these charlatans and poor content from rising above the crowd because of some hacks and tricks to fool Google into raising its ranking higher than it should be. 
What is fundamental throughout all of this, is what I’ve been saying and discussing with clients for many many years, create great compelling and accurate content that is multi-dimensional in context and depth. Ensure that whomever is writing your HTML code understands the need for clean and concise code and never forget the ‘holy grail’ which is the metadata structures, accuracy and semantic nature of the content as we start to see and understand how end users are now “asking” for rather than searching using Siri and a few other voice related services that are trying to compete alongside Apple’s still Beta Siri. Lets not forget some others such as Amazon’s Flow where rather than typing or saying  - you point and shoot. This is the additional layer where your product images need to be clear, concise and have multiple angles (as well as user generated) that will allow  not only Flow, but some of the others from Bing, Google etc… can better identify those sneakers that you saw someone wear down at The Embarcadero.
Microsoft & Yahoo combine forces with their search technologies and online ad marketing machines to attempt to plug the gaps that Panda has created, but with some added advantages that AOL continue to fail and flounder in the online world, but combining the old web guard of Microsoft, Yahoo & AOL may have some insights that Google may miss while pushing their new initiatives forward.
After Facebook dumped Microsoft’s Ad Network in order to server up their own ads there was some criticism from the Facebook user groups that Zuckerberg & Co were playing the $$$ over quality content as most of the ads seemed to be somewhat sleazy and the ads were actually not that relevant to the end user and in a lot of cases just judging by the ad revenue thus far from Facebook, its merely a blip on the radar. However what it does give Facebook is mapping web connection points in a social environment to gain at least some decent insights into what works and sticks from a social perspective, we will see how Open Graph pans out in 2012 as it moves out of Beta. Unlike Facebook, Google+ doesn’t require you to be logged in while you search theinterweb galaxy – but I’m sure in 2012 Google will ‘encourage’ you to stay logged in that will enable additional data mining and connections between, circles, content, searches and browsing that will allow it to even better understand how social works in a content search & share perspective.
But… as always everyone’s goal is the same – that anyone that is looking, searching or asking for something wants to have their query returned quickly with a greater degree of accuracy and enough top level information at the point where they can make their next decision point simply and easy without having to scroll through multiple pages or have to re-type, re-say or re-shoot your search. Mobility and the device will be the major factor in 2012, and judging by the web traffic in the US over the 2011 holiday period – the audience is definitely now there, but looking at the mobile experience especially search – companies are failing and missing the bigger (or should that be smaller) picture and how important mobile is now to their potential audience.
Time to go back to the drawing board and map out how to create a truly omni-channel and seamless experience for your audience and more importantly how do people find your ‘stuff’ from both inside your site and through the mainstream search engines – how does your company fair? 
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