Bleedin’ vs Leading edge

For the last few days I’ve been playing a new game on my phone. Nothing exciting there really, games have been on phones since Snake (Sam was a master on her old Nokia 6110). The game itself isn’t that original either, basically it’s capture the flag. So why the title?

Several years ago I was the Business Manager for an education technology charity in Bristol called Futurelab. One of their flagship projects, completed before I joined, was very much touted as an example of leading edge technology in learning situations.

Savanah involved teams of school kids, running around their playing field pretending to be lions on the African Savanah. They had to capture territory, attack other animals for food, and so forth. All this was achieved with HP PDA’s, GPS units in rucksack, and a not inconsiderable army of tech support from HP Labs in Bristol who camped out in the school to manage the field trial! An amazing idea, but even if the legal challenges over copyright and who actually owned the idea could have been sorted out – it was a looong way from being implementable, let along a profitable proposition back in late-2002. This was bleeding edge, proof-of-concept stuff.

Flash forward 10 years, and I’m running (ok, mostly walking) around Bristol city centre as part of a team, trying to capture territory, attacking the other team’s bases, collecting energy, and so forth. Location by GPS (check), real time updates (check), massively complex backstory (check, no I’ve not paid much attention to it, but then I’m not sure the kids playing Savanah really paid that much attention to the accompanying natural history lesson). So far, so 2002.

However, this is on my fairly  standard Android smart phone. I don’t have a rucksack with batteries & ancillary equipment; and the game is being played on a global level, has real time chat with team mates, a funky Alternate Reality Map overlay, and is freely available (though its closed Beta at the moment).

Screen shot from Google Play

Welcome to 2012, welcome to Ingress!

But hang on – if it’s free, where’s the business model? Well Niantic Labs are part of Google, so just as the game is being played on a global level, so the business model is part of a larger strategy.

Players are uploading photos of real world places trying to get them nominated as ‘portals’, giving Google masses of additional data to crunch into a 3D view of the world at street level. Most of the teams have set up local groups within one of the two global factions dictated by the game; and most of these are on G+. I’ve not used G+ so much since, well, ever.

Of course we’re also sending our locations back to the big G (under coded ID’s, but since you use your Google ID to get a game ID it’s a 1-2-1 look up), so Google has more info on where the popular places are (most of the portals are in city centres). Plus it knows we like AR games, mobile devices, etc, so I expect to see a shift in ads being served to me shortly. It’ll be interesting to see if the different factions report seeing different ads! 🙂

Would I pay for in-game gear? Possibly. Running out of ammo just as you’re about to capture the other team’s flag, could trigger a purchase (depending on price point obviously). Being able to upgrade a flag to capture most of Bristol might be worth splashing the Google Wallet about.

At the moment, there’s little incentive spend as there’s no defined ‘end-game’ or winning state. So there’s no sense of urgency, however, that could change with a couple of lines of code.

What ever Google’s longer term plan is (if there even is one at this point), its going to be fun seeing what happens; and playing along obviously!

So: Resistance or Enlightenment – you choose!

And if you’re not sure about the bleedin’ title – watch this!

Ignite Bristol 3

After the excellent Ignite Bristol #2, I wanted to have a go myself. I decided not to present anything connected to the ‘day job’ and thought that Octopush would make a great topic.

Ignite is a beautifully simple concept;

“Enlighten us, but make it quick”

Specifically 5 minutes quick. And you have 20 slides, that automatically advance every 15 seconds, whether you’re ready or not!

Octopush was an easy choice. Its not that widely know so I’d be enlightening folks about a new sport to them, and it has great entertainment potential! This is a dissection of how my talk was put together.

Any presentation takes much longer to put together than deliver. I had a broad outline for the talk fairly quickly but making sure I had enough to fill 5 minutes, without over running or leaving … long … pauses … took a lot longer.

There needed to be a gentle introduction, assuming no one in the audience had ever heard of the sport. I wanted to give a bit of history, talk about the equipment and the basic rules. In the end I didn’t really cover the rules, but I think there was enough other information, and some entertainment.

I had a great title that I borrowed from Sam’s undergraduate psychology dissertation “Octopush: Whether ’tis nobler to push lead’. We’d just had the World Cup and Paul the “Psychic’ octopus was all over the news so that was a good opening slide. I was doubly lucky (though Paul was less so) as he died on the Tuesday before the talk. That required a bit of a last minute re-write but actually made the introduction much smoother.

For some time I then had a slide referencing the Shakespearean aspect of the title, but somehow that never quite worked for me in this context. It was only when I went back to the slides after putting them aside for a couple of weeks that I decided I really wasn’t happy. I took another angle on the ‘pushing lead’ and found the Pencil Museum and that gave me my second introduction slide and a good link into the fact that the lead I was pushing was a hockey puck, specifically underwater hockey or octopush. So that was slides 1 & 2 sorted out, though slide 2 as shown was almost the last one into the deck.

I wanted to have some humour but I know that I’m not a natural ‘funny man’ so decided to let my slides do the jokes and play the straight man. The first picture of an octopush game, taken by me at the Student Nationals in 2009, was intentionally not a great picture but gave the first ‘joke’ of not being a great spectator sport. Slide 3; and getting into my stride.

Slight aside; the guy that introduced me to Octopush way back in Gibraltar (Steve Warren) now runs the fantastic Ocean Optics.

The pretty picture of the fishes was a good ‘filler’ slide to introduce some of the history, but I couldn’t get everything into 15 seconds so put in the diver shot & made a joke about UK diving at the same time. The exact invention of octopush is genuinely lost in time (though it is mentioned in the club’s magazine which is how we know the year). However, I was introduced to octopush by pushing a diving weight around with a snorkel so figured that was a good story to go with. Slides 4, 5, 6 & 7 sorted.

Finding the photo of players in 1977 was a godsend as it made a great link and showed some of the older kit.  I could then talk a bit about the modern kit. The image of the Dacor Bandit mask was one I’d used over 10 years ago when I first did the Plymouth University club’s website, its still a great mask and one of the lowest volume ones on the market. I can’t remember where the ‘wet poodle’ bit came from but I do remember using my Dad’s Jet Fins and they were as heavy and hopeless as described. However, the reason they’re not used in Octopush is more to do with their metal buckles than anything else. Slides 8, 9, 10 (halfway), 12, and 13 sorted.

And no, I haven’t forgotten slide 11 (the four pucks in a row). That one came quite a bit later when I realised that I hadn’t found a decent photo of their evolution. The octopush puck, along with the bat, is genuinely unique to the sport and represents a significant part of what makes the modern sport. Officially the pucks belong to Sam Harding (@samharding), I ‘m not much of a collector. 🙂

Fortunately, there are some really good photos of Octopush on the web and I was able to find a couple that show how the game is played at international level. The bit about having around 20 seconds to do something useful with the puck is true, and something that most people don’t believe. I’d found the closing shot of the puck flying towards the camera that would give a strong visual finish. Slides 15, 16 and 20 sorted.

The eagled eyed will have noticed that I’m still a few slides short!

I had lots of content, but not many laughs. The ‘Answer List’ was something that Sam & I put up on the Plymouth University Octopush Club website back in 1998/99 and I think was originally taken from a newsletter. I wanted to have a shot of me playing to prove that this wasn’t completely made up, there aren’t any decent in-water shots but the shower photo does the trick I think. That gave me 18 & 19.

I was still a couple of slides short, but hadn’t really talked about the game or its rules so pulled slide 14 in as a link from the kit description to the great photos of game play.

Finding a picture of a puck ‘in flight’ was a nightmare! I ended up with a couple of YouTube videos and screen grabbing them, paused at the appropriate moment. I eventually had nearly a dozen frame grabs with blurred orange, green or pink blobs on them. As I mentioned in the talk, orange is medium hardness, you also have green for the hardest coatings and pink for the softest (though its still coating a metal core so ‘soft’ is a relative term). I had my final slide (17), and a new respect for video editors!

So that gave me my slide deck and basic framework. A couple of trials identified where I had too much to say, and overran, and where the long pauses were. Fortunately, I had begun this some time before the event so was able to put everything to one side for a couple of weeks and come back refreshed to put together the talk as delivered (mostly as prepared) on 31st October. Right until Sunday afternoon I was refining the talk and making small changes.

Was it worth it?

Definitely!

But what do you think?

Improv concerts & what social media can learn from them

Yesterday evening I attended the live premier of a BBC Concert Orchestra & Festival of Nature commissioned concert. (Disclosure: Science City Bristol are sponsoring the Science Cafes @ Festival of Nature, but I’ve not been involved in this concert, other than attending.)

The performance was in two halves; a short sequence of clips from the BBC Natural History Unit with the orchestra playing live, short chat with Q&A and then a repeat performance. Why two performances, and what’s it got to do with social media?

Well, the orchestra wasn’t the full BBC Concert Orchestra, 5 members of the orchestra and a composer were joined by 24 young people from schools across Bristol. They met for the first time on Tues, worked for 3.5 days and gave the performance on the Friday. They hadn’t seen the film clips beforehand, and they hadn’t played as an orchestra before. They also didn’t have any written musical score at the performance; it was all played from memory and partly improvised. And it sounded fantastic, both times!

December 28, 2009 by manning999

The key came during the Q&A. When they first watched the film and asked the young people about the music to go with it, there were lots of suggestions about a cymbal crash here, some flute there, and so on. Lots of focus on the individual instruments and notes, but no ‘bigger picture’. The first thing the composer and the BBC Concert Orchestra’s Learning Team did was to re-view the films and talk about that bigger picture, the emotions they evoked or wanted to bring out, the sense of majesty (Humpback Whales) or playfulness (Giant Otters).

Once they had those broad messages and the overall framework of the pieces, then they began to experiment with chord sequences and harmonies. By all accounts it was a very egalitarian approach with ideas being voted on, and continuous refinement selecting or disposing of small parts that worked or didn’t.

In the final performance, most of the music was played from memory, but there were still flashes of inspiration by individual orchestra members, and because they’d gone through that development process and the ground rules were clearly laid out, those individual flourishes could be included without grandstanding or throwing everyone else into confusion. They were all listening intently to each other throughout the performance, as well as having great fun.

You can see the whole thing (well a recording of the concert mixed with the films) on the BBC Big Screen in Millennium Square as part of the Festival of Nature (12-13 June 2010).

Business as music

The parallels with some types of business are quite striking. They had a CEO that was clearly in control, and he empowered this team to do what they do best. They worked on a shared vision and understanding of the broad task at hand, and willingly contributed ideas to other sections if it made the overall performance better. In the actual performance they were working to agreed boundaries but within those boundaries there was freedom to do what was best at that particular instant in time.

Social media as music

Too often people talk about social media in the same way as the young people first approached the films. We could use twitter to send out little updates, and that would link to our Facebook page, and we can pull in our blog rss, and mash up with a Google map, and…

Twitter is not a Strategy

There needs to be a bigger picture. Even if all you’re doing it trying out these tools to see how they work for you or your business, you need to have some thought as the purpose. You also have to have some thought as to the socially acceptable way of doing things. The musical rules that the BBC used were a based on a heptatonic scale, rather than the pentatonic scale. Neither is right or wrong, but you can’t do both at once (at not without calling it ‘experimental’). 🙂

There’s nothing wrong with breaking a few rules, that’s almost the definition of being a stand-out excellent entrepreneur / artist / individual. But you really need to know which rules you’re breaking and to what purpose.

Of course, with social media the rules aren’t quite the same as in other forms of social interaction, and as new tools come along they can mutate. Fortunately one of the rules that has completely reversed is lurking, allowing you to observe behaviour before you dive in.

Once you have that bigger purpose, knowing what the rules of participation are, then you can choose which tools / instruments will deliver the required performance.

Plans are worthless. Planning is essential. – Winston Churchill, Dwight D. Eisenhower, & many others

And of course things won’t go according to plan, but that’s where having the clear shared sense of purpose means that people can act without having to fight through layers of bureaucracy. And they can act honestly as human beings rather than PR spin-doctors or script-reading robots.

What’s your social media strategy? Listen, plan, listen, act, repeat; or deliver a stream of ‘messages’ across all channels in a blitzkrieg approach?

Outside interests

In addition to our various ‘day jobs’, Sam and I also maintain a number of outside interests including various catering engagements.

Some time ago, Sam began helping with the staff and artist catering backstage at the Cambridge Folk Festival. A couple years ago I joined her for the first time and we were back there again this year. While some of the backstage crew are ‘professional’ (in that they travel around all the festivals doing lighting, sound, etc) most are loyal to the Cambridge Folk Festival and only meet once a year.

Everything starts about a week before the music begins with rigging marquees, setting the infrastructure to cope with the influx over the weekend. We pitched up on Wed when Sam began serving egg & bacon butties from ‘Bob’s Country Bunker’ (a porta-cabin with a hotplate, grill, fridge, and not much else by way of catering equipment). By the end of the day the main catering Marquee was full of the cookers, fryers, hot plates, storage, boilers and serving equipment that is a functioning kitchen; including the kitchen sink! A walk-in fridge and a separate walk-in freezer kept everything nicely chilled, whatever the temperature in the kitchen.

Our routine was then 6am (breakfast served from 7am) until 10pm (last dinner serving at 8pm but people always turned up late); either preparing, cooking, serving, or cleaning up. At it’s peak we served 438 for Sunday dinner in just over 4 hrs (including stragglers).

It wasn’t all hard work. There are four ‘gators’ (4 or 6 wheel drive buggies) that are used to transport the heavier bits of equipment around the site. Tradition is that on the Sunday they hold a fancy dress parade with each of the gators being ‘decorated’ by the Sparky’s (electricians), security, stewards, and artist hospitality teams.

Apologies for the ‘sideways’ view, Qik doesn’t seem to let me rotate the image.

We were also blessed with the. best. toilets. ever.

Update:- someone has asked and no the music isn’t post-production, its piped from the black loudspeaker you can see beside the fluffy hand towel. Without smell-o-vision you can’t tell but the hand-wash was a fragrant lavender.

It’s also worth noting that these are on a trailer, just like other portable loos (only posher)! 🙂

It isn’t all festival food.

My sister was also over recently from Boston with my newly born Niece (7 months old) for her Christening at Mum’s local church. Sam did the cake and constructed the baby from Marzipan & icing, and the lettered bricks from icing blocks and letters piped individually to spell out “Evangaline” and individual “e”s on each of the 70 cupcakes.

cake

baby

Design, faster than a bullet

[This is a re-post from the Bristol Design Festival blog where I’m guest blogging the festival. And updated with better graphics thanks to Mike.]

Just back from a cracking talk by Mike Turner, Senior Designer on the Bloodhound SSC project. [Full disclosure, I’m a member of the Bloodhound SSC 1K Club; everything I say is highly biased, I think this is a fantastic project to be based in Bristol. 🙂 ]

The talk was introduced by Bob Mytton, Chair of the West of England Design Forum.

Mike began with a bit of background on his career so far, from trains to cars to JCB diggers. This last culminated with JCB’s DieselMax project, to design a diesel that would go over 350mph. Speed was definitely in Mike’s future!

Although Bloodhound is an “Engineering Adventure”, their tagline, it’s ambition is to:
1. To create a national surge in the popularity of Science Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects
2. To create an iconic project requiring extreme research and technology whilst simultaneously providing the means to enable the student population to join in the adventure
3. To achieve the first 1000 mph record on land

Mike quickly moved on to his core specialty of designing the outer surface, the bit that interacts with the air flow. Beginning with the outline design concept, Mike developed a refined shape for the car. This went to the team at Swansea University that were handling the CFD work. The results from the CFD, together with the engineering structural & package development (steering, suspension, controls, Andy Green, etc) were then fed into the next design cycle with Mike.

In the Q&A afterwards Mike was quizzed on the time the CFD added to the design cycle time. When they first started each CFD run was taking a couple of weeks (to run the numbers, check them and be confident of the answers). After going public with the project they were picking up additional computing support, each run was around a day.

The main challenges are to make the whole car as strong as possible (without increasing the weight too much); as slippery as possible for a Eurofighter jet engine with a solid fuel rocket strapped to it; as stable as possible in a straight line (without being so stable that Andy can’t direct it at all); and keep it on the ground (without turning into a 1,000mph plough).

So no conflicting pressures for Andy to juggle in his design decisions!

For all the CFD modeling, I was particularly struck by the comment that Mike put up from Ron Ayers, Chief Aerodynamicist on appreciating the designer’s eye for form & proportion “if it looks right, it probably is right”.

yewenyi, 16 April 2007
yewenyi, 16 April 2007

As an aside, it was Ron’s earlier work developing the Bristol Bloodhound Surface to Air Missile that gave rise to the project code name.

The Q&A was lively with Mike fielding questions for at least half an hour and staying around for another half hour as people continued to discuss the car, the design activity, and a bunch of technical questions that demonstrated real interest and enthusiasm.

A fantastic evening, thanks to the Bristol Design Festival and West of England Design Forum for organising.

Grafikea – the good, the bad & the WTF?!

[This is a re-post from the Bristol Design Festival where I’m a guest blogger – check out the original and all the other action over their blog.]

LACK SIDE TableAlong with a couple hundred others, I thoroughly enjoyed the Bristol Design Festival’s launch party last night, however, I was taking a specific interest in the Grafikea entries. As in previous years, the standard was excellent with some ingenious and occasionally subversive uses for a simple LACK Side Table from your friendly blue and yellow purveyor of Scandinavian style.

For those that haven’t seen Grafikea before, the rules are quite simple. You purchase a table (as on the right) and then, according to the official rules:

Let your creativity run wild and modify the table.

And that’s pretty much it.

The results are quite astounding.

Before the prizes were announced I took a walk around the entries and a few leapt out at me. Apologies for the photos, I was using my camera phone, I’m sure better quality press-pics are available; even better, get down to the Old Fire Station and see for yourself! 🙂

IMAG0070One of the first that caught my eye was a very Bristolian scene of the SS Great Britain sailing under the Clifton Suspension Bridge, all on a coffee table! There were even a few fishes in the Severn that younger visitors seemed particularly entranced by.

I later discovered that this table (together with another 5) was designed and made by the ASD classes at Kingsweston School. This particular one was from Oak Class.

IMAG0078There were a number that had been decorated with graphics and very well executed designs (as you’d expect) along with the quirky and fun. I quite liked the ‘Coffee Table, Coffee Table’ and ‘Table to Die For’. On the quirky and subversive was this inverted table-come planter. Another table that caught my eye was ‘Exhibit yourself’ which had completely deconstructed the table and turned it into a pole-dancing platform!

There were only a couple that didn’t really do anything for me. One had some licorice allsorts spilled across and lacquered, another with digestive biscuits, I also wasn’t entirely convinced by the loud speakers & Mp3. Just my personal opinion.

The WFT award this year definitely went to ‘Shadows of a Table’ – you have to go along and see this in person! No photo can do it justice,part Alien, part Necromicon it positively broods in the corner looking down on the other tables and viewers alike.

And the winners are: (these are the official competition winners in two categories, Junior and Grafikea)

Junior

Beware the Table First Prize went to this entry from St Bede’s Catholic College. Transforming their table into a weird and ferocious monster. This is right by the entrance so keep an eye out at ankle level!
Delectable Second Prize went to Delectable from Lime Class at Kingsweston School. I had a long chat with one of the Specialist Teachers about the ASD Unit and how all the kids had contributed to designing their tables. In total there are 6 tables from Kingsweston showing creativity and ingenuity.

In addition to Delectable & the Bristol Bridge, there are 4 other tables from the other classes in the ASD unit. I’ll let you find them in the exhibits, suffice to say that you have to look at the identification cards to know they’re from Kingsweston, the quality is that high.

You Scream We Scream Also from St Bede’s this beach scene obviously captured the imagination along with Third place. Perhaps the title of ‘You Scream, We Scream’ helped.

Grafikea

Entemology First Prize went to a stunning entry from Helen Ward; Entomology. Each of the butterflies is cut from coloured paper and laid out as you might expect in any Victorian collectors house or museum.

My apologies to Helen for the poor quality photo, please visit the exhibition to see the exquisite detail that has gone into this table and also take a look at her website for more images and additional background on the artisan paper and history behind the butterflies.

Cork Second Prize went Cork from Jack Patient, a fun table surrounded by colourful corks.
Production Line Error This entry, entitled ‘Production Line Error’ from Dave Stannard won Third Place. A quirky mix-up between a table and chair.

Congratulations to everyone that took part, all the tables are available to buy from the artists so head down to the Old Fire Station for the opportunity to take home some local art!

Getting interactive around Bristol’s historic harbourside

An interactive stroll around Bristol Docks and become part of a story set in 1885
Take an interactive stroll around Bristol Docks and become part of a story set in 1885

Sam and I stopped by the Watershed yesterday to try out a new blend of storytelling and technology. Picking up our PDAs and donning in-ear headphones, we were invited to step back in time and experience a slice of Bristol circa 1885.

Over the next 90 minutes we walked around the historic waterfront area (starting at the Watershed, round to the Arnolfini, over the swing bridge, down to the SS Great Britain, back over to the Gasworks, ending up at Canon’s Marsh Amphitheatre) as our stories unfolded.

Sam followed the story of the unlucky Maude trying to escape her evil Uncle, whilst I stumbled over a murder to solve with the help of a nearby galley boy. As their respective stories unfolded we dodged some of Bristol’s seedier characters outside the old jail where hangings regularly took place and helped load cargo ships with Guinness, bananas and timber for the colonies.

Sam had several mini games throughout her journey and by successfully completing each, Maude’s story progressed.

My murder mystery was a proper whodunit with half a dozen likely contenders. Having worked out the full story, I then had to decide whether to turn the guilty party in (knowing the hangman’s noose would be waiting) or let them escape to America…

All really good fun, and surprisingly informative about Bristol’s history without being a dull audio tour, “Press 5 for more information about street vendors…”

Back in the Watershed we had a chat with Tom Bennett, the guy behind Interactive Places, about the experience and what the future holds.

Tom is working out of the Pervasive Media Studio and that pervasive, locative technology was integral to the walk (a GPS PDA worn pendant style with in-ear headphones). By and large, however, the technology was almost invisible, there were only a couple of times that the technology ‘got in the way’. Sam’s lost its GPS fix once and one of her games didn’t want to finish; both times sorted themselves out within minutes and everything else worked fine.

In addition to providing a great afternoon stroll, Tom really wanted to know how people got on with the system and what they’d like more of in the next version.

Both Sam and I wanted more direct engagement in the storyline with some element of multi-threading, like the “Choose Your Own Adventure” series from the early 80’s to mid-90’s. That is certainly in Tom’s plan but he also pointed out that some people has asked for more history & background to be included, whilst others had asked for more mini-games and side plots. So lots of opportunities!

If you want to spend a great hour and a half wandering around Bristol’s Habourside and help out one of our upcoming innovative entrepreneurs, then pop along to the Watershed anytime between 11am and 5pm until Sunday, 26 April and say “Hi” to Tom.

What’s the best way to promote your product?

Red Arrows over London - Uploaded on June 22, 2006 by mundocuadro
Red Arrows over London - Uploaded on June 22, 2006 by mundocuadro

Show people!

<This is a joint post with Craig Hellen from BexMedia.>

People are visual, we like to see stuff. Long thesis and manifestos are great for explaining in great detail the nuance and subtly of your plan, but first to have to get people to read that stuff. Everyone’s time is precious so you need to make a fast, powerful case to spend some of that time on your idea.

You’ve got a fantastic idea and want to tell the world about it!

All communication is ultimately all about the message. Before you even pick up a camera there are three key things to think about:

  1. the audience
  2. the story
  3. the storyteller

Audience
In writing these articles, the first thing I considered was the audience, you. You may be interested in making pots of cash. You probably don’t have pots of cash to start with.

Hello my name is... Uploaded on September 22, 2006 by rick
Hello my name is... Uploaded on September 22, 2006 by rick

But who are you trying to reach? Are you after the Chief Executive of a global business, Angel investor, a respected academic at University, local government worker, an individual consumer or activist, other people like you? All these audiences will have different requirements and expectations in how to be approached with a great idea. They’ll get their news from different sources and in different forms. Unless you’re only interested in people like you seeing your message, really think about who the audience is.

You might want to try developing persona’s and testing your message against them. Make up an example of your target audience. Give them a name and a back story. How old are they, where do they live, where do they work, did they go to university (which one), do they have a family, what car do they drive, what TV/Radio/Newspapers do they consume? The more detail you can generate the better. If you have time, make up a couple persona and try your story out on all of them.

In setting up OpenCoffee Bristol, I wanted entrepreneurs and the professionals that support them to get together once a fortnight to discuss business development and ideas around building an entrepreneurial ecosystem in Bristol. I researched what type of entrepreneurs started up in Bristol and what they were in to. I spoke to as many professionals as I could to learn about them and what they were in to. Before I launched I knew my audience and was able to communicate effectively to them, as evidenced by the successful launch with support from Starbucks and local PR companies and good attendance.

Story

Super starters - Uploaded on March 16, 2006 by Ranger Gord
Super starters - Uploaded on March 16, 2006 by Ranger Gord

Again, working backwards; what do you want people to do after watching your video? Do you want people to sign up to a service, buy a product, forward the video to their friends / work colleagues, change their behaviour, have a good laugh and move on to the next thing in their day?

Are you a business, charity, volunteer organisation or individual? Are you trying to show how easy it is to use your product / service? Are you explaining how your idea will change the world? What story are you trying to get across?

Whatever you’re trying to do, link each feature to a benefit. We have this feature so you get this benefit. Itty Biz has a great post on this.

If you’re doing a product demo then create a typical journey through your product and explain the features at each stage, along with the benefit to the customer.

A side note on humour; if you can pull it off then use carefully and be mindful of your audience. If you’re not a natural comedian then don’t even try to be funny, just stick to a simple narrative with clear feature-benefit links.

Storyteller
Not everyone is a natural story teller. That’s OK. It’s usually considered a good thing if you can be the outward face of your idea / enterprise and its certainly cheaper than paying an actor! Other good people to tell your story are the people you’re helping, or selling to. Personal perspectives work really well in getting a message across, which is why charities always show an individual and give them a name (even if it’s a dog or cat).

The storyteller doesn’t have to be on screen, narrators can be very powerful. The story teller doesn’t even have to speak, they can reveal the narrative through their actions and images. Remember though that you’re trying to get a message across in a short and compact way, not create avant-garde conceptual art. Large companies with huge budgets can afford to run messages that make no sense for months and then ‘reveal’ the secret product/service that they were talking about; you probably can’t wait that long.

Putting it all together

The end experience should be consistent throughout. If your audience is small businesses, then your message should appeal to small businesses and be presented by someone that a small business owner would be happy to listen to or look at. If your audience is disaffected youth then your story should be in a style they’ll be used to and presented by someone that looks like them.

Here’s an example from IBM. The audience is clear: big business, middle America, white middle-class middle-aged guy. Although this is on YouTube the ads were run on cable TV (I saw it on CNBC), between business news, where their audience would be watching. The story is simple: we’re IBM and if you adopt our technology you’ll save lots of money, and the environment. The story teller is credible, she’s a smart dressed woman that doesn’t look too out of place.

A very different approach is from CommonCraft. The audience is everyone that’s not an uber-geek but geeky enough to be using YouTube and thinking about Twitter. The story is really clear, a very simple way to build real-time informal networks means you can stay in touch with friends, family, work colleagues, anyone without having to do lots of work. The story teller is a narrator but uses plain clear English and cut out paper drawings rather than flashy 3D animation since they’re targeting people that might be wary of technology.

All rules are made to be broken, but you need to know the rules before you break them otherwise you’ll probably end up with a mess that no one will be interested in.

Here’s the classic rule breaker from Apple back in 1984.

London Triiibes

What do you do for a living; do you set out to change everything?

We may all be in sales & marketing now, but I still consider myself an engineer that does business development; so I felt a little out of place at first. I’m also still digesting much of the talk, so this may be a little fragmented.

When Seth began I felt there was something traceable to the work of Richard Dawkins‘ “The Selfish Gene“. Seth puts the meme concept to a very practical application.

Ideas that spread win.

Seth began with a quick history lesson on marketing. He related the story of Josiah Wedgwood and the many business and manufacturing decisions that he took, leading to the greatest marketing success of the era. When Josiah died he was the richest man on the planet. He was also Darwin‘s grandfather and the wealth he passed on allowed Darwin to spend his days exploring and ultimately funded the research that produced “On the Origin of Species“.

Josiah was living through a time of profound change, he succeeded because he transformed a craft activity into an industrial business. That was the first of 3 industrial revolutions and Seth contends that we’re in the middle of a forth. I have to agree with him.

And it fundamentally isn’t about ‘black hat SEO‘ or clever ways to interrupt people.

Seth’s opening stance was that nobody listens to advertising any more. There’s too much clutter; everyone’s buying everything from everywhere, and you can’t interrupt them any more. As soon as you launch a product or feature, there are a hundred competitors and if you’re only competing on how loud your marketing can shout then you’ve already lost.

Seth went on to talk very briefly about the 14 trends, extrapolated from Meatball Sundae. Aligning the whole business, or organisation, around some of these trends would provide the conditions for it to flourish. Wouldn’t guarantee success but would provide the conditions for success.

Direct communication & commerce between consumers & producers Amplification of the voice of the consumer & indie authority
Need for authenticity as clutter increases Short attention span due to clutter
Long Tail Outsourcing
Google & the dicing of everything Infinite channels of communication
Direct communication & commerce between consumers & consumers Shifts in scarcity & abundance
Triumph of Big Ideas Shift from “How Many” to “Who”
The wealthy are like us New Gatekeepers, No Gatekeepers

Which is great to get the message flowing but how do you get the first customer to talk about your product/service if you can’t interrupt them any more? To a certain extent, Seth offered a simplistic solution, make your product/service remarkable. If its worth making a remark about, it stops being spam and becomes one human being talking to another human being. Word of mouth marketing.

There’s an obvious parallel with Hugh’s Global Microbrand concept. Being fantastically good at what you do, and building your business inseparably from new technologies in a way that simply wasn’t possible pre-internet.

An interesting proposition was that, in fact, we all need to be in the fashion business. Fashion is all about getting talked about. And as Oscar Wilde said:

the only thing worse than being talked about, is not being talked about

And on the internet, someone’s talking about you; even if you’re not part of that conversation. And if you’re not being talked about and you can’t interrupt people with advertising any more, you really are in trouble.

Seth wasn’t proposing that we’d all stop buying ‘regular stuff’ just because it wasn’t sexy. But if you want to launch a new product, or grow an existing market, or break into a new territory, the old rules don’t apply any more.

So what did I take away from the 4 hrs?

Well a head ache, which was pretty much what Seth promised. But also a very different approach to thinking about business/market development and the support that jbsh can offer.

  • Helping companies to identify the key memes that their product/service represents
  • Helping companies work through the 14 trends and identify the ones most important to them
  • Building a business model that can generate revenue from those important trends

How are you building your business for the future?

Sage advice

Napolean Wrasse - Uploaded on November 30, 2007 by Michael Aston
Napolean Wrasse - Uploaded on November 30, 2007 by Michael Aston

What one piece of advice would you pass on?

A significant part of what we at jbsh get up to is building partnerships. These partnerships involve businesses, Universities, Primary Care Trusts, consultants (business & medical), doctors (academic & medical), private individuals, etc. With so many people there are always differing perceptions about what the collaboration is trying to achieve, and plenty of opportunity for miscommunication.

In my early days of change implementation with small engineering companies in Cornwall, I was given some sage advice by my PhD supervisor:

Don’t ascribe to malice what can be ascribed to ignorance

I believe the quote to have originally been from Napoleon Bonaparte though I can’t find a definitive reference.

Its very easy when you’re charging into a situation to assume that everyone knows everything you do and has the same ambition you do. This is never the case. If you’re not prepared for it, genuine cock-ups can sometime appear to be carefully planned Machiavellian schemes to bring about your professional and personal downfall.

I try to assume that people are acting with good intentions, trying to help me succeed as I try to help them. When things don’t work out its probably because I haven’t explained things well enough or they’re acting on information I’m not aware of.

The solution is of course better communication. Better doesn’t always mean more, a 5 min phone call is usually more productive than several pages of email or “briefing” document; half an hour over coffee, or a beer, is often better than 4 hours in a stuffy meeting room. Spending the time to see someone on their territory is often better than dragging them halfway across the city/country/world.

When you have done the ground work with short, concise messages specific to each party to build shared understanding, then you can hold a larger meeting where everyone can discover that actually they are working to an agreed agenda. You’ll also know where people’s corporate and individual comfort zones are and can help a consensus emerge that still achieves the broad aims.

Of course, sometimes people do act in the short term against what might be broadly considered as ‘fair play’. However, in this world of instant, always on, communications and data overload, we are more reliant than ever before on trusted advisers and connectors.

A reputation is something you build over a lifetime, but throw away in an instant.

That’s another piece of advice for free! 🙂

Thanks to Plinky again for prompting me again.