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I need some time to ease my mind February 6, 2010

Posted by David Gillespie in Uncategorized.
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When I was writing Digital Strangelove, it was born largely out of work being so busy that I didn’t have time to write semi-daily about the things I was thinking, and I’m starting to feel like I’m all clogged up again in my head – a week where one of your days runs over the course of 18 hours will do that to you.

Anyway, enough of my complaining, I’ve wanted to write this for a couple weeks, and I’m excited to now as I feel really strongly about it. Your friend and mine Fred Wilson was interviewed in January and one of the questions asked was “What common mistakes do start-ups make?” He responds with this:

One mistake  see people make is that they hire out the development of the technology…I think that’s a huge mistake. I think the companies need to have the engineers as part of the core founding team…and a company needs to own its engineering and product in a way that you could never own it if you hire somebody else to build it.

Back in March 2008,  wrote the following:

I’m a big believer in a business being free to focus on its core product(s). If it ain’t what you do, then it ain’t what you do! Far too many times I’ve seen companies get distracted by an interesting piece of technology or an idea outside their scope or ability to act on. When that happens, your core product suffers, and your competitors who may have been running a distant second seem to close the gap over night.

At the time I was thinking about the future of a start-up I was working in at the time, Hippo Jobs. Hippo had made a range of decisions ranging from ones I agreed with to ones I didn’t agree with at all, but that is going to be the case in any workplace where you are an employee and not an owner, and I don’t pretend for a moment to fully comprehend the situations that lead to some of those decisions.

What I believed then and believe now however is exactly what Fred said; a company needs to be in control of its lifeblood and make everything else someone else’s problem. When Yahoo! finally outsourced its search to Microsoft, it acknowledged what everyone else had long known – they were not a search company. Mind you, neither is Microsoft, which is why I can’t see them taking that battle to Google in a meaningful way.

Hippo had chosen to work with Areeba, an innovative and talented dev shop in Melbourne, Australia. The issue was never the quality of the work, it was a team that cared about the product in a way that was more than a job. Where Fred says “a company needs to own its engineering and product in a way that you could never own it if you hire somebody else to build it“, listen to it. He also says the key engineer(s) need to be founding members of the company, which again I agree with.

At the end of the day, ideas are a dime a dozen, and you need the people who can execute to have as much skin in the game as you have; anything less is a recipe for disaster.

See video below, quote begins at 4:48.

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What more can I say? February 2, 2010

Posted by David Gillespie in conversation.
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That is all.

That’s not the shape of my heart January 19, 2010

Posted by David Gillespie in business strategy, technology.
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Interesting video the magic that is The David Report turned me onto, looking at and thinking about the future of magazines. I am somewhat of a junkie for the form and don’t doubt it will continue (in some fashion).

This has me thinking also about devices as a whole, and particularly the arms race that is on in the mobile space.

Everyone is excited to have Google‘s skin in the game with Android, and are touting them as the challenger that can actually take on Apple and their much-loved iPhone. The problem facing Google and its partners is not developer support, of which there is plenty, but control over the hardware environment.

See an iPhone developer makes an app once, and releases it. They don’t need to deal with different specifications regarding screensizes, peripherals, keyboards, cameras, what have you. An Android developer has all of that, plus chipsets from Intel, Nvidia and others. The increased overhead in supporting multiple platforms will, I believe, lead us to a place where apps exist on one Android device and not another, leading to negative user-experiences which will directed partially towards the manufacturer, but more so towards Google. Contrast that with the iPhone, which while it has well-documented flaws, is a consistent experience for every person that owns one.

I’m in the camp of people who think Android is the platform that will challenge the iPhone for dominance of the market, Google to need to invest more in the hardware for this to become a race; right now they’re just running warm-up laps.

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When honour is at stake, this vow I will make November 29, 2009

Posted by David Gillespie in advertising, business strategy.
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I’ve been thinking a lot about The Three Musketeers – my framework for business models which places them (perhaps overly simply, but simply none the less) into two baskets: All-For-One (self-serving pursuit of value) or One-For-All (pursuit of value for an ecosystem). The former is business as usual up until the advent of Google, at which point things seem to turn, and we see more and more businesses cropping up and being successful by creating value

I had, for the longest time, felt uneasy about Facebook. My sense was that it was founded with All-For-One principles, and I have a hard time viewing it as a business that seeks to create value for an eco-system; it is, to my mind, the second coming of Microsoft rather than the second coming of Google.

I say that, but I also now can’t help but acknowledge the market they have developed for small and local businesses to target customers, and the platform they have provided for brands to interact on a more personal level with fans. In some ways, it lessens the role of the ad industry, which to my mind has a hard time justifying itself as even remotely One-For-All, and so can only be viewed as a good thing.

Your friend and mine Umair Haque takes aim at Facebook in a recent Harvard Business blog: over the Farmville debacle

Once, banks held debt till maturity. The great unnovation was being able to sell it to the next guy, who sold it to the next guy, and on and on and on. What was once a simple, short value chain lengthened to the point of absurdity. Exactly the same value chain pattern is surfacing in media. Ads used to be bought and sold through a short value chain. Facebook ended up serving toxic ads because they were sold through lengthening chains of intermediaries — each of whom shifts the buck to the next guy.

The argument does and doesn’t hold water in places – to my mind it swerves dangerously close in places to the kind of opinion that states ISPs are responsible for their customer’s illegally downloading music. The overall point stands however, which is sacrificing the end-user for the man with money is a short-sighted strategy.

We need to spend more time creating things that user wants in the first place.

That is what One-For-All is all about.

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Smoke on the water October 31, 2009

Posted by David Gillespie in business strategy, technology.
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Image representing Biz Stone as depicted in Cr...
Twitter’s Biz Stone (via CrunchBase)

At the recent Web 2.0 conference, Twitter search deals were announced with both Microsoft and Google, something I was pleased to see given about a week earlier I had made the prediction in Digital Strangelove (slide 178) that a deal was imminent with one of them – turns out it was both.

Twitter’s Biz Stone has gone on the record saying of all the options they are considering for a revenue model, advertising is the least appealing. My feeling on that statement is this: either they changed their minds, or they’ve done a deal to monetise the most natural part of their business while they think about the avenues they’re truly interested in pursuing. It’s akin to having a field of lavender and making a deal with local photographers to let them take pictures, all the while trying to figure out what you really want to do with all that crop.

I could be over-complicating things, an activity that is a favourite of mine as many an ex-girlfriend will attest. Apple CEO Steve Jobs is famous for saying he had little interest in a feature, such as video on an iPod, before revealing it the next quarter. I can’t help but feel the web is so eager to answer Twitter’s revenue question for them that they’ve jumped on the first clue that appeared and cried “Case closed!”

Call me paranoid, this one stays open in my book.

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You’re invisible now August 17, 2009

Posted by David Gillespie in creativity, digital strategy, technology, work/life.
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I was going to title this “Princess on the steeple and all the pretty people” but that was too obscure, even for me. 5 bonus points to the person that picks the song without using “The Google“.

So my motivation has been a little lacking lately (alliteration = triple word score), and try as I might I hadn’t been able to rekindle it. I chatted long into the night with your friend and mine Matt Granfield who pointed me to his recent piece on sourcing the appropriate place to express a particular thought. I read it and it rang true, though it uncovered another thought of mine, that being a general wondering how long we will maintain digital identities we segment into neat boxes as if our own lives existed in a similar fashion.

And that’s when it occurred to me that something had recently clicked inside my head, and all of a sudden I realised that even using the word “digital” felt utterly redundant. When it permeates so much of what we do on a day to day basis it ceases to make sense in drawing any distinction. Having an afore-mentioned neat little box for it has worked until now, because for a long time it existed in a way we could separate and escape from. Now however we’re in a place where it no longer makes sense to segment it, and to not include some sort of digital element to a campaign, a product, a service, whatever is to commit commercial suicide (extreme viewpoint I know, prove me wrong!).

While this thought was buzzing around my head I swung by TIGS, as Faris had posted plenty while I’d been sunning myself in France. He, of course, had gotten here a little bit before me but along the same line of thinking, having said

Increasingly I’m finding the work ‘digital’ more of a hindrance than a help. It’s too broad to mean anything.

in the same post he linked a great Slideshare presentation from Helge Tennø, Strategic Director of Screenplay, an Oslo, Norway-based agency. Helge’s presentation is simply titled “Post-Digital Marketing”, and while I’m loathe to attach a new name to it, it seems to make sense. Have a look at the deck, it’s really quite lovely.

Of course Iain Tait beat us all there, telling me early in ’08 “digital is not a thing anymore”. I didn’t get it at the time, but I do now. My only concern is having canned UGC, social media, and now “digital” itself, I’m going to need to invent some new things just to shit on them.

And I’m quite OK with that. And I’m OK with not writing about “digital”, in fact I’m excited about it.

“You’re excited by a blog ostensibly about nothing?”

Yes.

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Show me the way July 15, 2009

Posted by David Gillespie in creativity, technology, work/life.
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From the “I-have-too-had-girlfriends!” department, Japan’s Information Architects released and delivered straight to my door their latest Web Trend Map, an ongoing series mapping the Internet to various public transport systems. Version 4 which has just been released is the Internet mapped onto Tokyo’s Metro System. If I’m at Wired and I want to get to Digg, I have to take the News Line to The Huffington post, get on the Domain Train to Google, then switch onto the Filter Line to wind up at Digg.

One part document of how far we’ve come, one part time capsule for us to look back and say “Remember when…?”, the poster is shipping now, and even the most laid back of hipsters in the agency have swung by my office, stood back and said “…that’s actually quite cool.”

At just under 3′ by 4′, it is a fine addition to, well, any surface you care to put it on.

Get yours today.

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It’s all about them words June 25, 2009

Posted by David Gillespie in advertising, business strategy, marketing.
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A few years back I did a consulting gig on a print directory service everyone is familiar with. The project looked at how digital media was changing the landscape they existed in and they were interested in finding out how they could continue to be profitable while these changes happened. In the end the recommendation was to ensure migration from the offline service to the online one, and involved a strategy for doing so. Having delivered the final report however, the response came back stating their print directory represented X-million dollars of revenue so they expected it to still be a thriving business in years to come, regardless of what we had to say.

No prizes for guessing how that turned out.

I was reminded of this when I got home one day last week to see the below in the lobby of the building I’m living in at the moment.

Yellowpages1

Yellowpages2

Now, Yellow Pages wasn’t the company so desperate to display their desire to stick their head into the sand, however they must, at some point, have had someone have a similar conversation with them. Three years ago when I was doing that project I stood in the middle of my agency and asked the entire office who had used a print directory in the last 6 months. Unless I was willing to accept “door stop” as an appropriate use, I had nothing.

It used to be if you weren’t in the Yellow Pages you didn’t have a business. Now it’s a matter of being on Google‘s pages, and you best make sure its the first one. If I was advising a company still advertising in the Yellow Pages, I would tell them to take that spend and invest it in SEO, optimising its site for core competancies and locality.

Understand I don’t think it is a good thing that a once proud business is dying, but few things are more Darwinian than business itself; ignorance should not be rewarded, nor should an inability or unwillingness to change with the times.

And we definitely shouldn’t invest in delaying the inevitable.

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I hope that someone gets my, I hope that someone gets my… June 15, 2009

Posted by David Gillespie in branding, conversation, storytelling.
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My Gmail inbox was out of control. I had over 1300 unread emails in it. Part of that is due to poor email handling habits on my end, but it’s also due to a lot of people sending me information I don’t want or need.

My Google Reader is also overflowing, but it’s full of content I have asked for, stuff I want and, very occasionally, need. in catching up on my feeds over lunch just now though, I came across the below video from Gary Vaynerchuk.

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I have a lot of friends working in PR, I hope they watch the video. More than that I hope their clients do too.

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Best interactive work this week May 29, 2009

Posted by David Gillespie in advertising, technology.
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Continuing the regular look at the best sites, banners and indescribables that came across my desk this week. If you see something (or better yet, make something!) worth checking out, please leave a comment and I’ll come check it out.

There’s something about the work out there at the moment that makes me want to leap out of my 9th – soon to be 11th – floor window. There is tedious, self-absorbed work from Mercedez Benz, Intel, Bank of America, it goes on. The BofA site, The Morris Code, it particularly disappointing as it comes courtesy of Organic, who really should know better. We’re seeing the continued proliferation of TV commercials doubling as micro-sites, engaged in unhealthy, endless bouts of flashturbation. And for what? For limited, one-time value that disappears the second the media buy is over. Don’t get me wrong, the production values on those sites are off the charts, but I think that’s part of the problem – all of these sites are driving a message down the throat of the visitor instead of finding a way to engage and interact.

I finally arrived with great pleasure and enthusiasm on Magnetic North’s site, which had at least taken the time to consider what one might like to do on the web. Light on the flash, heavy on the interaction, you can scribble on their home page, which reveals their work beneath it. View a campaign, if you like it click just once to see similar projects, a mix of finished products, sketches and demos. When are people going to learn brands can be tinkerers too? The best stuff is rarely shiny and never perfect.

magneticNorth - an interactive design company

The best banner execution I saw this week was for Prius. Saatchi in the US executed it but hats off to the media buyer, it no doubt took a lot of work to get it off the ground. Banner Blog has a QuickTime clip of it in action, honourable mention also to a Tourism Victoria spot from Publicis Mojo, which doesn’t seem to be working properly on BB but I get the sense there’s something pretty cute going on.

From the Much More Important Than Advertising Dept.: I missed this announcement from Google saying they were extending their dalliance with Open ID. As I wrote earlier this week at AVC, I want a single point of identification in my web access, not several logins for hundreds of silos. Slowly slowly catchy monkey.

But the coolest thing I saw this week, hands down, was some new work out of Boffswana, which is staffed by a friend or two in Melbourne. Look at the below video and marvel.

Augmented Reality: Releas3D Standalone Version. from Boffswana on Vimeo.

Have a great weekend everyone.

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