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It’s as simple as that February 9, 2010

Posted by David Gillespie in technology.
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One of the big ideas I’m working on right now is a statement: everything gets easier. It brings together a few chains of thought, but primarily Fred Wilson’s notion of life being “end to end digital”, and something else I saw summed up brilliantly on Tumblr from Amanda Mooney – it was a John Maeda quote that went as follows:

If there were a prerequisite for the future successful digital creative, it would be the passion for discovery.
The fact is, the future does not belong to the people building walls around complex things in order to keep them complex, it belongs to those who recognise the sooner everyone understands something, the sooner we innovate and get to the next thing, and so sets about trying to demistify that which is currently complex. It belongs to the passionate and curious, wherever they are.
I was reminded of this reading AVC today and seeing Fred Wilson talk about a company called Twilio. From their own site:
Maybe we want a customer to be able to call in and get information, or maybe we need to coordinate our employees more efficiently. Before Twilio, you would have had to learn some foreign telecom programming languages, or set up an entire stack of PBX software to do this. At which point, you’d say “aw, forget it!” Twilio lets you use your existing web development skills, existing code, existing servers, existing databases and existing karma to solve these problems quickly and reliably. We provide the infrastructure, you provide the business logic…and together we rule the world.
That is just a simple example of the kind of application Twilio has, and maybe a telephony app doesn’t excite you, which is fine. But the point is important – everything gets easier. This also creates a new ecosystem of value that others can build upon; but that’s for another post entirely.
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Right on time January 21, 2010

Posted by David Gillespie in industry news, technology.
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Looking at yesterday’s post on Conan O’Brien’s situation within traditional media, this announcement from Boxee comes right on time:

Image representing Boxee as depicted in CrunchBase
Image via CrunchBase

…users will be able to make purchases with one click on the remote. The content partners we launch with will offer shows, movies and channels that were previously not available to Boxee users. The content owners will be able to package and price as they wish, including pay-per-view and subscription. Content partners will have the flexibility to decide what they make available, whether it’s premium content, content from their existing library, or extras that will never make it “on air”.

…The Internet represents a great opportunity for the major media companies and for the independent content producers to create more engaging and immersive experiences around their content and for them to be paid for more eyeballs on yet another screen.

Now Boxee itself is a service not too many people know about. And while it is now relatively easy to hook a computer up to a TV, there is a mental barrier Boxee have to overcome, as they’re pioneering an open source approach to this.

The flip side of this is something I got at in Digital Strangelove – we’re moving from a place where the type of media has been defined by the medium (a TV show versus a movie, which happens in a theatre) and is now in a place where we’ll just talk about video, text and sound as the environment in which it is consumed ceases to have anything to do with what type of media it is.

Boxee moves that agenda along in a fairly dramatic fashion; it will be interesting to see how content producers respond.

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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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What time is love? January 13, 2010

Posted by David Gillespie in branding, creativity, technology.
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From the equal parts genius/niceness that is Andy Whitlock and the team at Poke.

In December, we had a hack day at Poke. In a nutshell, we had 24 hours to come up with an idea and make it an online reality…Our team’s idea was to create an egg-timer that served up a Youtube video to match the exact length your egg needed to be boiled for. No staring at the egg. No staring at a boring timer. Just watch the video and you’re done. And it dishes up different videos depending on how you like your egg. Have a look for yourself over at eggwatchers.com.

<3. Srsly. The importance of this sort of thing perhaps won’t be immediately apparent to anyone who still wants to make TV commercials. For the rest of us, we can be thankful places like Poke exist.

And dream of working there.

P.S. I’ve tagged this in the “branding” category of this blog to make a point – it’s activity like this that builds Poke’s own brand. The same way traditional agencies built their names on their work, so too do the modern shops, the difference being only one of those groups is still willing to run with the bulls.

Someday soon this will all be someone else’s dream January 7, 2010

Posted by David Gillespie in technology.
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I was watching Steve Ballmer‘s keynote at CES last night, thinking to myself “This sort of address has its days numbered.” My penchant for drama would have me state we’re witnessing an empire in decline, but I don’t really think that would arrive as news to anyone.

I have a few good close friends who work at Microsoft, and it’s a source of endless debate. At the heart of the issue for me is the lack of clear, single-minded purpose, of intent to do anything other than compete. See “compete” isn’t a strategy, it’s aimless and has you swinging in the direction of anyone who looks like they might do what you do, instead of focussing on the way forward, staring blatantly and openly back infront of you.

A good portion of the talk was spent showing off what other people are going to do with Microsoft’s platform, but devices designed in different ways isn’t really a sexy story. The compelling work, and in my opinion the jewel in Microsoft’s crown (in the same way the Playstation became everything Sony lived for) is the Xbox 360. It is, to my mind, the only space where they are clearly innovating and driving their own path forward, backing it up with an impressive lineup of content. In Xbox they really appear as masters of their own destiny; everywhere else they seem callous, and forever peering over their shoulders at what someone else might be doing.

I highlight Xbox and specifically avoid their much-hyped Project Natal. A tech demo in very controlled environments does not a product make, and having spent a previous life making games for consoles, if the software isn’t there to drive the thing when it launches, it simply won’t matter. There’s also an issue of adoption; I haven’t seen recent figures but traditionally the percentage that even owns a second controller is well below 50%; recent success with music-based games requiring plastic guitars and microphones has surely begun changing that behaviour, though thaty category as a whole is starting to wane.

As for other categories, the less said the better. Microsoft needs a new vision, and it being the media centre of the family home is as good a move as any. Your friend and mine Vik twittered this during the keynote:

Agreed Win7 is a popular & well built OS. But as netbooks become more prevalent, is this what customers will want on their machines?

There’s an increasingly rapid transition going on to web services and away from non-core applications. A friend who came to visit me in Toronto recently only traveled with his iPhone, saying it negated the need for him to have a laptop with him at all. If we entertain the notion for a moment that that is the start of a larger trend, lauding last year’s operating system starts to look less like a success story, and more like a fossil somehow reanimated.

For a brief and fleeting moment I suspect.

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Let’s get together and do it again January 6, 2010

Posted by David Gillespie in advertising, technology.
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JP Morgan’s Imran Khan (different Imran Khan) is tipping online display advertising to grow this year by around 10.5%. Which is obviously massive. He also cites a few trends that seem to be moving the industry away from naff executions – aka the banners that neither you nor I ever click on. Which, let’s be honest, is all of them. He is talking though of a trend more towards what Banner Blog exists to share with us, which is great.

That’s not what I want to talk about though. In the same article Khan talks about mobile growing 45% (!!!) this year, winding up with $3.2 billion spent on SMS, $253 million in mobile display, and $321 million in mobile search.

A few things:

  1. As the mobile platform improves, the notion of display as distinct on mobile from PC will disappear
  2. It will however give way to services sensitive to your platform and do other interesting things around location, and device-specific functionality
  3. I don’t understand what constitutes “mobile search” – maybe someone can explain it to me?
  4. Advertisers who invade the phone like they have every other medium are going to get smacked; it’s still too personal

Aside from all of this, it’s the same Mcluhan-esque mistake (slide 44) made in online advertising where we take what we did before and force it into this new shape because we don’t know any better. If anyone truly believes the best way to use a mobile phone is to send people SMSs, they deserve the rapid demise their business will receive.

Frankly it speaks to the lack of vision and general laziness that pervades the entire ad industry. With the simple days of TVCs and print long behind it, rather than thinking about how it can reinvent itself to be relevant in a new era, it consistently mines tired ideas that speak to the silo-mentality of 20th century media.

People, look at foursquare, get in and use it for a few weeks. That, right there, is a perfect storm of local marketing, small business marketing, and mobile. If you do not see it, either try harder, or find a job where you do not need to.

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All that noise, all that sound November 17, 2009

Posted by David Gillespie in philosophy, technology.
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So my agency is on a decent size pitch at the moment, and we were talking about the acceleration of technology over the last three years as it pertains to this particular company. And we were video taping various people saying different things and so I of course being the narcissist I am went off back to my desk and sat running a monologue over and over in my head, trying to think of something clever to say while being able to toss it off as if it was largely off the cuff.

And then when they came to film me I was on a conference call. And then the opportunity was gone because they’re in a bit of a rush.

The thing I thought of though, I thought was quite interesting, and it was this: the technological revolution we’re going through right now is currently being framed as a change in lifestyle, when what we’re really dealing with, on a really fundamental level, is a change in life itself. 20 years ago, many-to-many communication was basically impossible, and even one-to-many was limited to those who could afford to do it, usually requiring a publisher.

Now anyone can, and because there are still more people in the world who knew life without the Internet than there are who only know the Internet, being always connected is deemed a lifestyle and a choice. As that ratio changes however, being disconnected is going to be seen as a lifestyle and what is currently (at least in some circles, not mine) considered an “other” state, will be the norm.

The norm on the rise now is being able to get a message to anyone you want or as many people you want at any time you want. After thousands of years of relative status quo, it’s changed over night. Which is why I say the web is young, and why I say we haven’t fully grasped all this yet. I could just have a smaller mind than most (it has often been suggested), but sitting and pondering it for a moment kinda blows it to a thousand tiny pieces.

And having said all that, the only thing I can be sure of is I would have wound up on the cutting room floor, with the Creative Director going “Do you really have to do that every time?”.

…I suppose I do…

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Image courtesy of bass nroll, with thanks to compfight.

Ch-ch-changes November 8, 2009

Posted by David Gillespie in technology.
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I just got spammed by Glue, looks like maybe their notifications engine had a little freakout and sent me a bunch of messages I had already received. Which is fine. Part of playing in this new space (both as a producer and a consumer) is sometimes things go awry. Software (i.e. anything on a screen) is in flux, it is not right – just least wrong. And it gets less wrong as people find ways to improve it.

Seeing those messages suddenly arrive though, I’m wondering about the tolerance people have for that. Nobody expected those to arrive (least of all the developers I imagine), and if it had been a major brand, then it would have been annoying. But it came from a service trying to do something good – connect people.

They’re a start-up and still getting things figured out, and that is fine. Last year people were fond of droning on and on about Twitter having scaling issues. You know what? They’re supposed to!! That is part of building a popular service!! They had scaling issues because they focused on building something people wanted – their server going down on a regular basis meant they were doing their God-damn jobs. In turn you got a service you love for free.

Give. Me. Strength.

Image representing Foursquare as depicted in C...
Image via CrunchBase

I am fond of banging on and on about my mate Tim saying “If you want to understand change you have to be part of it.” And part of that, particularly when playing with services like Glue or FourSquare or whatever it will be tomorrow, is an understanding that this shit is in flux. And it will get better and it will get worse and that is the contract you sign when you join.

It is called the bleeding edge for a reason, things get broken.

And thank God they do.

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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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Digital Strangelove – or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Internet October 19, 2009

Posted by David Gillespie in advertising, best of, business strategy, digital strategy, social media, social networks, storytelling, strategy, technology.
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I mentioned last week I had been staying in on weekends and up at night trying to get everything I was thinking about out of my head. The space I feel was created in my head is amazing, leaving room to think about a bunch of other projects I have on the go but have also played second fiddle to this.

I’m not presenting the below presentation as gospel, if I may be so bold as to quote myself, I am not looking for right, just for least wrong, as one of the premises I state in the presentation is that so much of this space will continue to change for a long time to come.

The deck covers a lot of ground, mainly from the point of view of where we are right now in the evolution of the Internet and culture, and where I think we’re going. I welcome feedback of all kinds, from bursts of agreement to arguments against each and every slide.

If I have moved the conversation along in even the slightest way, I have succeeded. As always, thanks for reading, I really appreciate your time.

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