[awesomeness] is trying to build a better world

So for the uniitiated, Saatchi and Saatchi created this competition called “The Impossible Brief” – aimed to look at different ways to solve the Israel-Palestine conflict. Their site is here; their facebook page is here.And this is my entry:

[awesomeness] is working with your heart

do you understand what your work means? do you understand what you’re doing? are you a product of your circumstance or are you a creator of it. welcome to design thinking 101.

Jon Kolko-Keynote: My Heart is in The Work from Interaction Design Association on Vimeo.In 1900, Andrew Carnegie quietly declared that his “heart is in the work”. This talk will examine our ability to affect change at the intersection of experience, behavior, meaning, and culture, and will emphasize our responsibility to approach our work with philanthropic enthusiasm that would make Carnegie proud.JON KOLKO-FROG DESIGNJon Kolko is an Associate Creative Director at frog design. He has extensive experience in the professional world of interaction design, working around complicated technological constraints in order to best solve the problems of Fortune 500 clients. His work has extended into the domains of consumer electronics, mobility, supply chain management, demand planning, and customer-relationship management, and he has worked with clients such as AT&T, HP, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Ford, IBM, Palm and other leaders of the Global 2000. The underlying theme of these problems and projects was the creation of a solution that was useful, usable and desirable. He is the author of the text Thoughts on Interaction Design published by Morgan Kaufmann, and he sits on the board of Directors for the IxDA>

The Evolution of the Newspaper

Short presentation I wrote recently on the evolution of the newspaper. It’s implications were presented on another day in another forum; will put that piece up next week. Until then, enjoy. As always, feedback much appreciated.

[awesomeness] is new world tech

Came across this piece on the web. Apple vs. Google’s been providing some soap opera fodder for tech journos in the past few months. Some of it’s real, some of it’s not. There was Eric Schmidt being asked to step down from the Apple board, there was Google putting out Nexus One to compete with iPhone, possibly with some patent infringement.



The reason this is really interesting, though is that it is in many ways #2 of Apple versus Microsoft. Only this time it’s different. The World’s moved on from then and the internet will ensure that systems will have to talk to each other, one way or another. I think the big thing this year will actually be the iPad and HTML5. One will define/redefine mobile computing proper like a Smartphone can’t yet do; while in the other lies the foundation of the new internet.

I don’t think Google will win this round simply because as a company it isn’t designed to do some things. The reason Wave hasn’t worked too well, is that it’s way before its time and the tech hasn’t developed to enable true collaboration – you can probably do more, and better on adobe or microsoft’s online products. The reason Buzz didn’t work was that it’s stupid, and tries to create another self-contained ecosystem, even as the industry – vis-a-vis Facebook+Twitter are understanding that you need to be more open. Buzz tries too little. The reason Open Social didn’t work was that it tried to do too much (and Buzz and Wave are probably components of that old model – one more bit of proof that it doesn’t work)

Similarly, the smartphone market will likely play out to script, between Apple and Blackberry, not Apple and any other player, simply because they are two distinctive ideologies which try to manage the experience from end-to-end. NexusOne and the other Android phones are hodgepodges – the old-world-engineering ideology of “oh isn’t it cool we can do this?” without asking the question “does the consumer give a damn?”.

More on this over the next few weeks.

die, birdie; birdie, die!


The difference between Twitter and Facebook – and the reason why Facebook will likely be scalable and why Twitter likely won’t – comes down to the medium.

Twitter is ultimately a broadcast medium. Whether 1-1, 1-many, or many-many it invariably stops at just that – the exchange of data. Facebook on the other hand, is an ecosystem. Apart from communication it also creates interaction via “apps”.

The idea of paying real money for symbolic (virtual) value is nothing new – and the latest to pick up on it is Zynga.

On Facebook, people have been, for three years now, encouraged to pay $1 to do a variety of things, from “sending someone beer” (a beer icon, on their facebook page) to feeding your virtual dog (foopets) to buying some designer crop on Farmville.

Zynga is the firm behind Farmville and other games such as Fishville and Cafe World, and is positioned to make a lot of money on Facebook.

I stumbled across this short note discussing their business proposition and model (see below)

In the meanwhile, you can also read this Adweek article, titled “The tweet hereafter”.

I had a real shocker when Farmville published that they managed to raise more than half a million dollars for charity. How did they manage that?

So I did a little research and found amazing things about their business model:

1) Low cost
Creating an application in Facebook is relatively low cost compared to high capital investment industries like infrastructure and manufacturing. You’d just have to outsource the programming to an IT company or even individuals to do so. Moreover, the games are played on a repetitive basis so lesser development goes into building a complex game engine or storyline or graphics (unlike WOW).

2) High Margins
Games like Farmville sell items using a virtual currency. Items are sold on a per item basis. Having an intermediate currency disassociates the buyer from the real price of the virtual good/item bought but at the same time, creating the same level of joy of obtaining as a real item. Essentially, Zynga sells “happiness”.

3) Sticky games
Games developed by Zynga keeps you coming back for more and entrenches you deeper and deeper as you progress. No one wants to lose an empire after spending so much time invested in it. A

4) Customers are the sales force
This has become so much apparent that the feeds on profiles have become spammy in a sense. However, it is tolerable as it works on a permission basis and friends do not mind something if it is posted by yourself. In fact, with the trust set already, the friends looking at the profiles would tend to want to get involved as well.  There isn’t a need to even place an advert on Facebook to get more customers. Users do it for Zynga by putting such ads on the highly demanded real estate on their profile page. Another indicator of a strong sales force is the number of reviews outside Facebook itself.

5) Repeat Customers
A facebook user does not only play one Zynga game but several of them at the same time. Essentially, Zynga upsells when they can as well as seen by the ads in the games.

6) Huge base of Customers
Not everyone will purchase something. Just like me. However, you can see that Farmville alone has about 60 million active users. There are more than 10 games and still more coming up I believe. To make a rough estimation. If 1 in every 600 people makes a regular purchase of $1 daily (really a pinch of salt for many of us), it is already a daily revenue of $100,000 for Farmville.

[awesomeness] is the precession of simulacra

The Third & The Seventh from Alex Roman on Vimeo.


What is real?

Where does what we define as real come from? Is it something tangible? Something you witnessed? A part of your memory? What is memory, when what you witnessed never happened. Baudrillard years ago noted that photographing an object makes the object itself cease to exist in the tangible, but endure in memory.

The modern world is defined by images and light whirling into a bricolage of experience – some real, some unreal. Was it real if you were never there? As technology speeds up even faster, building different levels of interaction with the image, as the interfaces of interaction with the real world change, where do we go next?

Design has the power to inspire, the creation of the complete and perfect image precedes the creation of the complete and perfect object. The map truly does precede the territory.

The video is the proof of photography through anti-photography. The image is not real, but made. Take a look at it yourself, and tell me what part of it is real. Only one element is. Fitting, really.

The cycle is nearing completion. Time for history to hit that refresh button.

[awesomeness] is understanding who you are

one brand, two very different routes.BMW used to be The Ultimate Driving Machine. Then someone decided that was not good enough. So BMW have decided to be all about Sheer Driving Pleasure.A bit of a mistake, perhaps.BMW has always had a distinctive edge because of the idea of ‘the ultimate driving machine’. The cars, feats of engineering, have always had a stance exuding presence to the point of arrogance.That has been an underlying narrative in past initiatives like The Hire series of films (one linked below here), or any of the other commercials like the M5-ThrustIISEC ad or the Balance ads for the 5 Series.[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nYJhQDw1jKg&w=500&h=300]The creative translation of Sheer Driving Pleasure is ‘Jump for joy’. Nice idea, if you are Volkswagen or Mini or Smart; but brand suicide if you’re BMW.[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vf3-oEUdWac&w=500&h=303]BMWs have always been the car with a point. They’re performance machines. They’re fast. They growl. They push you to be more. If you look up brandtags, you will find the most prominent tag for BMW happens to be a**hole. For a very good reason.Past communications understood and built on this, but ‘Jump for joy’ is almost an apology and a promise of rehabilitation to quieter pastures for the brand. I’m curious to know where the brand will go next – I hope it’s someplace closer to The Ultimate Driving Machine again. We know that BMW’s had to do a bit of defending against Audi, but this campaign cedes ground that it took BMW many years to make its very own.Change is good when it makes sense, but I don’t know if Marketing @ BMW did a reality check before they decided to proceed with this exercise. It’s like Churchill deciding to deliver his “we shall fight them to the beaches” in limerick. Schade, as they might say in Germany.As a side note, Mercedes put out a new ad for its updated E-Class, a little more hard-edged that you would expect from the three-point-star.[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rafjwASCloQ&w=500&h=300]Watch this space, it’s going to get interesting in 2010.

The second coming of Gossage

stumbled across this article online, called “The second coming on Gossage”. The text is auf Deutsch, as it were, so I’ll just translate the relevant part, which is:

Jedenfalls: Wenn Sie diese Zeilen hier lesen, werden wir schon jurieren. “Cyber” nennt sich meine Abteilung und es ist, das muss ich schon sagen, die spannendste Kategorie im ganzen Bewerb. Nirgendwo sonst ist noch derart viel Neuland zu entdecken und nirgendwo sonst kommt man näher an die Menschen, denen man näher kommen will.Ich muss viel an Howard Gossage denken. Daran, wie er Werbung betrieben hat: Eine Kampagnenidee auf ein leeres Blatt schreiben, daraus eine Anzeige machen und auf die Reaktionen des Publikums warten. Aus diesen Reaktionen neue Anzeigen machen und wieder auf Reaktionen warten. So entsteht eine Kampagne, deren Verlauf vorher nicht absehbar ist. Die Kampagnen entstehen im Gehen, sozusagen. (Unter der nicht unwichtigen Vorsaussetzung allerdings, dass das Ziel klar definiert ist, bevor die Reise losgeht.)

Which, to paraphrase, really talks about why the web is so exciting as a medium for ideas. Even with people and creativity trawling through it, there’s immense potential in generating new narratives and fantastic brand conversations. He goes on to reminisce that Gossage’s campaign idea of communicate-feedback-optimize-communicate-feedback-tweak-communicate; i.e. testing your “offer” or “communication”, figuring out what works, what doesn’t, then rapidly altering the “offer” or “communication” – is really what it’s all about now.It’s sad that most campaigns in the digital space that I’ve seen in India don’t do this yet, don’t even attempt it. Active engagement and versatility is the key to a great campaign online. And this needs to first change at a servicing level. You aren’t selling a “website” or a “creative” or a “campaign” to the client; you’re selling his product or brand for him. Your communication needs to open up suitable narratives, which can only be done if you have a conviction for, and understanding of, the digital space itself.I do client service and rudimentary planning across brands that flit in and out of media depending on the message; but I’ll venture over the next few weeks to lay out observations and ideas on how to service and plan for  digital or multimedia accounts, because there seems to be a general dereliction with regards to thinking ideas through in this space, at first a managerial level; and consequently at a creative level. You can’t sell a great idea if you don’t understand it yourself, after all.