Bits and Bytes

Thoughts on digital, running rambles and photos



Amazon Prime Air vs. Waterstones’ OWLS, Christmas Tinner, SpaghettiOMG and this week’s bits and bytes

Amazon Prime Air: The perfect PR stunt timed to coincide with the craziness that is Black Friday and Cyber Monday. It gets people to think less about naughty Amazon (workers’ rights, working conditions in fulfilment centres and tax) and more about innovative Amazon. As Bloomberg notes: “The aerial drone is actually the perfect vehicle—not for delivering packages, but for evoking Amazon’s indomitable spirit of innovation.”

The goal of this new delivery system is to get packages into customers’ hands in 30 minutes or less using radio controlled drones. However, Amazon are quick to point out that putting Prime Air into commercial use will take time – mainly for the tech to mature and for FAA regulations on unmanned aerial devices to change – so don’t expect any drone deliveries anytime soon. The Guardian was quick to add their long list of problems with the idea.

The Internet, as ever, was quick to respond:

The best response however has to be from Waterstones, who reacted brilliantly to announce their Ornithological Waterstones Landing Service, or O.W.L.S. for short. As with Amazon Prime Air, this service will take years to get off the ground, as it takes a long time to teach Owls anything and, well, as appropriately named Waterstones spokesperson Jon Owls confirms, the retailer only just came up with the idea.

Christmas dinner in a can: The clever bods at Game have launched an ingenious product for dedicated gamers this holiday season: all your Christmas Day meals layered into one tin, from your scrambled eggs for breakfast, a couple of mince pies, the turkey dinner (there’s even a version that substitutes broccoli for sprouts), to, of course, the Christmas pudding. This spectacular culinary innovation comes after Game found that 43% of gamers in the UK intend to spend the majority of the holidays on their consoles.

Predictably, this £1.99 tinned temptation has caused outrage with The Mail calling it ‘stomach churning‘, while over at the The Metro, the Christmas Tinner has inspired a Buzzfeed-esque listicle of 10 foods that should never come in a can – after first reporting on the story without finding any offence a mere 24 hours earlier.

The Telegraph so liked the taste of this story, they must have dug into the habits of gamers at Christmas and found some ‘research’ by Dominos claiming that gamers will do almost anything to carry on playing: “almost half of male gamers admitted they have turned down sex to continue playing, while a fifth of female gamers said they had missed weddings and hen dos.”


According to The Mail, the product was trialled in Game’s Basingstoke store, and the gaming retailer plans to sell it in stores across the country if there is enough demand. Den of Geek meanwhile reported that the meal is available online. I am investigating – no response from Game yet.

SpaghettiOMG you said WHAT? It can’t be easy doing social for “a brand of canned spaghetti featuring circular pasta shapes in a cheese and tomato sauce and marketed to parents as ‘less messy’ than regular spaghetti.” But, the brave marketing bods at SpaghettiOs have managed to gain over 10,000 followers on Twitter, half a million Facebook likes.

Looking at their recent posts, the excel at creating tenuous links between their brand and favourite board games from the past, Thanksgiving and even Movember. These posts generate on average a couple of dozen interactions with their fans on Twitter and a few hundred on Facebook.

Having shown that they are a brand with their finger on the pulse, they thought they’d commemorate the bombing of Pearl Harbour on 7 December 1941 by the Japanese with this spectacular image of their brand mascot TheO holding aloft the Stars and Strips as it flutters in a patriotic breeze (HT @tomparker81).

Screen Shot 2013-12-07 at 09.09.50

This post got a few more retweets and favourites than some of their earlier posts – and from the looks of it has already been removed from Facebook.

Worry not, the helpful denizens of Twitter are on the case though, suggesting some more historic events that @SpaghettiOs and TheO could commemorate:


The Tweet has finally been removed and @SpaghettiOs have apologised

Facebook ups post quality: Facebook is tweaking its news feed algorithm to deliver “high-quality” content to people based on what their past behaviour on the platform. According to The Verge, Facebook wants to promote better content such as news articles instead of memes and over-shared viral content.

It’s all a bit shady as to what Facebook deems high quality content to be – to me it sounds like they’re looking to get more of a news driven feed à la Twitter and not just the viral crap (and baby photos? Please tell me baby photos will be filtered out?).

How to know when a post will go viral: While we’re on quality posts, the WSJ this week wrote up a feature on a chap they call the world’s most influential blogger. Neetzan Zimmerman writes for Gawker, posts a dozen times a day and almost every one of his articles goes viral. The piece looks at his system and thought process when picking stories to focus on, likening it to a biological algorithm:

The whole process happens very quickly. “Within 15 seconds, I know whether an item is going to work,” Mr. Zimmerman says. He usually has a headline ready to go a few seconds after that. “It’s a biological algorithm,” he says. “I’ve put myself into the system—I’ve sort of become the system—so that when I see something I’m instantly thinking of how well it it’s going to do.” Indeed, Mr. Zimmerman says he can no longer tell the difference between stories he finds interesting and stories that will be popular. “If it’s not worth posting then I’m not interested,” he says.

The secret then? Looking the story that plugs into the Zeitgeist of that particular day and elicits and emotional response that cannot be denied and competes people to share a story. Also, with Zimmerman’s post generating around 30 million page views a month – this article may also be the best CV ever posted.

Oh, and if Gawker isn’t your thing, The Evening Standard visited Buzzfeed UK for a lengthy feature on what you need to know about the social news site.

Instaforce: Star Wars this week joined Instagram with an image of Darth Vader taking a selfie (know your audience!). Since then they’ve posted a mix of behind the scenes photos from the original trilogy and the distinct lack of Jar Jar or material from the new trilogy does lift the spirits that the upcoming Disneyfication of the franchise might not be as crap as Episodes I-III.

The Force is strong in this one.

Videos of the week: To show that customers get quality advice and top value for money at camera retailer Jessops, Peter Jones dons a dodgy disguise to play a bumbling sales assistant. It shouldn’t work, but it does (although, as @a_little_wine pointed out when she sent this to me, the daily giveaway of a camera will have helped the #beardeddragon hashtag to trend on Twitter).

You may have seen what’s been billed as the most realistic finger painting in the world – a portrait of Morgan Freeman by Kyle Lambert. This clip of the painting taking shape is a mesmerising look at 200 hours of work in three minutes.

The film ‘Anchorman’ was so bad, I stopped watching after 10 minutes. Which is why I’m dumbfounded by how there is such excitement about the sequel coming to cinemas soon. You have to give it their PRs though, who organised for Ron Burgundy to co-presented the Sunday evening news show on KXMB in Bismarck, North Dakota alongside regular news anchor Amber Schatz.

And finally: Social Santa (HT @a_little_wine).

How things go viral, Bieber fury, your new Facebook and this week’s bits and bytes

Horse meat on social: The guys over at Digimind have pulled together a great little infographic of how the horse meat story has developed on social since it broke in mid January. As a Sainsbury’s colleague, I am of course proud to see that our name has rarely been connected to the issue.

Gorkana really doesn’t like AVEs: they’ve published 16 reasons why AVEs don’t measure PR. Solid stuff.

How does stuff go viral? A marvellous feature by Al Jazeera’s The Stream about how videos like Gangnam Style and Harlem Shake go viral. It’s a half hour clip, so sort out a cuppa and get comfy before you get started (as an aside: just check out how the 30 minutes brings together broadcast, Google+ and Google Hangout, Twitter, Skype… very cool).

Misogynistic algorithm screws Amazon: Last weekend, Amazon got itself in a spot of bother when it was found to be selling thoseoh-so-hip ‘Keep Calm and…’ t-shirts. Not only are they entirely naff, these particular ones were emblazoned with charming sentiments such as ‘Keep Calm and Knife Her’ or ‘Keep Calm and Rape a lot’. The shirts were being sold through Amazon by a third party company called Solid Gold Bomb and were quickly removed after the online retailer received a barrage of tweets and complaints. Solid Gold Bomb quickly apologised. How could this happen? Well, turns computer algorithms rather than people that generate different versions of the ‘Keep calm…” slogan automatically and prints them onto shirts when somebody clicks on buy on Amazon. I suspect they will be coding a misogyny filter very soon…

Belieber fury: so, like, OMG, Justin totally showed up late to his gig because he thought he’d, like, be all rock and roll and stuff. While I’m working on how I can get a refund on my TV license fee after the BBC spent two days reporting on the total non-story of Bieber pissing off little girls (and their parents), have a look at this brilliant piece of opportunistic advertising by GetTaxi who sent a cab to Bieber’s hotel to make sure he’d at least be on time for his remaining three O2 gigs (HT ‏@GoodandBadPR).

Also, the best ever photo of a dad at a Justin Bieber concert (HT @Pandamoanimum)

Murdoch blogging: well, technically, his chief of staff Natalie Ravitz, who posts updates of the media mogul’s activities. From shooting clay pigeons, to checking out CES, to shearing a sheep – running an empire is hard work.

How Search Works: Google has launched a new interactive website giving you a look at what goes on behind the scenes everytime you Google something: how it crawls the web and indexes over 30 TRILLION pages, its alogrithms and ranking strategy, and how it fights and removes spam.

New Facebook Newsfeed: Facebook have announced a new design for their newsfeed. It will be met with millions of people complaining about how crap the new design is and how much they want the old layout back. Petitions will be created. #iwantmyfacebookback will start trending. Fast forward 12 months and it will all happen all over again. But what’s new?

  • the new design will look exactly the same no matter which device they use to access their feed
  • videos and images will now be offered more space and prominence
  • the new newsfeed will allow many more options to filter content; including, just stuff from friends, close friends, or according to different media types (photos, music), and also – finally – ALL posts, regardless of their Edgerank (for those that like to believe they are in control of their feed).

Why do this? Friendly Facebook people tell you why in this video.

Videos of the week: the best celebrity interview the world has ever seen features the wonderful Mila Kunis and a star struck and underprepared yet entirely charming interviewer from BBC1;

The Onion questions if you’re dynamic enough to work in a marketing firm; and then there’s Jamie Oliver’s Food Tube interactive video where not only can you smack Jimbo, you can even make him shove a chilli down his pants (HT @susieod).

And finally: Go to Enter your Twitter handle, the URL of your favourite website, or just do a web search. I searched for Sainsbury’s. I’ve not stopped giggling (HT @TomParker81).

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