Bits and Bytes

Thoughts on digital, running rambles and photos



Fish puns, ask Jelly and you shall receive, social news with the NYTimes and this week’s bits and bytes

Fishy goodness: If it’s one thing I’ve learnt during my time in the UK, it’s that Brits love a pun.

Yesterday, @TeaAndCopy tweeted @SainsburysI tried to buy some battered fish from @sainsburys but it didn’t have a bar cod!

David Smith from our social Careline team was quick to respond with this triple whammy: @TeaAndCopy Were there no other packs in the plaice, or was that the sole one on the shelf? Floundering for an explanation! David.

The resulting ‘punversation‘ is a joy to behold and quickly spread via Twitter and onto the HuffPo.

Also, it reminded me of this wonderful ‘Little Story‘ about Sainsbury’s sustainably sourced prawns.

Have a question? Take a photo: If you have a question, somebody out there likely has an answer. Combine that with the fact that most of us have an Internet connected camera in our pocket and you’ve got the premise of the new visual question and answer app Jelly. Jelly allows you to ask and respond to image based questions.

Here’s co-founder and CEO of Jelly, Biz Stone (yup, same dude that helped give us Twitter) who explains it far better than I could. If that’s not enough, there’s more info on Jelly’s blog.

Quick thoughts:

  • The app (at least for iPhone) is still a bit wonky. For example, the only way to switch between Twitter handles at the moment seems to be to delete and re-install the app. Also, it murders your battery life – I suspect this might have to do with the high number of push notifications from the app alerting me to friends in need of answers
  • Jelly works by tapping into your existing connections on Twitter and Facebook – and your connections’ connections – but it keeps all interactions contained within its walls. While they’re likely to open this up in future, it plays to the trend of a) mobile first and worry about the desktop experience later and b) it’s not about getting mass reach or fame, but to help each other out in small-scale yet meaningful interactions
  • Swiping through questions is fun and simple and the wide variety of different questions is astonishing but also confusing. There isn’t a search or sort function and once you’ve dismissed a question, you can’t go back to it
  • There doesn’t seem to be a way to block other Jelly users from asking or responding to questions, nor does the app respect Twitter blocks. Interesting to see how they deal with the inevitable abuse cases and ‘less welcome’ content

Finally, can those social comms bods, please agree to not go for the obvious ‘Would you prefer product a, b or c?’ questions?

Social media news: The team that runs the New York Times’ Twitter feed analysed some of their most successful tweets in 2013 (in terms of click-throughs and retweets), and looked at how they used Twitter to encourage a variety of types of reader engagement with their journalism. @michaelroston, staff editor for social media, sums up their findings and I strongly suggest you give the results your full attention.

For those of the TL;DR mindset (I doubt you’ll have gotten this far, but hey), here’s my take:

  • Managing breaking news is about sharing approved and verified sources. To ensure accuracy, @nytimes will retweet journalists who are directly involvement in events instead of relying un unverified, third party sources
  • They let their journalists break ‘news situations’ – even without links to the NYT: Letting our trusted reporters deliver some news first helps them connect directly with an interested audience, and delivers news in a timely manner without sacrificing our commitment to accuracy 
  • Using social for call-outs for sources
  • Automated tweets are OK (automated in the sense that a new article that’s published to the site is tweeted automatically), but Tweets send via @nytimes performed better when they were written by editors: Twitter is a platform that helps extend The Times’s journalism to an audience that is not always the same as the one that visits our website directly. When we fit our storytelling to the medium, we do the best possible job of connecting with that audience
  • Clearly stated tweets describing the gist of the stories work better than clever headlines

Minimal goodness: A lovely collection of minimal ads that make your brain work just that little bit more to get the point and provide that brief Eureka moment when you get the point. Sent to me by @stangreenan remarking that his favourite was the one for Haribo. I’d have to agree:

Bits and bytes

  • On Vine? Make sure you have your web profile sorted as the six second video app makes the leap from mobile to desktop
  • Don’t know where to go on your next holiday? You could use Sightsmap, a nifty heat map of popular places around the world
  • Why is no-one is outraged about the New York Times redesign (despite the horribly intrusive related story pop-up functionality)? A playful post, but one that will leave anyone who’s ever worked on redesigning a website smiling. Also, you’ll learn what a hamburger is in terms of web design speak (HT @alexcole71)
  • The San Francisco Chronicle will put all its reporters through social media boot camp in an attempt to to arrest circulation decline and remain relevant in the digital age. The two month (!) programme is all about introducing digital metrics and measurement tools. Let’s hope they’re also addressing the required mental shift from print to digital
  • The reason why Netflix walked away from personalisation? The novelty factor: the new and unexpected is what delights customers, not a similar version of what they watched yesterday
  • XKCD provides a brilliant comeback to the question: “Why can’t you just enjoy the view rather than always take photos”

    Source: XKCD

Videos of the week: A case study from Kirby Ferguson, on the back of his excellent 4-part series Everything is a Remix about how creativity resembles remixing. He looks at how when it was launched, the iPhone borrowed from conventions and ideas outside of the smart phone realm to when the recent update of iOS6 was released, it borrowed from ideas within the smart phone realm.

It’s worth taking a look back at the entire series, the first and second films make the point that not only is everything today a remix, creation actually requires influence and that it doesn’t take any expensive tools or even skills to do so (anymore). The third film looks at how innovations truly happen and the fourth finishes on how our system of law doesn’t acknowledge the derivative nature of creativity.

If you fancy a quicker summary of all that goodness, I’d recommend Kirby Ferguson’s TED talk that brings this all together – without the excellent films and animations mind you.

And finally: Movie Code, images of the computer code appearing in TV and films and what they really are.

Market like it’s 2013, social ‘blunders’, Facebook competitions and this week’s bits and bytes

Market like it’s 2013: Motormouth, wine merchant and social media superstar @garyvee spoke at the Elevate conference in New York City about how marketers are behaving in 2013 as if it were still 2004. It’s a thought provoking, 20-minute talk that really hammers home the point that just blasting out messages to your subscribers, Adwords, MPUs and direct mail campaigns are about a decade out of date because they no longer earn the attention of people in today’s saturated media landscape.

This really shouldn’t be new to anyone in marketing, PR or social media, but it’ll serve as a good reminder because I am sure we all still tend to err on the broadcast side of how we use social, rather than spending the energy to really listen to what people are saying.

Some bits that stuck with me:

  • Don’t treat social media like another push marketing channel – it is a two-way conversation. Treating it like another broadcast channel doesn’t bring any value what so ever to the end user
  • Twitter should be more about listening and less about talking. It should be about responding to people, about looking for specific keywords that will allow you to tell your story to someone that is interested in your product or industry and bring value to them
  • Make it your mission to “natively storytell” on social platforms
  • Spend your time figuring out how to tell stories on platforms that you don’t think you’re going to use – keep your ears pricked for what Gary says about how Snapchat could be used as a real-time promotional tool that rewards only your most die hard fans
  • Only if you understand why people are on a social platform, will you be able to understand how to bring value to the user, raise awareness for your brand
Understand why people are on a social media platform

Netflix FTW: While we’re on the topic of paradigm shifts (I know, I said it wasn’t news, but I needed a segway), Kevin Spacey convincingly argues that releasing films in cinemas, on-demand and on DVDs at the same time would take a huge bite out of piracy. Queue many overjoyed Game of Thrones fans (the most pirated TV show on the planet because you can’t get it fast enough) who have had to resort to all sorts of shady methods to get their next fix. And no, I’m not over the red wedding.

Twerk beats F Bombing – special guest post by @A_Little_Wine: It was the MTV Video Music Awards 2013 on Sunday and as usual, it failed to disappoint. Miley Cyrus’ performance with Robin Thicke dominated Twitter overshadowing Lady Gaga’s opening performance of her new single, Katy Perry’s closing rendition of her latest hit, Kanye West’s auto-tuned selfie and even Taylor Swift dropping an F bomb live on camera. Miley’s performance beat even Justin Timberlake’s 15 minute epic montage including a reunion with ‘N Sync! Cyrus performed the infamous Twerk complete with giant gyrating teddies and a rather X-rated performance with man-of-the-moment Mr Thicke. You know it’s shocking when even Rhi Rhi looks a bit embarrassed. The ‘most shared’ reaction to Miley’s twerking however, would be that of the Smith family.

According to Nielsen’s SocialGuide the cringe worthy show generated 18.5 million Tweets on the night alone with the show being tweeted about 28 times more than the second most popular televised show across the globe.

Many tweets don’t (necessarily) make a trend: Cision have looked at a number of Twitter trending topics and come to the conclusion that just because something is trending on Twitter that doesn’t mean that many people are talking about it. A number of examples show that there seem to be some other factors in play, that sometimes topics trend long after the peak in mentions was achieved, or that topics trend with only a few hundred mentions (HT @MindyB_).

Traditional media doesn’t get social media shocker: The Daily Telegraph posted an article titled “Five biggest social media blunders of 2013“. Now, I’ve talked to you about my love of a good listicle, and given my day job, I clicked. Spectacularly, The Daily Telegraph goes on to list six social media ‘blunders’, only one of which (Tesco’s “hit the hay” tweet) can really be considered a ‘blunder’.

The other five ‘blunders’ – including the frickin news hook the entire piece was based on – were not blunders (ie. a stupid or careless mistakes), but rather the result of hackers gaining access to Twitter accounts.

I’m surprised they didn’t include the Syrian Electronic Army hacking the New York Times and Twitter this week. After all, they’re literally making up new meanings of words to suit the way they’re abusing. Oh, wait…

So, what is a social media blunder? Liverpool FC have the answer (HT @tomparker81 and @a_little_wine).

Painful Facebook competitions are coming: In a dramatic u-turn, Facebook have announced that you can now run promotions and competitions right there on your brand page. This means that you no longer need to build a special app that houses the competition (that cry of pain you hear is by app developers going out of business), instead you can ask your fans to simply like or comment on a post to join a competition.

There’s no mention of cost to the page owner in the Facebook promotion guidelines, which I find hard to believe as this simple mechanic will be something that brands will want to get into. I suspect it will lead to many branded competitions popping up in your newsfeed (after all, Facebook treats much liked and much commented content within your social graph as being particularly newsworthy) and – who knows – the unfollowing of brands who post too many inane competitions like this one from Condescending Corporate Brand (yes, I know this isn’t a real competition, but if you’re familiar with their collection of painfully poor posts you just know it isn’t far from the truth).

The thin blue Twitter line: Twitter has also decided to update its service – if you’re using their mobile app, you’ll now see that there’s a blue line that connects tweets in a conversation, displaying them immediately after the other.

The majority of Twitter users seem to be OK with this (going by my feed at least), saying that it helps make sense of Twitter’s confusing conversations. But then there’s those that believe by making conversations easier to follow, Twitter is encouraging people to use the service for something other than its essential function, that is following the news rather than conversations between people that may have concluded hours previously.

Videos of the week: The guys at GoPro posted this great clip from Man City’s pre-season tour of the US. What do we learn? Footballers are all about the garishly coloured shoes, it’s all about angles, Hart was pants even in pre-season (but is rather good at baseball), and in the States, a pre-season friendly between Chelsea and Man City is sold out, so dire is the quality of football there.

Climate Name Change propose a new naming system for extreme storms caused by climate change after the policy makers who deny climate change and obstruct climate policy.

And finally: A triple dose of Internet awesomeness, because I couldn’t pick just one. I present you Dubstep cat, Daily Express Bingo and What Rhymes With Hug Me.

Commander Hadfield rocks, Capcom’s Internet of you and this week’s bits and bytes

7 future comms trends: Last week @drewb spoke at CIPR Wild Wild Web about the seven future web trends that brands should know about – all with a comms slant.

AP social media guidelines: The Associated Press posted an update to their social media guidelines, looking to balance the need for speed in reporting, warning journalists to avoid spreading unconfirmed rumors through tweets and posts.

Google’s still got it: Google’s 6th annual developer conference Google I/O is happening right now in San Francisco. The main event of this 3-day-developer-marathon though was Google’s 3.5 hour keynote where they announced a whole host of new features, updates and even some new hardware. Nothing major, rather an interesting mix of new features as well as leveraging and connecting existing products in Google’s massive portfolio. My faves:

  • Google+ saw a redesign adding a new chat that syncs across all platforms and a new focus on image manipulation called ‘Image Awesome‘. No, really. Awesome. The new in-built photo gallery enhances, categorises, styles and retouches your photos. Oh, and it does this automatically.
  • Spotify, Rdio and other music streaming services will have taken note of the terribly named Google Play Music All Access. The service will cost $9.99 a month but doesn’t have an ad-supported version (yet).
  • Google Search will soon receive a makeover in terms of input: you’ll be able to just tell Google in Chrome to search for something by saying “OK, Google“. No keystrokes or clicks required. The walls are growing ears.
  • My favourite new Google feature though is the combination of Google Wallet and Gmail, allowing you to send and receive actual money to people as an email attachment. So simple, so useful.

There’s always money in the banana stand: Netflix are using the infamous banana stand from ‘Arrested Development’ to generate even more buzz around the show’s highly-anticipated return to the online streaming service on 26 May. It’s already made it to Tower Bridge and Leicester square in London!

Huggies’ Tweetpee app: Not sure if this falls into the category of ‘WTAF’ or ‘pure genius’, but Ogilvy Brazil has come up with a sensor/app combo that tells parents when their babies need a diaper change. The sensor attaches to the baby’s diaper and tweets the parent when moisture levels become too high. But, before you just leave your baby pee, Kimberly-Clark confirmed in a statement that the clip-on humidity sensor is intended merely as a concept device and will not be made available for purchase. Back to manually checking those humidity levels.

The history of Typography: Ever wonder what the hell is the difference between serif and sans serif? Why Italics were invented? No? Well, to be honest, neither did I. Still, this animated short provides a great summary of the history of typography from its invention by Gutenberg through the horror that is Comic Sans, to today’s proliferation of different typefaces in word processing software (HT @willio).

BBM on iPhone? In a move that (to me) smacks of desperation, Blackberry have announced plans to make Blackberry Messenger available on iPhone – thereby removing the last reason for actually buying a Blackberry in the first place.

The Internet of things: The idea of a future where your fridge will order another pint of milk before you run out isn’t new. In fact, Wired Magazine’s @billwasik believes the programmable world is already here, writing in his excellent essay that soon we’ll be able to choreograph them to respond to our needs, solve our problems, even save our lives.

Remember me: Take the ‘Internet of things’ idea a giant leap further into the future and you land smack bang in the world of Capcom’s new sci-fi action/adventure game ‘Remember me‘. Rather than connecting inanimate objects through the web, this futuristic dystopia (think Bladerunner) has society connecting people’s memories, sharing them instantly via the web. The internet of you, as it were.

Source: The Art of the Game


To promote the game’s central idea, Capcom partnered with Youtube videographer Devin Supertramp (famous for his clips of attractive people swinging through giant arches) and produced a clip with scenes from Devin’s very own archive of work together with a speech of Antoine Cartier-Wells, the founder the corporation in Remember who has developed the technology to connect people’s minds. Trippy, geeky – I know what’s next after Bioshock!

Here is today: An incredibly simple, yet brilliantly effective and beautiful site to tell the story of the creation of the world, the universe, everything – across all time.

Gran’s cooking: Italian photographer Gabriele Galimberti recently finished a 18-month trip around the world during which he completed a wonderful photographic project called ‘Delicatessen with love‘. A homage to grans’ cooking from around the world, the photos show portraits of grandmothers and their signature dish. The outcome is a cookery book of detailed recipes that mix love, photography and travel amongst the many exotic ingredients from Peru to the Philippines.

Source: Gabriele Galimberti

Satellite imagery time-lapse: Last week we had hyperlapse videos created using Google Maps imagery and data – this week I discovered the Google Earth Engine. Using satellite imagery from Landsat, the chaps from Google have put together a number of time-lapses spanning almost two decades from 1984 to 2012 showing everything from lakes drying out, palm-shaped islands popping up off the coast of Dubai, to the deforestation of the Amazon. Amazing and terrifying to see the often devastating effect we humans have on nature – and in such a short time.

As you’d expect from the search engine, you can also Google any other location – I found the Singaporean landgrab particularly impressive. Keep your eye on the South-Western and Eastern tips (Changi Airport) of the island.

Singapore timelapse
Source: Google Earth Engine

Video of the week: It had to be the video of International Space Station Commander Chris Hadfield singing David Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’ while orbiting our planet. Hadfield has tweeted throughout his mission, sharing everything from Space Station sounds to stunning images of earth from outer space – but to finish it off with the first ever music video recorded in space? Well played.

Acknowledgement from the original Spaceman

I love that this gloriously ‘tached Astronaut has helped NASA land arguably their biggest PR coup since the moon landing – all by engaging the world through social media with fascinating insight into what life in space is all about, a willingness to have a conversation and a healthy dose of Canadian charm.

Here’s a little ‘best of’ compilation of Hadfield in action.

And finally: Ryan Gosling won’t eat his cereal (HT @a_little_wine).

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