Reading Daytum’s fine print

It being the start of a new year I’m currently overdosing on optimism when it comes to all my various side projects (exercise, writing, everything else I always run out of time for). So I decided it would be a good time to start keeping track of how well I was managing to keep up with things.

And that’s when I stumbled on Daytum – an online service that lets you track your data simply and easily. I’m mainly accessing this through their iPhone app, which is nicely designed but a little on the flaky side.

Daytum iPhone app interface

Daytum iPhone app interface

But what’s really intrigued me about Daytum is their business model. The service is free to try, but the catch is this – any data that you submit is publically viewable, until you sign up as a paid user. In other words, you pay for privacy.

I leapt straight in and started using the app without checking any of this out of course, so I was a bit shocked when I started seeing some of my own entries scrolling up the Daytum homepage. I went looking for the “switch off broadcast” preference, and that’s how I found out about their payment model. Paying for privacy.

Daytum itself is a nice enough service, especially for people (like me) who drool over things like the Feltron Annual Reports (no surprises that the designer of same is one of the co-creators of the app), but I’m not sure I want to fork out for the service – especially as the iPhone app has routinely lost a few of my entries and doesn’t seem capable of handling decimal points. With a bit more polish the app could be quite sweet, but for now I guess random site visitors can see how much I weigh or whatever.

The good news is that I’m finding tracking my progress definitely helps me get more of those side projects happening. Recommended if you’re looking to do the same. And if you stumble on any other good data tracking apps, would be great to hear about them.


Forest. Trees.

I just completed a Master Class with the Hyper Island crew here in Sydney – something I would highly recommend for anyone in the industry, whether from a digital background or not.

One of the things that really struck me about the weekend was how hard it can be sometimes to see the bigger picture while you’re in the thick of work. Yo can get consumed with everything that’s happening a few millimeters in front of your face. Jobs finish and quickly get replaced by new projects, new timelines. But having a chance to step outside of the day-to-day and look at the wider context of what’s going on is vitally important. And something I’m going to make a regular occurrence.

Anyways, needless to say having a weekend to think about what we do all day and where things might be heading has given me a lot of grist for the blog mill. Which I’ll be looking to dip into real soon.

Just as soon as I can clear out the stuff that’s a few millimetres in front of my face.

Lies, Damn Lies and Research

With a title like that, you’d think I’d have some kind of beef with research. Another advertising creative type having a rant about the tyranny of focus groups, railing about the dreaded “r” word.

Not exactly. I’d just like to be able to ask it more questions.

This is the thought that popped into my head when I first ran into this bit of semi-creepy weirdness from MIT:

This is a device that’s supposed to aid communication by mirroring our hand gestures, head movements and something called “proxemics“. All those non-verbal cues that might not otherwise make it through a screen. Its an interesting idea, even if it results in what looks like a stubby armed kid’s toy wheeling around your desktop.

Here’s what really got me thinking about this though: When they researched people using this thing, here’s what they found (emphasis mine):

We conducted an experiment that evaluated how people perceived a robot-mediated operator differently when they used a static telerobot versus a physically embodied and expressive telerobot. Results showed that people felt more psychologically involved and more engaged in the interaction with their remote partners when they were embodied in a socially expressive way. People also reported much higher levels of cooperation both on their own part and their partners as well as a higher score for enjoyment in the interaction.

More engaged? A higher score for enjoyment in the interaction? Is that really all that surprising? This is a brand new experience, so surely you would pay more attention, right? At least you would the first time your boss uses it to give you a remote dressing down with a shake of a tiny fist. But how do they allow for the novelty factor? Is the engagement that the participants feel because of the additional levels of nonverbal communication being broadcast by our shrunken mechanical friend? Or is it just because its something new and different?

The results of research are often written to prove a point. They want to be the final word, the end of the conversation. That’s what I mean when I say I’d like to be able to ask it more questions. Because when it comes to advertising, it has the potential to be incredibly powerful. But its not just a matter of finding out how people react to something. Its just as important to find out why.

Original article here.

The Quarter Turn

When you’re working on ideas, you want them to be amazing. Off the chart. To give the world some staggering thing it has never seen before. But brilliant ideas are often built from things that for the most part seem to be quite ordinary. Sometimes a simple twist is enough to elevate it from something familiar to something genius.

This is what I think if as a quarter turn – not even a full twist, but just the spin on the expected that makes you look at familiar things in a different way. And one of my favourite examples of this would have to be a game called Braid.

For anyone who’s not familiar with the game, its a few years old now but still amazing – the craft in the artwork and soundtrack alone make it well worth a look. But what gets me about this game is that it’s a platformer. A style of gameplay that has been done, and redone, about a billion times since classics like Donkey Kong were first on the scene.

But here’s the turn: in the game there are no “lives”. Instead, every time you die, you can reverse the flow of time – accompanied by an eerie backmasked soundtrack – right back to the point where you slipped off the ledge, and see if you can do things differently. Add in some platform elements that move the same regardless of the flow of time and suddenly you’ve got a mind-bending puzzler on your hands.

We’re attracted to what’s different about this idea: how warping the flow of time affects the gameplay. But without the surrounding context, without the incredibly familiar mechanics to twist in the first place, something like Braid wouldn’t exist.

Over the years, I’ve burnt a lot of energy searching for something completely new, out of  left field. But sometimes the real creative gold is buried in the ordinary, tucked away in a place where others have stopped looking.

Twenty Ten

Now that the dust has settled from the beginning of the year (and with one twelfth of it already done) I’ve finally had a chance to think about the year ahead, and find a couple of things to concentrate on. Not a new years resolution or anything, but what better time to look at things from a bigger picture point of view?

So here’s three things I’ve decided to concentrate on this year:

1. Embracing  chaos.

I spent a lot of time last year being organised, trying to keep things balanced, trying to get things done. But there’s a flipside to all this organisation. You have to stay aware that the world around us, our work, our relationships, its all in constant flux.  I’m going to learn to move with some of these currents instead of building rickety plans that can’t bend in the wind. Everything always changes.

2. Going outside

I’m becoming more and more aware of the digital echo chamber – watching campaigns roll out with the same ideas, the same thoughts, the same structures. Its hard, because we’re all trying to create success, trying to learn from what’s around us. But so much of the ideas I see in digital campaigns are the same.

This year I’m going looking for inspiration outside of this space. Anything outside of this digital/marketing/advertising space I generally lurk around in. I’ll post what I find. Not links like “hey this is cool” – if there’s nothing to be learnt from it, it wont go in. If that means I only post one, so be it. But somehow I doubt that will be the case.

3. Talk more

Yes, I’m busy. I work reasonably long hours. I also take on insane side projects from time to time (currently, its a book. I know, I know…). That limits the amount that I post here, or comment elsewhere. But I also think way too much before I write. I balance, consider, edit, weigh up implications. This year I’m going to say more things. And with a little luck get myself in more trouble.

Should be interesting. Wish me luck.


Most people are fascinated with anything that suggests it will tell them something about themselves. You don’t really need to look much further for evidence of this than the seemingly endless facebook character quizzes that tell you which particular character of a particular show/movie/book/whatever you are most like.

For some reason, this magically seems to turn fairly ordinary content into something people care about enough to share, pass on, etc. – whether we agree or disagree with the findings, we still have an opinion because its about us.

This VW banner did a similar trick by taking twitter feeds and turning them into car recommendations:

VW Twitter Banner

The interesting thing about this is that by telling you what kind of car it thinks you like, it generates an opinion – whether positive or negative – about that car. A kind of unintentional engagement.

Not sure what kind of logic it’s working on though – it used to give me a Golf R32. Now it gives me a Rabbit.

In a similar vein, but on a much loftier scale, is Aaron Zinman’s Personas project. Created as a critique of data mining, the site reports information about you “as the internet sees you”. You enter your name into the site and it spits back a visualisation of things that it has apparently discovered about you from the internet. (I think it helps if, like me, you have a reasonably unique first and last name). It makes the point that the broad assumptions involved in data mining make it easy to arbitrarily group and label people.

How Personas sees me. The fashion component is really larger than it should be.

How Personas sees me. The fashion component (brown) is arguably larger than it should be.

But I couldn’t help noticing how interested I was in something that was supposedly telling me something about myself, no matter how flawed it was. Maybe its a personal thing, but I think a lot of people would say the same. And there would have to be some interesting ways to use this trigger creatively, beyond the structure of the “Which character am I” quiz.

Change at Cannes

Gold Cyber LionOver at bannerblog, there’s been a post discussing the recent Cannes Cyber Lion Grand Prix Winner – the “Best Job in the World” campaign by Cummins Nitro. Asking whether the campaign, as good as it is, really represents the most innovative digital thinking. Or whether its just a great idea that happens to live in the digital space.

Personally, I also find it strange that one campaign could take out the Grand Prix in three categories. Surely this is a sign that the categories are becoming increasingly irrelevant? When digital is more often than not becoming the core of any campaign (even when it comes to this year’s film Grand Prix winner), having a “digital” category starts to sound a bit odd.

Maybe its time for a different Cyber Grand Prix –  one that finds the most innovative creative application of technology. And hopefully one that doesnt reward technological dohickery for its own sake.

But I think there’s another reason why the Best Job in the World had the run that it did. Everyone had heard of it. And not just from ad blogs – from local news sources too. In their own countries. That kind of exposure is pretty much undeniable. In the end, it might actually be fame that’s the new award currency.

In the meantime, should someone tell the Lions people that “cyber” is a bit old school?