Weeknotes 38: publishing stuff

I’ve been quite busy in the past couple of weeks looking after a small team putting the Government Digital Strategy online.

In the words of the policy professionals who actually wrote the words, it was published as a website rather than published on a website. This may sound like a small distinction, but it makes it easier for people to link to specific bits, and also means we get the benefit of analytics. I’m hoping that more government publications will start to be published in this way.

Jack, our front end developer, has already written up the geek-eye view of the project on the GDS blog , but the short version is that we had a properly multi-disciplinary team (policy, design, dev..) all working together using GitHub with some compile scripts which use Kramdown to turn the Markdown source files into HTML and PDF.

The best bit is that we’re not finished. As with any good online product, ‘launch’ shouldn’t mean it starts to die. We’ve continued to make small improvements (you can see them for yourself in the GitHub commit history).

We’re also refactoring to extract useful functionality into other projects. The best example so far is the code that Tim and Jack developed to create accessible jQuery bar charts from HTML tables. We’ve refactored that out to be its own open source project called Magna Charta and there are some early working examples of it in action here.

Meanwhile, I’ve been continuing to look after ERTP (demo-ing to the House of Lords recently, a task which required the rather unusual step of wearing of a suit to work).

I’ve also been picking up the product management for a management information dashboard tool, which I can’t really talk about yet but is moving into a second phase of prototype development. (No, it’s not that one.)

I’ve missed doing these weeknotes. I might try to make it a habit.

Weeknotes 2: my first big project

My second week in the new job and I’m still getting to know people and projects. One thing I do know already is that I’m very happy to be here.

One thing I love about GDS is the scale of some of the projects we get to be involved in. On Monday I was introduced to the ERTP (Electoral Registration Transformation Programme), a project which will let people apply online to register to vote. That’s pretty important. Mat Wall (previously of the Guardian) is the technical architect on the project. His team had already completed their first sprint by the time I joined, but they’d been coping without a product owner. On Tuesday, I picked up that role. Much of the rest of the week was spent getting familiar with the product backlog (expressed as user stories of course) and making sure they were prioritised ready for the start of the next sprint.

On Friday we had our second weekly show and tell, showing various project stakeholders the progress so far. We got good feedback and they were especially impressed to see the choices we’ve been talking about in the past few days delivered already in working code. This is where the power of working iteratively and using agile methods really shows its worth.  Lots more iterations to come of course, but we already have an end-to-end product working, and have made a good start on the user experience.

Speaking of which, it’s been really good to work closely with Paul Annett this week, and we have some big decisions to make about the online form. For example, should it be “First name” or “Given name”? Is it “Surname”, “Last name” or “Family name”? Various online (and paper) forms already exist of course, but it’s incredibly inconsistent. While there are some agreed standards for how to pass data around, there is no equivalent for how to describe these things to users. That’s something we should get to fix and define as part of the Global Experience Language that will be used for lots of other government products.

Things I’ve been doing this week:

  • Picking up the product manager role for ERTP. Working with the various stakeholders and requirements wranglers for that project
  • Making sure the important user stories are captured, and starting to get them prioritised.
  • Drafting a plan for bringing in a few developers to work on innovation projects. Lots of re-drafts, and it’s still not done.
  • Agreeing next steps for another big project and starting to line up workshops to capture user needs. I look forward to the world being awash with index cards.
  • Meeting various departments. I turned down one potential project on the grounds that two weeks wasn’t long enough to do a good job of it. We’ll stay in touch and hopefully work on something for the same team later in the year. More of this sort of thing.
  • Lots more bits and pieces with the innovation team, mainly focusing on ensuring user stories are captured and priorities are understood. Everyone loves learning a new thing, so helping people learn agile + scrum stuff is fun.
  • Passing on a not-as-tongue-in-cheek-as-it-sounds pet theory: good techies are lazy. Being a lazy developer means you’re more efficient and don’t waste time on things you don’t need to do. I was delighted when I overheard someone subsequently encouraging someone else in the team to be lazy and do the simplest thing that would work, rather than over-develop something.
  • Continuing to send my newsletter every week day. It’s up to 270 subscribers now, and I’m enjoying having to find a handful of interesting things to share.
  • Setting up some time with Leila to record some more Shift Run Stop.

Weeknotes 1: predictive vs adaptive

The first week since I joined GDS has been the predictable whirl of meeting people and trying to start to understand what’s going on. It’s a whole new place, with its own ways of working to understand, and a very different environment.

I must say though, like Paul, I was impressed. I received a security pass on my first day (before lunch, even). I was given a choice of laptop, and picked up a shiny new 13″ MacBook Air a few days before the job had even officially started. The attention to detail here, and the thoughtfulness involved in giving techies the appropriate tools with which to be comfortable and productive, is quite impressive.

So, first impressions: brilliant people, lovely office, lots to do.

I’m the brand new product manager for the Innovation team, and I’m quickly improving my understanding of what we do, and why. I’m hoping to start working with the team to define how a bit better in the next couple of weeks.

The very first thing that struck me about the innovation team is that it’s quite small and has a huge pipeline of work. The team are using Trello to track an impressively long list of potential projects from initial leads through to things being actively worked on and finally to completion. That first ‘leads’ column contains a fairly wide range of different sorts of projects. Some are a couple of weeks work for one or two developers. Some are more like 3+ months effort for a small team. Others involve no coding at all, but things like feeding words in to papers and policy decisions. It’s a great team, and I’m delighted to be part of it. Very exciting times ahead.

In my first five days, I’ve…

  • Spent most of my time getting to know the team, as well as meeting people from across the whole department.
  • Understanding the work that’s already in progress, how we work now, what’s working well and what we could do differently/better.
  • Started lining up a delivery team (we need more developers and hopefully a few developers who can work on innovation projects too).
  • Briefly getting my hands dirty with a bit of javascript in order to experiment with getting live dada data [thanks Paul] into a dashboard (including some inspiration courtesy of Bill French’s rather nifty Google docs approach.
  • Had my first meeting with an external vendor. Although GDS has a good and growing multidisciplinary team, we definitely can’t (and shouldn’t, and won’t) be building everything in house. I predict some more meetings like this.
  • Had my first meeting with another government department to start exploring how we could work together (I predict plenty more of these too.)

At the end of an exciting and busy week, the biggest and most in-progress question at the front of my mind, is this: How will we marry government procurement processes with 21st century approach to product delivery?

Using agile methods means being able to influence iterations of  product. Seeing working software as soon as possible and prioritising what goes in to subsequent iterations improves the changes of ending up with something useful, largely thanks to being able to handle (gasp!) changing requirements. Martin Fowler wrote a brilliant essay on ‘The New Methodology’ way back in 2005, in which he talks about predictive vs adaptive approaches, the unpredictability of requirements, and many other implications of (and reasons to use) agile methods.

Meanwhile, here in 2012, it seems the government’s procurement practices may still need to catch up quickly. Contracts usually rely on defining a list of requirements and using these to form a very specific contract with a supplier. This has the theoretical advantage of nailing down the cost, the delivery date and (theoretically) the scope, but the predicted requirements had better be right. They’d also better be right before the project even begins, in enough detail to describe what is needed and when it will be delivered. That’s really not an easy thing to do without the people who will be doing the making, the actual developers, being involved.  And if a rigid contract makes it hard to iterate meaningfully on a working approach, what happens if we were wrong about the predicted scope? Not such a big deal for a week project, but for a bigger contract it could be seriously wasteful. You don’t need to look very hard to find examples of where this has happened in the past. A lot.

The good news for me is that lots of people in GDS are already aware of the tensions here and I’m far from the first person to think about the issues surrounding the predictive vs adaptive approach. It seems that several people in the building have already been discussing this for some time. Hurrah. I’ve also just been re-reading Harry Metcalfe’s ideas about “How government’s SME relationship should smell” which he shared at the end of last year.

“… the process needs to recognise that in digital projects (and probably other ones too) success far more often emanates from the close and effective personal relationships of people acting in good faith than it does in detailed specification of process, requirements or outcomes.”

Insightful stuff, and I find myself agreeing with Harry very much. Now to see if there’s something that can be done about it.

I’m looking forward to next week, when I hope to get properly involved in some more discussions about all of this stuff, and a lot more besides. Wish me luck.

Moving on from W+K

Today is my last day at W+K London.

Starting next week, I join the Government Digital Service. You might already have heard of GDS and the single government domain (GOV.UK beta) project, which is rather exciting. If not, here’s Danny O’Brien writing about poacher turned gamekeeper, Tom Loosemore, which should set the scene nicely.

I’m joining a brilliant department. They’ve been bringing in some seriously good developers and building an exciting multi-disciplinary team. Most recently, Ben Terrett (also ex W+K) joined as Head of Design, and Russell Davies is now lending a hand too. Exciting times.

How is it that *The Government* is one I the most exciting start-ups in Britain right now? #govuk

What will I be doing? Well, I’ll be product manager for the Innovation team. Last year they launched the e-petitions site, which in its first 100 days received an impressive 18 signatures per minute. I hope to work on some similarly interesting problems and make some interesting and useful things. There’s a lot to do, and having fun with government services is an opportunity too good to miss.

Leaving W+K was a difficult decision though. Especially because I know that I’ll miss it, and the people there, very much. Leaving after 14 months, just when things are finally falling in to place and I feel at home, feels like a very strange thing to do. On the other hand, it’s good to be leaving on a high. Things have never been better. It’s been a privilege to work with such amazing people on such a wide range of projects, from the Kaiser Chiefs album launch to Cravendale’s ‘cats with thumbs’ and everything in between. There are some seriously good things coming up later this year too.

I’ve learned a lot in the past year-and-a-bit, and I learned more from my mistakes than the things I got right. Perhaps the thing that stuck with me most was some  advice for new joiners that I read on my first day, which said, if you are wondering whose job it is, it’s probably yours.

When Ben left W+K, he wrote about what makes W+K great. Like the BBC and IBM before that, it’s a place I’ll remember fondly, full of people I’ll miss seeing around.

Goodbye, W+K. Hello, GDS.

Deloitte TV+ paper, some notes

A new paper out today from Deloitte called ‘TV+: perspectives on television in words and numbers‘ which covers some subjects close to my heart. I was particularly pleased to be invited by the Guardian to appear in some brief podcasts discussing it (along with Tess Alps from ThinkBox, George Entwistle from the BBC, Richard Welsh from Bigballs Films, Sally Quick from UKTV, James Bates & Paul Lee from Deloitte, all chaired by the brilliant Aleks Krotoski).

The PDF itself is secured, making it hard for me to copy and paste some choice quotes for you. Oh well. Here are some rough notes anyway.

Foreword

TV as “the super medium around which all others revolve”.

The primacy of TV is defended in terms of hours of consumption, but I think there may be more to it than that. Would would it take for the internet to become the primary medium? Hours of consumption? Reach? Share of total advertising spend? We know that the share of advertising revenue spent on TV, press and internet are now about equal (26-27% / £4B each) with internet spend just slightly below the other two. TV has been stable, press has been falling and internet has been rising. What happens next year, if internet overtakes TV spend? There’s an argument that we could be very close to the moment when the Internet becomes the primary medium for advertising. That doesn’t necessarily make it the primary medium for culture, but I’d argue we’re moving towards that too. [According to Ofcom, the percentage of 8-11 year olds who would rather give up TV than internet is 15%, and rising. Even more striking, "children aged 12-15 are now as likely to miss the internet (24%) and mobiles (26%) as they are to miss TV (24%)". Interesting times ahead.]

1.) TV+ proliferating portable screens

Increased opportunity to watch TV thanks to increase in access to mobile devices, apparently. Hmm. My view is that just because someone can watch TV on a small screen doesn’t mean they will always want to. I’d expect mobiles devices to be largely used for clip-snacking rather than people watching 30 minutes of TV on the move (though no doubt there will be some more of that too).

Colour e-ink capable of fast refresh rates. (Imagine something like a Kindle, but in colour and capable of video.) This will indeed be amazing. I’m still not sure we’re going to be watching whole episodes of X Factor in the park though. Personally, I think the power of mobiles will not be in watching TV, but as a second screen allowing you do browse, chat, buy etc simultaneously and individually, without cluttering up the big shared living room screen. Million Pound Drop had an online game (by Monterosa for Channel 4) allowing you to play at home. With good on air calls to action they had 12.4% of the TV audience simultaneously playing on their second screen. For advertising, things like the Honda Jazz app and the Heineken ‘Star Player‘ game are just the start.

2.) TV+ social networks

“Social networks and television complement each other” Couldn’t agree more. Both for TV makers and advertisers, the opportunities here are massive.

Popular programmes are what drive social chatter. – I can certainly confirm that producers and commissioners are very interested to know “did we trend on Twitter last night?” But some interesting ones are thinking about how to make sure their programmes work well online too. Seven Days was deeply flawed in many ways, but a format that tried (and arguably succeeded) to ensure people would talk about it and share it online. The BBC, too, puts a lot of effort into helping people know where the online conversations are happening online (whether it’s linking to the buzz about each programme from its official web page (like this), or putting a hashtag on screen at the start of certain programmes).

35x more time spent watching TV than using using social networks. (more people are watching TV, and for longer, than using social networks). This is probably the fact with which TV execs in Edinburgh will be reassuring themselves in Edinburgh this week. I’m not sure this helps us understand the underlying patterns though, for two reasons. First, because TV viewing figures measure “presence rather than attention” (to quote the brilliant Matt Locke), and time spent watching TV is very different from time spent conversing, sharing, creating, etc. And second, because the average time spent online is not a particularly useful measurement. I’ve been re-reading Clay Shirky‘s Here Comes Everybody recently. He writes “the most active [in social systems such as Wikipedia and Flickr] tend to be much more active that the median participant, so active in fact that any measure of ‘average’ participation becomes meaningless. There is a steep decline from a few wildly active participants to a large group of barely active participants, and though the average is easy to calculate, it doesn’t tell you much about any given participant.”.

Conclusion: “Television and social networks could each exist independently of each other” … but “the two media are strongest when working in parallel”. Yes.

3.) TV+ technology

PVRs: people think they’re watching fewer adverts but actually, they’re watching more. (As with ‘TV is not going away’, this is actually something people have known for a while.) It’s a good fact though.

47% of 16-24 year old PVR owners always, frequently or occasionally stop fast forwarding through ads if they see an advert or trailer that interests them. – Interesting to think of opportunities to develop advertising that works well on PVRs. A three minute spot, with 18 seconds of film played out at 1/10th normal speed, would be really annoying unless you were fast forwarding it. Let’s not make one of those.

I dispute that claim that YouTube is now “focused on professionally produced content, with television programmes featuring prominently”. I’d suggest that the vast majority of YouTube’s content is still people “broadcasting themselves”, despite the (very sensible) moves to showcase professional content too.

4.) TV+ advertising

TV advertising remains strong.

“This is why the most successful campaigns tend to run across multiple media – each complementing the other, each reaching the target audience in a different context, but all conveying the core message.” – Spot on. At work, we call this an integrated campaign.

5.) TV+ shopping

TV is about as important as recommendation by a friend, while ‘I came across it on FB/twitter’ are very low. Interesting, but I think there could be a bias in that survey against recommendations made online, especially as social networking becomes mainstream and not something people think about as a specific activity (just how they stay in touch with some friends).

All in all, a really interesting piece. Well worth a read.

Fortnotes 14

[Being the fourteenth in a fortnightly series of brain dumps: what I'm working on, wondering and worrying about.]

A busy fortnight. As usual.

Now that the Kaiser Chiefs album has been released, I continue to be excited about the analysis the Rev Dan Catt is doing with it. Keeping half an eye on things, but the team on this one doesn’t need too much input from me.

Met with Tess from Thinkbox, who was kind enough to share their ‘Tellyporting’ research with me in person in advance of me speaking at a Thinkbox event soon.

Gave a talk to some friendly students from a University in Texas. Andy, our ICD, talked about our approach to digital and interactive work and I shared a case study. Then Jon and I get them thinking about a specific project and gave them an hour or two to work on a brief we set. Genuinely impressed at the ideas they come back with.

Presented at a conference organised by PRmoment and held at Ketchum (conveniently about 30 seconds walk from my office) for people from the PR industry. Despite possibly the only advertising person in the room, everyone was very welcoming and put up with my nonsense (at one point I actually said “and that’s why they pay us the big bucks”, which even in the context of trying to be disarming and witty should probably have been a capital offence). I shared Cravendale as an example of an integrated digital project. Lots of appreciative smiling and some good questions in the panel session. Sometimes I realise how proud I am to be working at W+K. Thanks to Ben

Sitting in on a couple of creative briefings for some work for Three. Interesting stuff.

My first ‘chemistry meeting’ with a potential new client. This gives them a chance to get to know us (and us a chance to get to know them), so we can all see if we’ll be able to work together one day. Enjoyed this very much.

Starting to hear about a pitch coming up for some new business. Reading the brief, chatting with the planner and starting to understand the background and what the client is looking for. Everyone is excited about the client and the potential for working with them if we win their business. Fingers crossed for the big pitch.

An unusual bit of in-progress work that I can talk about properly; Remember Dot, the world’s smallest stop-motion animation filmed on a Nokia N8 + Cellscope microscope we did with Aardman for Nokia? Well, it’s time for the sequel, and rather than go even smaller we’re turning the idea on its head and hoping to make the worlds largest animation, filmed on a beach in Wales over a week. Having seen the storyboards and animatics, I reckon the film is going to be brilliant. We suggested opening up the production process by sharing footage from the beach, using the Nokia Nseries blog to collect material as a sort of production blog while the film is being made. This is unusual for most projects, where secrecy until the moment of release is very much the norm. Nokia and Aardman were very happy with the idea though, and we worked with Nokia’s word of mouth agency 1000 Heads to make it happen. The shoot itself was slightly hampered by bad weather, (one day and one night of filming have been postponed), but the brave souls on the beach, including some invited guests, got some great footage of the process.

Enjoying:

Fortnotes 13

[Being the lucky thirteenth in a fortnightly series of brain dumps: what I'm working on, wondering and worrying about.]

I can finally reveal the super secret project I’ve been getting increasingly excited about in these fortnotes for the past few weeks. The Kaiser Chiefs new album The Future is Medieval is out now, and it’s a bit different. Here’s how it works:

  • Preview 20 new Kaiser Chiefs tracks. Select the 10 you want, and the order in which you want them, for your own album.
  • Design your album artwork (much more fun than it probably sounds).
  • If you like what you’ve made, buy it for £7.50 and download your album.
  • Get your own kaiserchiefs.com/{username} URL for your personal album [mine is kaiserchiefs.com/rooreynolds frinstance].
  • You can sell it on through the site, making a £1 cut for each album sold.
  • Profit.

As an agency, we’ve been working on this for ages. Our own Oli Beale (the chap behind James Face and the complaint to Richard Branson) came up with the idea with the band. The launch was simultaneously rather tense, busy and a hell of lot of fun. Most of all, it’s an enormous relief to be finally able to talk about it.

It seems to have gone down rather well. I’ve been collecting various tweets, blog posts and press articles since well before the announcement. Some highlights:

“… my fears that this release could undermine the album format as an artform (and admittedly a physical, band selected release is planned for later this summer) seem unfounded. When I made my version of the album … I found myself getting sucked into sequencing it, trying to work out what would go well together to give the album a certain feel. So in a way it actually made me engage with the album more than the average release. So much so, I’d actually advise you to forget my version and make your own.”Paul Stokes, NME

Most of the coverage has been about the innovative and creative approach, so it’s good to see some really in depth review of the album on the BBC Music site:

“they’ve upped their creative ante somewhat, a number of these songs … coming across as more measured and mature, and a heck of a lot gloomier, than the upbeat bounce-alongs of old. Lead single Little Shocks goes some way to showcasing this murkier atmosphere – where before there was shiny hooks, here the chorus doesn’t leap from the speakers and the whole piece swells with unexpected drama. Can’t Mind My Own Business is indie-pop trapped in a Tron cabinet, while Heard It Break is a sinister sibling of something The Human League might write. Starts With Nothing examines the transitory nature of fortune, of wealth monetary and emotional – it’s rudimentary lyrically, but nevertheless a significant tonal shift for an act predominantly associated with anthems for football terraces. Child of the Jago claims, “This is your nightmare calling” – not quite, but there’s no doubt that the Kaisers have been exploring their darker side, with some exceptional results.” Mike Diver – BBC Music review

I really loved this post too, which nails the approach perfectly:

I would not call myself a fan of the Kaiser Chiefs. I have enjoyed some of their songs but I’ve never bought one of their albums before and probably wouldn’t have noticed this record at all if it had been released conventionally. But today I paid for their new record and now I’m writing a blog about them on this cooler-than-thou music site. And I’m enjoying the record! And I know that’s partly down to the “Wow, I made that” novelty but I’m also genuinely liking the songs, and that’s down to the fact that I was able to tailor the record to my own personal tastes. This is nothing new – people pick and choose songs to put onto their iPod and even edit down and resequence albums in their iTunes – but it’s heartening to see a mainstream act recognising this trend and tailoring their output towards it.Jed, A Girl Called Sam

But best of all though is some amazing work from Rev. Dan Catt who has been messing around with the data and working out which are the most popular tracks, providing some impressively detailed analysis of the project, and even looking into which order people put the tracks. Dan rocks.


Other things I’ve been working on recently include Visit Wales (developing roles and approach), Cravendale (still getting ready for the next phase), spending a bit of time helping out an a really interesting Nokia campaign and appearing in a promotional video for for walls.im’s TechCity Launchpad application.

New terminology: PPM = pre production meeting.

Fortnotes 11 & 12

[Being the 11th and 12th in a fortnightly series of brain dumps: what I'm working on, wondering and worrying about.]

Bankholapalooza; a week-and-a-bit off work thanks to Easter, a royal wedding and taking the 3 days in between as holiday.
It’s only once I’m on holiday for a few days that I realise how exhausted I was, so I immediately book a 2 week holiday in July.

A couple of days in Dublin for the Mash 2011 conference (about which I wrote some notes here).

Working on: Cravendale (evaluating and planning the next bit), Visit Wales (helping formulate an approach), Fairtrade (evaluation), Honda (drafting strategy), Nokia (comms plan and community stuff for an upcoming campaign) plus a really big exciting project which I honestly can’t talk about at all.

Generally aiming to be helpful on everything. Sometimes wondering what I should be doing, and if I’m honest feeling a bit stressed at the moment. Trying to focus on the important stuff, but it’s sometimes hard to know which bits are which. Reminding myself that I really love my job.

Managed to work at home for one day (for the first time since early April and the sixth time this year). It’s not the sort of office where working at home is always easy, but it feels good to avoid the commute when I can manage it.

Trying to set up a week in Portland to meet up with colleagues over there some time in August. That would be useful I think.

Color: why it’s interesting and why it won’t be “the next Twitter”.

Color invites you to “creates new, dynamic social networks … wherever you go”. It’s getting a lot of attention at the moment, largely because of $41M VC funding. It’s even being hailed as having ‘a very good chance of becoming a large scale success like Twitter‘.

In case you have not yet heard of Color, here’s how Caroline McCarthy describes it for CNET

In Color, photos taken through the app are shared through proximity, something which amasses a list of your contacts through machine learning; in effect, you’ll be able to see all photos around you that were taken with Color. You’ll be able to see the Color photos of the guy sitting two tables away from you at Starbucks, but when he finishes his caramel macchiato and leaves the coffee shop, you can’t see them anymore. But if you spend a lot of time in proximity to someone–an office-mate, for example–that person’s photos will gradually begin to stay in your contacts list for longer.

Someone asked me this week whether I thought it really would be ‘the next Twitter’. I found it hard to say at first, because my first experience with the app had been so awful that I had to go back and try it again to see what I’d missed. It really is a rather hard app to pick up (and has been heavily slated in the App store reviews, often for being hard to understand) but it’s not hard to see that the idea of physical spaces having an invisible cloud of history and shared photos has potential; being able to see other angles you missed, knowing your friend was here yesterday, … you can imagine lots of fun stuff emerging from an experiment like this.

But no, I don’t think it’s going to be “the next Twitter”. Not at all.

Being based on physical proximity makes for a pretty tough first experience. Unless you happen to install and try it while you’re at a big event with at least a couple of other people using it, you’re left with a pretty unsatisfying starting point. Any app that requires you to be in the same place as other people using the same app at the same time is going to have a difficult bootstrap problem.

Most importantly though, Twitter is a platform with an open API allowing other apps to be built on top of it. Want to write your own Twitter client? Want to integrate Twitter into another app? Want to print out tweets that contain the word ‘snow’? Easy. Not so with Color. Want to make a site showing the most recent Color pictures taken in a particular place? You can’t. Unless you’re the Telegraph and you want to do a joint PR thing around the royal wedding (the sanity of which also raised some eyebrows).

That’s not to say that the situation won’t change. Instagram started closed and opened up an API after a few months. That move made it easier for people to make all sorts of really cool apps like Extragram, GramFrame, Instagrid, Instaprint, Instac.at and many more.

In fact, the most common use I’ve seen of Color so far has been that people will sometimes post a direct link to a picture to Twitter or Facebook. While that’s a useful feature (and in theory leads to more people discovering Color) it does mean that the whole local proximity and physical social discovery aspect of Color becomes optional; people continue to rely on those two tools to maintain their contact networks.

I think in its current incarnation Color is more of a photo sharing service, like Twitpic or Yfrog, with some additional features which might rarely get used. If they open up and offer an API (like Instagram did) they could become a much more interesting thing altogether, but only if it can get – and keep – users. Although I like its innovative approach, I think it’s going to be very tough for this app to become anything like mainstream.

I’ll give Color another chance, but I think I’ll also be looking out for the next next big thing.

Cross-posted to the W+K London blog.

Fortnotes 8

[Number eight in a fortnightly series of brain dumps: what I'm working on, wondering and worrying about.]

I spent some time out of the office at a shoot for Cravendale. We were there to help Bertrum Thumbcat (the ringleader of the polydactyl cats in the current Cravendale campaign) make some YouTube videos in which he assesses the capabilities of the recently evolving race of cats with thumbs, putting them to to test for his own satisfaction and to prove a point to humans who might question their abilities. Examples included Can a Thumbcat Blend (which was perhaps the question asked most frequently), Can a Thumbcat play checkers and many more.

Since then, I’ve been working fairly solidly on Honda. Lots going on, some really interesting work coming together. I’m writing strategy stuff and trying to be helpful.

I have been at W+K London for over three months now, which is long enough that various employee benefits kick in including a pension, health & dental, etc. I’m finding it hard to believe that more than a quarter of a year has passed since I joined. As you’ve probably noticed, I’m really enjoying it. It’s hard, chaotic and can be stressful, but people talk about coming to W+K to do the best work of their lives, and I hope that will be true for me too.

I visited the Artfinder team with Dan Hon. They’re a nice bunch and they’re working on some very interesting stuff.

Introducing interesting people to each other remains one of the nicest bits of my new job. Avoiding spreading myself too thin, and making sure that when I get involved with something I’ve got the time to see it through properly, is the hardest. Mainly because I want to say ‘yes’ to absolutely everything.

New starter: Matt Simpson (previously Lead Community Manager at Face). He’ll initially be spending most of his time on Honda and Nestea, but will be getting stuck in to all sorts of other projects too. He was even prepared, on his very first day, to give a presentation to the rest of the Honda Europe team at W+K, researching and preparing examples of community activity around Honda online. As though we’ve just thrown him out of some sort of moving vehicle, he “hit the ground running” and stayed upright very impressively.

In other news, I (still) have a cold. I’ve had it for a couple of months and I’m very bored of it. Spring is springing, it’s lighter in the mornings. I didn’t miss not being at SXSW one bit.

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