“Blurt culture” or wisdom of crowds?

There were some distinctly varied opinions expressed as regards the value of user generated content at the Google Zeitgeist 2008 event. On the one hand the whole event was a celebration of UGC. The “users” themselves formed a major part of the conference agenda – being invited up on stage to pose their questions to the CEOs of the online networks they frequent. Then, rather than the usual professional artists for the gala dinner, we were entertained by a diverse selection of some of the most viewed and unusual performers from YouTube – including the brilliant human beatbox Beardyman.

However, as we all know, such quality of contribution is the minority within the world of content created by the users. Booker prize winning author Salman Rushdie made some very interested comments about the negative impact of what he called “blurt culture” – the phenomenon we see today where millions and millions of people put out into cyberspace their whole private lives (everything, everyday) in endless, unedited narratives.

In his opinion, by definition such content is careless and undisciplined. And as such by encouraging and enabling such output we are in danger of creating a future where people are incapable of careful, disciplined thought – especially dangerous in a world where increasingly that is what is needed.

As an English Literature graduate myself I found Rushdie’s views to be a very interesting comment on the evolution of language. His, somewhat traditionalist, stance of the “carefulness of utterance” can be balanced with the alternative view that words and langauage are an evolving form. A form dictated not by historical standards but by the momentum of current day usage. Afterall, the Oxford English Dictionary already recognises “text speak” as an integral part of the English langauge. And of course – it is not just everyday utterances which are evolving but also peotic forms. This was well evidenced with the conference endnote being delivered by Rives – a so called web 2.0 poet due to the combined use of images, video, words and text speak in his work.

I fully understand and appreciate the view that “endless confession” is hardly the most well thought through of expressive forms. However, I would also argue that such forms of expression are the beginnings of our understanding of how to exploit the Internet as a medium of communication. They are unlikely to be where we end up. Every communication platform, from print to radio to TV, took time before it reached its ideal modes – and even then are in constant evolution.

What is best about using the Internet as a publishing medium is the ability to gather and react to feedback in real-time – something that is impossible in other forms. Great examples of this are some of the social media based serial dramas that we have recently seen such as “Where Are the Jones?”. In such formats the audience is invited to participate in plotlines and characterisation giving them a greater sense of involvement in the action. It is the ability to harness this unique power of the Internet that will drive the future of “classic” Internet content.

Musings from Google Zeitgeist 2008

I was lucky enough to go to the Google Zeitgeist event again this year – had great expectations given quality of proceedings last year and I certainly wasn’t disappointed this year. Amongst the high profile line up was Gordon Brown, Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan, Salman Rushdie, Jami Miscik (former Deputy Director of the CIA), Chad Hurley founder and CEO of YouTube and a rare opportunity to hear from Sergey and Larry – the founders of Google itself (accompanied by the fatherly presence of CEO Eric Schmidt).

Too much to cover in one post as regards what was said and experienced so I will follow up in a series of posts. For now will just outline the broad themes discussed.

Day one was around global macro-economic trends with discussions ranging from the opportunities in new world markets such as China, to technology as an enabler in India and Africa, to the power of technology to bridge cross-cultural divides in the Middle East.

Day two was about the users online with a focus on community and video. We heard from the founders of Stardoll and Ask a Ninja, got the latest figures on the uptake of BBC iPlayer with some interesting emerging trends around IPTV viewing behaviour as well as got to meet some of the actual stars of UGC. The hugely popular “grand-dad of the Internet” Geriatric 1927 was in attendance and raised rapturous rounds of applause and even the odd tear with his down to earth and touching comments about why at the age of 80 he is a video blogger on YouTube. He was joined by Mia Rose (who within four months of posting videos online of herself singing songs she had written had got a record deal and is now working on her debut album) and 17 year old Charlie McDonnell otherwise known on YouTube as Charlieissocoollike who has a following of nearly 46,000 subscribers.

One of the more interesting thoughts of the event for me came from Antonio Campo Dall’Orto who having previously been the CEO of Telecom Italia Media is now CEO of MTV South Europe. He said that what organisations need from digital solutions now is not simple answers to complex questions, but complex answers to complex questions. I thought this was a really great way to express something that I have been thinking about a great deal recently in relations to what type of agency is best placed to deliver digital solutions. With the proliferation of platforms and devices out there which make up the digital landscape, what we do in the digital world is actually pretty complicated in terms of design requirements (for example PC vs mobile) and format requrements. As an industry I think we need to stop under selling the combined creative, planning and technology skills required to deliver these solutions and remind ourseleves that what we do is build stuff that has to work – and to do that well is pretty difficult without the right experience and skill sets in your teams.

More thoughts from Google Zeitgeist to follow but in the meantime check out the videos from the day here.

London Dot Net User Group Event at MRM this Wednesday

This coming Wednesday (21st of May from 6pm) we’re hosting the Dot Net User Group’s May event dubbed ‘Put your webforms to REST – how to build rest-y architectures with .net’.

The lively Sebastien Lambla is presenting and will discuss REST architectures, ASP.NET MVC and probably how his own project, Rasta, fits into the mix.

There’ll be a bit of food & snacks – and plenty of cold beverages!

It’s a free event – and everyone is welcome. Sign up is through DNUG’s events page.

Also, brace yourself for the upcoming London Web Week which kicks off the week after; from Monday 26th to Sunday the 1st. Here are some highlights:

London Web Week also encompasses the commercial @media 2008 event.

For now, hope to see you on Wednesday.

ä½ å¥½æˆ‘çš„ç‘žå…¸æœ‹å‹ (Hello my Swedish Friends)


For those of you that haven’t seen Jack Black’s latest movie romp Be Kind Rewind I can recommend it for two reasons. It’s a highly amusing take on amateur filmmaking (what we now call User Generated Content) and introduces the term sweded into the filmgoer’s vocabulary. Sweded refers to the film remakes knocked up by the low rent crew of a video store when the whole shop stock is accidentally deleted. It’s a term that could also be applied to the internet services firms of the late 90s that expanded rapidly, expended vast sums of investors’ money, and then went bust. Some of you will remember this little boom, predicated on the fact that Swedes used the internet more than any other nation at the time, Swedish business philosophers were fashionable and the Nordic markets represented a microcosm of how it would be in other countries soon.

Funnily enough, things have come full circle. This time it’s not a remake, but a business reborn. We’ve just taken the step to invest in a business in Sweden to extend our operation there, as demand for internet savvy marketing continues apace. This brings our regional presence, for those that are interested in these things, to a decent number and probably makes us the largest interactive agency in Europe (with perhaps one or two exceptions). We do a good deal of international work – developing strategy and campaigns that run in several markets – so it’s always good to be able to get some decent insight from the ground up about what will be effective, what’s a good practice in digital marketing and what we can learn for our own market. I look forward to seeing some interesting stuff from Stockholm soon.

30 years of SPAM!

Last Saturday’s iPM (Radio4) has a piece about Richard Jones, who’s saved every piece of SPAM he’s received since 1997. An interesting archive that charts the rise and rise of junk email which has its 30th birthday this week. Check it out on Listen Again or iPlayer – it’s towards the end.

Anyway, I thought I’d mark the anniversary here with a post about SPAM, and ask the question… Is Send to a Friend SPAM?

Send to a Friend is an early example of people being able to participate in a website. There are parallels with user generated content and social networking sites, almost unheard of when send to a friend first appeared. Rather than a great and grand drive to draw attention to a site, it’s a simple facility so that someone visiting the site can send an email to a friend to say “Hey, here’s something I think you might like”

But is that email SPAM?

Continue reading “30 years of SPAM!”


Following Marty’s lead – a blog entry by mobile. I’ll be signing up to twitter before you know it.

Just returning from Intel Proud galleries inaugural gig. It was great!

Check out the website at studio.intel.com where you can upload your band’s songs and vote for others.

It was good to be reminded that the website is part of a bigger project full of energy and vigor. A really exciting show and genuine opportunity for unsigned bands.

It’s easy to forget sometimes, when you’re focusing on the code and approaching deadlines, that the aim is to reach people and involve them in the story.

Intel have done well here – an understated presence as facilitator of a community where it’s the bands and their fans who are enjoying it and building something pretty cool.

The chances are that people will be saying “Thanks Intel” – and that’s priceless.

Videos of the event on the website soon.

I’ll be voting for “Bad Robots”