Archive for October 2011


How I’m consuming social media: the October 2011 edition

29.10.2011

I realize I’ve blogged less in general this year. Once upon a time, when I blogged less here, I was over at Vox (when it worked), writing personal, cathartic posts, sometimes directed at a limited audience. But now, and I never thought I would say this: Facebook seems to be where I’m directing some of my activity.
   The big attraction came on September 25, when I upgraded to Facebook Timeline. Since I’ve worked in visual communications for most of my life, Timeline’s look appeals to me, and, like others who favoured the revamp, I spent some time experimenting with it. Naturally, I also rechecked my privacy settings—a must whenever Facebook makes a change. And, I am sure Mr Zuckerberg will be happy to hear, I began sharing more.
   It’s that human trait of wanting instant gratification from what you’ve shared. Vox was good for that: you regularly got feedback to the limited-audience posts from your closest “friends” (many of whom have become real-life friends). Facebook, which has, since I joined in 2007, allowed us to share different things to different audiences (I’m surprised when people think that this was a recent addition to the service) offers something similar, but till recently its user interface did not appeal to me.
   Tumblr was one of the few places that was more graphically driven, but there’s such a culture of reblogging there, and I never felt too comfortable sharing anything more than a few original photos and some pithy thoughts.
   Facebook became the service between writing long blog posts (here) and pithy reblogs on Tumblr. I could share photos with select audience members. If I had queries, I could direct them to one of the circles of people that Facebook, this year, encouraged everyone to set up (my five haven’t changed since Facebook allowed us to set up groups of friends beyond ‘Limited Profile’). And the feeling of instant gratification was there for things you wanted people to know about—that strange human need of knowing that you were heard.
   I wound up putting some things on Facebook that I would have put on Tumblr a year ago, even if it was to a closed platform, and even if it was to a limited audience. It was “my” limited audience, after all, a group which I knew would appreciate the content. It wasn’t that personally knowing the audience seemed to compensate for the cowardice of not putting something out there publicly—it was the knowledge that it would be seen, and “liked”. We humans need so little to get a kick.
   I know there’s Google Plus, but it’s just not for me. That has been covered elsewhere, but the smaller contact number there has no appeal. Of the 50-odd who have added me to their circles, I have a few real friends, all of whom I can reach more easily through email.
   This seems to be a round-about way for me to advise people that you can catch me on Facebook. For non-friends, I have opened up my account to subscribers, and occasionally write public status updates, or share public photos and links. I’ve also taken the backward step of setting up a fan page, where I record some of my business and political thoughts which are a bit more in depth than the minutiæ of life that form Facebook status updates.
   Then, there is Twitter, which I found myself using a lot less of since everyone went to ‘New Twitter’. New Twitter means an extra click for everything, and it’s far slower and buggier. Only this week have I switched to Twitter Mobile, even for my desktop and laptop, just so I can make a quicker judgement about whether to follow back a follower, and Tweet more reliably without an ‘Oops! We did something wrong’ message.
   I’m not so bold as to proclaim that Facebook is “it”, given the criticisms I’ve levelled at it in the past. I still have concerns over its privacy, just as I have concerns over Google about its terrible record. But, credit where it is due, whomever was responsible for Timeline seems to have understood the needs of some of its users. I know it’s annoyed some people—I have heard of one Facebooker who has used his account less since Timeline, because it turns him off—but, for me, it seems to be one of the better thought-out changes in the nearly half-decade I have been on the service, and fattened their wallets with my private information.

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Posted in business, culture, design, internet, media, technology | 12 Comments »


I remember one of IMI’s scare campaigns

29.10.2011

I came across a fascinating article in Wired’s online edition about two scammers who promote “scareware”: those inferior antivirus programs designed to rid users of fake viruses they tell you about through fake pop-ups. And once you install them, you get a virus.
   This paragraph struck a chord:

But those troubles didn’t do much to stifle IMI’s scare campaign. Starting around 2007, the company cranked up both its aggression and its ingenuity. Leading advertising networks had banned IMI, so the company set up a series of fake online ad agencies that placed banners on popular websites, including those of The Economist, eHarmony, and Major League Baseball. IMI embedded the ads with hidden code, so if someone from inside the hosting site’s offices looked at them, they saw appeals from mainstream companies like Travelocity, Priceline, and Weight Watchers. But if regular users viewed the ads, they saw quickie come-ons for used cars or diet pills. When consumers clicked on an ad, it would redirect their browser to a site selling antivirus software or, worse, trigger an auto-download. All the while, IMI was engaged in an arms race against established antivirus companies, continually tweaking its software to make it unrecognizable to the databases of known threats.

   In 2007, we had come across these very ads. Luckily, we caught them within hours of their surfacing on our sites, thanks to browsing the pages ourselves, and using proxies to see what people overseas could be viewing. We removed all banners from the affected ad network, replacing them with ads from another one. The ad network who fed the ads to us removed the ads ASAP. Four years on, we discover who was behind them.
   Not that we can blame the ad network. The actual ads looked legit: the ones I remember pretended to be from Careerbuilder. Unfortunately, when they loaded, it launched one of IMI’s websites with a fake virus scan.
   I tended to be more fortunate, as I customized my machines enough so that the standard fonts do not display—though I got caught out earlier this year with one fake ad with a defrag alert, on my laptop, where I had not removed Segoe as the default UI font in favour of one of our in-house ones.
   The two blokes behind IMI are on an Interpol most-wanted list, though that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
   There are plenty more following in their footsteps, as I’ve noticed that these sorts of ads have continued. Panda Security, the article reveals, estimates that the number of phony antivirus programs has leapt from 92,215 in 2008 to 3,084,410 last year. Fortunately, as far as I know, advertisements for these programs, and the fake virus alerts that accompany them, haven’t surfaced on the ad networks we’re using. We’ll keep monitoring.

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Posted in business, internet, marketing, media, publishing, technology, USA | No Comments »


Speaking on typography and social media, with Retake the Net in between

29.10.2011

Sometimes, a brand-new speech will give you some jitters, because the material’s unrehearsed. But I have to say I had a lot of fun today at Creative Camp at Natcoll in Wellington, organized by Kai König, Diane Sieger and their team, talking about typography and how we should be aware of it today. It was helped by a few graphics from Font Police, our humour website which netted itself a mention in Mashable earlier this month. I did feel inspired, and this was one of those talks where I was really happy with the content and how it fell into place.
   After a quick bite, it was off to Retake the Net, organized by Brian Calhoun, Sibylle Schwarz and Aimée Whitcroft, discussing internet freedoms.
   I attended two sessions: one on the corporate control of the cloud, and another on intellectual property (in part—I had to leave during it, but not before raising the Bill of Rights Act and its position vis-à-vis the Copyright Act). In the former, I was somewhat buoyed to learn that four of the sixteen participants used Duck Duck Go instead of Google, and the idea of the filter bubble was raised.
   November will see me head to the MTA conference to speak on social media, and participate in a debate over fuel prices.
   My talks will centre around social media. We had nutted out the approach as early as April, before Facebook launched Timeline, and before Google Plus. The landscape has changed, not in principle, but in terms of the tools. Had I prepared screen shots back then, they would have become dated. I plan to finish that talk off, along with its graphics, in the next few days, so what attendees will see will be only a couple of weeks old, at the most.

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Posted in business, design, internet, New Zealand, technology, typography, Wellington | No Comments »


Behind the scenes: ‘St Elmo’s Fire’

18.10.2011

Of the videos we had access to use today, there was this intriguing one, about the recording session of ‘St Elmo’s Fire’:

   While it did not work with anything we publish, never look a gift horse in the mouth. Enjoy.

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Posted in humour, publishing, TV, USA | No Comments »


Panos Emporio: dare to be human

10.10.2011

Panos Emporio

We weren’t responsible for the layout or photography, but our contribution here is in the tagline, ‘Dare to be human’.
   In my 12-year friendship with Panos Papadopoulos, the designer behind Swedish swimwear (and now clothing) label Panos Emporio, we’ve often worked on marketing tasks. The most recent one: come up with a tagline that encompasses the Panos Emporio brand.
   The term ‘Dare to be human’ has emerged elsewhere (as I discovered after coming up with it), though to my knowledge not in this industry or as a tagline, and since the campaign is largely focused on Scandinavia, it doesn’t appear to have any conflict.
   The story is fairly simple: mixing the vision of the head of the company with the accurate external perceptions, and coming up with something that all audiences can agree on.
   We had done some exploratory work on the philosophy of Panos Emporio earlier in the year and this was an extension of that.
   Our brand research has usually shown that an accurate tagline is more effective, in communicating a brand internally and externally, than any mission statement, and one that can serve a company in the long term is better still.
   Panos’s thoughts were that he liked to push the envelope when it came to his swimwear designs—that much is a given, and accepted by his customers—and his use of PR in Sweden over the years suggested as much. Where we align even more is our shared belief in humanitarianism, and the idea that good people can become anything they wish, and should have the opportunity to do so. Over the years we’ve discussed some great programmes that can help young people, and trying to cement these ideas, and many other ideas of things we’d like to do to advance our planet. If you look back across the 25 years of the label, Panos Emporio was often pioneering in its designs and publicity programmes, often shocking the sector, and earning Panos a celebrity status (including an episode of the Swedish version of Secret Millionaire).
   External audiences will always come back to us to tell us the comfort in Panos’s designs first, followed by their appreciation of the designs themselves, so there was an intersection with the “human” aspect here. It was taking that with humanitarianism and social responsibility, and blending it with the envelope-pushing.
   â€˜Dare to be different’ is trite, so it really was down to changing the last word. (I am simplifying the process because there were many others that were rejected.) It tested well, and the first ad with the new tagline will break this quarter.
   I hope it’ll stay with the firm for many years to come. I think it encompasses everything Panos tries to say with his work.

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Posted in branding, business, marketing, New Zealand, social responsibility, Sweden | No Comments »


Sponsorship specials going at MTA conference and expo

01.10.2011

The Motor Trade Association, whose conference and expo are on in Rotorua this November, has some last-minute sponsorship deals going. I’ll be heading up to speak on social media, and if anyone would like to reach this industry and the sizable numbers that are going to be there this year, events’ manager Anna McGeorge has some specials and would love to hear from you.
   You can have your logo on the vehicles heading between the Repco Carnival and the MTA Gala Dinner for NZ$3,000; speak at the MTA Council breakfast on November 11 at NZ$1,500 (along with having your display banners and signage up); sponsor the MTA Gala Awards dinner (no reasonable offer refused, but retail is NZ$20,000); buy a full-page ad or insert for $500; or get your logo at the registration desk (with wifi) for NZ$1,500.
   The PDF brochure with further info is linked here, and you can reach Anna on anna.mcgeorge@mta.org.nz or 64 4 381-8802.

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Posted in business, cars, internet, marketing | No Comments »