About scambleMB

Senior digital strategist at mcgarrybowen, Chicago.

Snap and share.

Oh, the QR code. So hyped, so misunderstood, so underwhelming. But people are still trying. Specifically, a newish service called TagMyDoc.

The idea behind TagMyDoc is to assign a QR code to a document, and allow others to scan the code on the document to download a copy. People can also then comment and follow your document from there. So rather than trying to track down email addresses and attaching wieldy documents, this service enables simple sharing and easy storage, granted everyone has a smartphone and a QR code reader.

Why I’m Curious

QR codes just won’t go away, will they? I’m neither here nor there around them, but I can get behind it when the QR code is used in a relevant, contextual way. But this begs the question: with services like Dropbox and Google Drive and Docs available, what’s the benefit of TagMyDoc?

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British Airways: You Sure Look Familiar

British Airways recently began a new database program called “Know Me,” which utilizes the power of modern technology to provide customers with a tailored flight experience. Flying entails a wealth of customer data: from food preferences to delays experienced to the number of times flying the airline, each customer has its own set of particulars. BA aims to transfer this data into personalizing the flight experience for customers by providing flight attendants access to a database on iPads.

From ETN: “The program is able to send messages with information about specific customers to the iPads of customer service agents and senior cabin crew, or update check-in staff via the airline’s computer system. For example, they may be informed that a Silver Executive Club member is flying in business class for the first time thereby enabling the crew member to welcome that customer and explain the benefits of the cabin. Equally, if a regular traveler has experienced any issues on previous flights, such as a delay due to weather, the crew will be informed of that and will be able to go the extra mile, recognize the previous issue and thank the customer for their continued patronage.”

A controversial part of the program also enables BA service attendants to attempt to identify passengers via Google Image search, based on the notion that physically recognizing passengers strengthens the connection between the airline and passenger.

Why I’m Curious

Oh, the power of human recognition. Your coffee shop has your order ready just as you walk through the door, and associates at your favorite store put new products on the side so you can get them before anyone else. It’s an empowering feeling. Now keep this feeling in mind when you consider the anonymity of modern-day flight travel. Lines everywhere, just another faceless passenger on a plane, navigating the wonders of the TSA.

BA’s “Know Me” program is the perfect solution to this issue, providing customers with a travel experience tailored to their needs. A long-haul flight on British Airways is a bit of a modern luxury, and in a market driven mostly by price, a program like this can help justify the extra money spent on a BA flight. As for the Google Images piece, I’d recommend BA ask passengers to submit a photo during the purchase process, which should eliminate the weirdness.

Hello Curious Ones,

The East Coast is on a long road to recovery post-Sandy. As a result, the mb offices in New York have been closed while the city assesses and repairs damage. Your dose of Curious Friday inspiration will be back next week, but in the meantime, we urge to you explore ways to help the wide area affected by Sandy: http://www.redcross.org/hurricane-sandy.

Take care.

A skip, jump and Timehop away.

Remember when Timehop was a handy little site that let you travel back in (social) time and see what you were up to on an exact day in history a year ago via an email digest? Well, they got it together to make an iPhone app that pulls together your data from nearly every social network (Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Instagram, flickr and your phone’s camera roll) since you signed up for that network and pushes it back to you in a handy little shareable format.

The app is free, and enables you to share your found memories with others, too.

Why I’m Curious

While social networks may have initially been considered throw-away bits of content (perhaps due to their ease of creation?), times have changed. With social network usage becoming ubiquitous across all sorts of people, many memories are now stored within these networks, and the desire to access that information is even more important. Timehop’s provided an easy (digital) way of accessing content from the past, enabling self-reflection and a nice dose of nostalgia along the way. I do wonder why social networks themselves haven’t made this sort of time travel easier – one could argue Facebook was trying to address this with Timeline – and whether this will become a priority moving forward. Something to keep an eye on.

 

Making participation the experience, and vice-versa.

I loved Alina’s Coke 007 post today, and it got my mind thinking about digital versus experiential versus interactive and whether there is really a distinction between those categories. The Coke Zero 007 project is a great example of how experiential marketing – whether via digital or otherwise – is becoming more and more important in breaking through the clutter of marketing messages.

On that note, I wanted to share a short inspiring TED Talk I came across a few weeks ago in the hopes of nurturing the importance of the idea of experience in all that we do. Candy Chang’s famous for many public art installations that draw in the idea of people participation; taking something static and turning it into dynamic. Below, she discusses the “Before I Die” project she initiated in her post-Katrina New Orleans neighborhood.

Why I’m Curious

Candy Chang’s work is a delicate balance of analogue and digital worlds, yet manages to find a way to bring forth the notion of experience and participation. While technology continues to evolve in ways of connecting never imagined before, I wonder with each innovation, how do we as marketers connect the dots and create more experience, rather than message? For more of Candy’s experiential work, have a wander on over here: http://blog.ted.com/2012/09/04/6-art-installations-by-candy-chang-that-make-the-viewer-part-of-the-piece/

Hi-Fun Hi-Call Hi-Tech.

It’s a balmy 50 degrees in Chicago today (this follows an 80-degree day, I might add) so I was tempted to break out the gloves for my morning commute to the office. Then I remembered what a pain in the butt it is use an iPhone with gloves on, and then (then!) I stumbled across this: Hi-Fun Hi-Call gloves.

 

Powered by Bluetooth, the Hi-Call gloves are built with an earpiece in the thumb and a microphone in the speaker so you can talk on the phone like you’re a mime, except yes, you’re really talking on the phone. Answering or deferring calls are taken care of via buttons on the wrists of your gloves, and naturally, the gloves are made with fiber then enables touch-screen compatibility. The only non-wireless aspect: charging. You’ll need a USB-port for that.

Two things before you get super-psyched: they’re still in the prototype stage of development. And they’re only available for purchase in Europe.

Why I’m Curious

With great technology still comes inconvenience. Cold hands, balancing the phone, trying to get the touchscreen going… Would you use ’em? I would.

Finally, the Infinite Atlas!

David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest is reputed as a bit of a beast in the literary world. In over 1,000 pages and more than 300 endnotes (with footnotes to the endnotes) it’s a journey I have yet to take, but am eager to do… at some point. Just ask me how long it’s taking me to get through Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom! right now and you’ll understand.

In the meantime, for those who have tackled the novel, and those of you in progress, this may come in handy: The Infinite Atlas. Powered by Google Maps, the Infinite Atlas project  “is an independent research and art project seeking to identify, place and describe every possible location in David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest.”  There’s a real(!) map and web guide to Boston with videos and travelogues. Stories and characters are available to search, and each location pinned to the map denotes the page numbers where the location appears, related characters and plot points. Visitors to the site are encouraged to upload photos for each location as well.

Why I’m Curious

So, this is pretty neat use of the Google Maps API. But let’s look beyond the obvious for a moment, and take this idea to another level. As technology adaptation begins at birth, newer generations are unaware of a world sans the digital advances that are commonplace in our world today. As teaching and learning adapts to this curve in technology adaptation, imagine how open APIs can enhance the learning experience: from novels (Absalom, Absalom! comes to mind) to the Revolutionary War, the resources to make learning more interactive and history come to life are increasing. We just need some people with the time, energy and resources to pull it together. Oh, the possibility!

Filters filters filters….

I’m 99.9% sure I was born with a camera in my hand. And for those who weren’t, photography is now even more democratic, with cameras built-in to nearly any and every device a lens can fit. And believe me, I love the idea of photo-sharing, I really do (it’s where the fun is) and social networks have enabled photography and sharing to blossom. But one thing that really gets me going is filters. Not a thing against Instagram, but man, the filters and the sense of false nostalgia those sort of images infer just drive me bonkers. Why try to simulate the past when you can make your own history? I won’t judge you if you use ’em, but you won’t see me filtering anytime soon. I digress.

I can’t be the only curmudgeon out there, because a little something called Normalize just launched. Normalize is a filter-removing app that does exactly what it says: returns filtered photos back to their mundane glory. You can read more details about how it works and how the program was written directly from creator Joe Macirowski on his blog. It’s dead fool-proof, with a sliding scale that allows users to decide the amount of “normalizing” applied to the photo. The privilege of using the app will cost you a paltry $0.99, by the way.

On a personal note, it gets close to returning an image to its original state, but like most things, not 100%. For reference:

Why I’m Curious

We all saw this one coming, didn’t we? I don’t think it’s marking a wave in realism, as some other bloggers have speculated; instead, it’s a way of applying yet another (real-life) filter to existing content… in short, another way for users to manipulate and control the world around them. Thanks, internet.

And I promise I won’t rant about filters ever again.

The Internet: Now with Even More Ways to Connect!™

Why yes, two more new ways of social networking arrived this week, but both are courtesy of the same crew: Twitter co-founders Biz Stone and Evan Williams (along with another early Twitterian, Jason Goldman). Branch and Medium both launched this week, with some mystery and fanfare, via the Obvious Collection.

Branch aims to extend a social conversation (say, like branches – ahem – on a tree) while Medium attempts to (in the words of their founders), “[rethink] publishing.”  I could go on trying to describe them both without an account, but I’ll save you the pain. Watch a little something on Branch:

And while there’s no video for Medium, offhand it looks and seems to function as though Tumblr and Pinterest had a lil’ tech baby. You can read a little something on Medium here.

Both are currently only accessible with a Twitter account.

Why I’m Curious

More social networks, hooray! Pretty big aims in a crowded market, but as a regular user and fan of Twitter, I’m interested. There seems to be a very clear issue with the standard of social networking, Facebook, that tech innovators are willing to explore and refine. As head of Branch product Josh Miller said, “Between articles, blog posts, and tweets, the internet is dominated by monologues. So we want to build a home for dialogues online, by combining the intimacy of a dinner table conversation with the power of the internet.” I’m just not sure what will pick up and why, and whether Facebook is still king due to ubiquity or what. But hey, it can’t hurt to try. And of course, keep an eye on the Obvious Corporation for more in the future.

C’est super-facile, non?

Google Translate is nothing new: fueled by the eponymous search engine, Translate can translate over 60 different languages and allows you to speak your text and listen to translations aloud. But a sneaky little update to the smartphone app just a few days ago made it all the more useful: you can now scan pieces of text for direct translation. Via your smartphone’s camera, Google Translate can translate whatever it is that you’re looking, from either printed word or hand-written instructions. And similar to iOS, the app allows you to select particular text, which is even more helpful if you just need a phrase or two translated.

So, the next time you’re on a train platform in Moscow, attempting to decipher Cyrillic, fret not. Google’s got your back.

Why I’m Curious

Short and sweet today: technology is ever-green. I appreciate companies that don’t merely release projects, but continue to improve on them. This is just another manifestation of Google’s “always in beta” mentality, and I’m digging it.

Medals, medals everywhere.

Image: Andrew Winning/Reuters via The Guardian

Are you over the Olympics yet? I’m not. As a former resident of the host city, I’m nerding out big time over seeing London gussied up and ready to shine. And even more, the digital nerd in me is getting excited over what’s shaping up as one of the most technologically-focused Olympics to date. It was just four years ago that the last summer Olympics were held in Beijing, and in the tech world, Twitter was still a baby, Facebook was just taking hold beyond students (and every advertiser needed an app – remember that trend?), and the iPhone was slowly gaining in adoption. And here we are, 2012.

So this week’s post is a round-up via Campaign magazine (I mean, why not go to a British source for this one) of Olympic happenings in the social, mobile and tech world. It even includes coverage of non-official sponsors, such as Nike. Yeah, Nike isn’t a sponsor. I was surprised, too. Have a read and prepare to be inspired: Social, Mobile and Urban – the Games Come to London.

Why I’m Curious

See above: how will technology bring us together and bring additional depth to the Olympics this year? And how will advertisers leverage this? Only time will tell.

Bruce Wayne, there’s a call for you.

The whole point of social media is to be available, both online and offline, right? But in the similar vein of Gabriella’s post last week, eHarmony just launched a free iPhone app called Bad Date Rescue, bringing unavailability to a whole new level.

How it works: prior to your evening out, schedule a call to come to your phone at a particular time. Options include a range of characters to receive calls from, the opportunity to program with your contacts’ photos and get this, a scripted message runs on the other end of the phone, so you can play along. Oh, and if you forget, you can also trigger a call with just the push of a button. A lot of effort goes into being fake, but hey, this gets you out of an awkward situation.

And if your date is going swimmingly, well, just ignore the call.

eHarmony hasn’t announced plans for managing what happens when your awkward date tries to get in touch with you to reschedule. Now that would be an app worth having…

Why I’m Curious

The clever thing about this isn’t necessarily that eHarmony created an app. Instead, it’s in the acknowledgement of a value exchange for users. By understanding their audience, eHarmony was able to make a relevant and amusing app that provides not only a source of amusement but valueMaking the app free certainly doesn’t hurt in building brand affinity amongst current site users, either, and perhaps may contribute to brand awareness and site trial amongst users. If you’re in the market for a dating service, why not use one that understands you?

Don’t leave me haaaaanging on the teeeeelephone.

Hi mb New Yorkers. Have you seen/heard/been transmitted the news? A few of your rusty old pay phones are being turned into free wifi spots. Your fair city’s worked out an agreement with contractors through October of 2014 to provide free wifi access at 10 pay phone spots in each of the boroughs (although Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn are the only ones currently sporting access), with future plans to expand to all 12,000 of the city’s pay phones.

And no money is required to use this retrofitted machine. Simply walk up to a pay phone, log into your device (iPad, etc.) and you’re connected for up to 100-200 feet away from each hotspot. No password, no time limit and 24 hours a day.

Why I’m Curious

What in the world is the business model for giving people free wifi access? Advertising? Will people abuse the freedom, or be moderate in use?

I love the concept, though: reusing old communication technology for new ways of connecting. Especially in times of need (disaster, social events like parades and concerts), internet access via cell networks can be atrocious – just ask this music festival goer trying to find her friends at Pitchfork and Lolla – so additional means of connection will certainly be helpful. And as access to devices becomes more accessible, connection via said devices is also becoming accessible. Technology continues to morph into a way of life for all, regardless of class. Way to go, NY.

PS: if you don’t already follow Rachel Sterne on Twitter, you should. She’s the Chief Digital Officer of the city of New York, after all, and had a little bit of something to do with this. I mean, I’m a native Chicagoan, and even I follow her.

Run, Reykjavík, Run!

I’ve been quite obsessed with Iceland for the past two years. I don’t get it either. Yeah, Bjork is great, and whomever is running their social media deserves a big ol’ prize (have you been to Iceland Wants to be Your Friend? GO, click!) but there’s something else about this country that drives me wild. I haven’t been yet, but you bet I will soon. I also happen to loooove running. Even in this mad-crazy heat. So in honor of the third day of record heat in Chicago, I bring you news of a marathon in Iceland. Yes. You read that right.

Reykjavík Runs is a “social media experiment” that acknowledges marathons are more than just the running itself; there’s far more happening below the surface of the event. Via 42 steps spread across the internet, Reykjavík Runs utilizes several different social platforms to involve the general public and provide a behind-the-scenes look into the Reykjavík marathon. Videos show and explain landmarks in the race, music is provided via Soundcloud, and key players in the marathon are showcased. A new step is released each day, with social sharing components seamlessly built in. Who knows what’s next?

We’re only 3 steps in, but I’m excited to see where the run takes me. Check out the social presence for this project at the following: Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr, Vimeo.

Why I’m Curious

This project is run by Íslandsbanki, the main sponsor of the Reykjavík Marathon, yet manages to maintain the same tone and voice as Iceland’s other brand presences across digital (like Iceland Wants to be Your Friend). It also explains why this effort isn’t quite cross-promoted on Iceland’s social channels.

Any runner will tell you: running races goes beyond just the runner. It’s about the crowd, the experience, the atmosphere. This idea is smart and works on this level, but also works on the level of promoting Iceland as a welcoming, fun country to visit. The fanbase is small right now, but I imagine there isn’t much paid media behind the effort. It’s an innovative way to spark interest about the event and the country in a cluttered social landscape.

Like a box of Sharpies. But on your phone. For your brain. Or something.

This is a quick one kids. Have you heard of Highlight? It’s another social discovery app that helps you find out more about the people around you, providing said people have the very same app as you. In the words of the creators themselves (I said this was a quick one…):

“If someone standing near you also has Highlight, their profile will show up on your phone. You can see their name, photos of them, mutual friends, and anything else they have chosen to share. When you meet someone, Highlight helps you see what you have in common with them. And when you forget their name at a party a week later, Highlight can help you remember it.

As you go about your day, Highlight runs quietly in the background, surfacing information about the people around you. If your friends are nearby, it will notify you. If someone interesting crosses your path, it will tell you more about them.”

The app also includes links to each person’s social network presences, allowing you to track ’em down there, too, and uses Facebook Connect to get the whole registration thing started.

Why I’m Curious

Many, many apps have been here before, and I’m not quite sure of the differentiating factor. What is consistent though, is the usage barrier. How willing are we to put ourselves out there for others to find just by proximity? And upon meeting someone, wouldn’t you just look each other up on Facebook on the spot? What this app does do is tie together other fragments of social media in an effort to provide a full experience – something which Facebook (for example, since it’s the biggest) hasn’t been able to pull off just yet.

Music by design. Well, natural selection.

So, we all learned about Darwin and natural selection at some point, right? If not, I might lose you here. But stick with me anyway. A few scientists at Imperial College London, recently decided to apply the theory of natural selection to music. After studying popular music styles over several generations, they noticed something we all take for granted: music evolves over time, yes, but it also maintains some key tenets along the way. What we like sonically also evolves just like the human and animal species do.

To track this theory,  Robert MacCallum (bioinformaticist) and Armand Leroi (Professor of Evolutionary Developmental Biology) created DarwinTunes, a program that tests the theory of evolution within a musical dimension. The leaders of this project develop genomic research tools for the insect disease vector community and host a TV series on genetics and evolution, so it’s serious stuff we’re talking about here.

There are two opportunities to participate: one is for a channel without drums and percussion, the other channel includes it. As you listen, vote for whether or not you like the sound loop. All of the votes get combined into one loop of music that evolves according to taste. Fascinating. Have a listen:

 

There are skeptics to this approach, of course, which you can read about here. And for the text of their research findings thus far, go here.

Why I’m Curious

Well, I’m a curious person. And I absolutely love that scientists are looking at data in realms outside the world of strict science to see what else can be uncovered. Patterns are truly everywhere: from the natural to the manufactured world and it just gets me going (see my data post from PSFK to see how excited I get). Naysayers included, it’s a worthy exercise in understanding the world around us, and how it’s created, shaped and formed.

Also, hat tip to the blog It’s Okay to Be Smart. Full of science and interestingness, it’s a great site to pique your curiousity and it makes science accessible and fun. And it’s where I found out about DarwinTunes/

Just surfing on a Dorito, that’s all.

It’s been a short while since I’ve posted something “best in class” so why not today? This one refers specifically to social: Doritos in the UK was called out for heckling (again) by a comedian, who asked that people barrage Doritos’ Twitter feed with a number of silly questions and inane conversation. Ross Noble’s done this as part of his comedy bit before, and this time asked people to hit up Doritos on a national talk show.

But the brand didn’t freak out. Instead, the Doritos UK community manager and creative team took the time to answer silly requests with custom answers in text and photo form. According to AdAge, “The grand finale was a “present” to Mr. Noble from Doritos — an image of him made entirely out of Doritos.”

The agency team was given the go-ahead to create images on the fly from home, with freedom from legal restraint. As a result, the number of followers of the brand’s Twitter feed went from 2,800 to 3,890 in a few days.

As for that sledding hamster, here you go:

Why I’m Curious

The brand truly took the time out to make an opportunity out of what could’ve been a potentially nasty situation. Keeping in the spirit of the brand and the campaign, the agency team and brand were able to create personal engagement with simple responses, and had the freedom to do so. If it were me, I may’ve made it so that the responses were viewable to all, depending on the volume and how much the tweets may’ve clogged viewers’ feeds. It’s great that the responses were personal and tailored, but why not share beyond a direct @reply?

Regardless, certainly a brand to keep an eye on within the social space.

Airtime (and not the Michael Jordan type, either).

You remember Sean Parker, right? Those of us who went to college in the early aughts have Sean Parker to thank for Napster and hogging the university’s ethernet with music downloads. The rest of you (kids) probably remember Justin Timberlake’s portrayal of him in The Social Network and his partnership with Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg. Anyways, he’s Big News. And hot on the heels of Facebook’s IPO, he’s back with a new project: Airtime.

Airtime is a live video chat program that enables you to connect with people you know and people you don’t. The catch? You need a Facebook account to use it (and really, what did you expect from Parker?) and it’s not available for tablets or mobile devices.

Airtime is not your little sister’s Chatroulette. No, no. This is meant to be as anonymous as you like, with a lesser emphasis on the Chatroulette-esque creepy factor. Via Facebook Connect, you can chat with people you are already friends with on Facebook, or allow Airtime to match you to people you don’t know, via your specified interests within the app (interests in your Facebook account don’t apply). In order to chat with someone you don’t know, the other person needs to accept your request. Personal info isn’t shared until each side decides to add the other to a friends list.

Why I’m Curious

How will this differ from Skype or Facetime? Well, there’s the social networking aspect built in. And I will confess: I’m a bit of a Luddite with regards to this one, and long for the Napster days of yore when if you wanted to find someone with common interests, you sought them out live and in person. Not via a digital social network. But alas, the world has changed. So something to ruminate on: will Airtime work? Will people adopt the find-a-friend random function? Will this force Skype and Facetime to evolve? Questions, questions.

Oh, and per Joe’s quick, watchful eyes, have a look at who else was playing with Airtime:

Clap. Clap. Clap. THUNDER!

Imagine just one isolated clap. Now imagine a hall full of claps. And finally, imagine a thunderclap. Loud, yes? Powerful? Certainly.

Now take this thought to Twitter. One tweet: lost in the milieu of social noise. A few hundred retweets? We’re getting somewhere. Retweets and a trending hashtag? Now we’re talking.

Put the two together and you’ve got Thunderclap. I’ve seen it described as “like a kickstarter for important tweets” which is pretty darn accurate. Thunderclap, built as an effort to break through social noise, is a service that enables one tweet to be retweeted simultaneously at once. Similar to Kickstarter, each Thunderclap effort needs to reach a certain number of backers in order to be retweeted. Once the backing is achieved, the mass tweet is scheduled, and a link back to the cause on Thunderclap’s site is also included in the tweet.

There are only a few projects up on the site now (it started in April) but it seems like the aim of this service is centered on altruistic efforts and not quite marketing. Thunderclap is limited to Twitter right now, but the plan is to launch to other networks soon. Keep an eye on their Twitter feed for more updates.

Why I’m Curious

In theory, this idea makes sense. My only fear is misuse of the service; by creating more noise, will the true importance of a message be lost? As consumers, we’re all used to glazing over ads (you tell me the last time you clicked on a banner…), so efficacy is definitely a concern. By issuing a backing system, there’s definitely an effort to maintain some control, but I how effective this can be. We can only wait and see, right?

Grief as meme: really?

This week’s Curious is neither shiny, nor bright. Instead, I’m taking a more introspective look at things and providing you with something to think about: an article I recently came across from Jewcy, titled “Culture Kvetch: On Twitter, Grief is Just Another Meme.”

Over the course of the past week or so, MCA, Maurice Sendak and Donna Summer passed on to their respective resting places. It’s not hyperbole to suggest that social networks imploded as a result. Same goes for the news of Whitney Houston’s passing. And do you remember when news of Michael Jackson’s death broke in 2009? AOL’s Instant Messenger program went down. Yes, way back when.

But it’s not death I’m here to talk about, but the social reaction to celebrity death news. From trite tributes to touching memoirs and offhand tasteless remarks, news is news and with the voice provided by social, we all can have a say on a very public stage.

Why I’m Curious

Have a read at the article. I’d love to know what everyone thinks. Is grief really another meme in the land of the internet? Why do we take to the internet to express our thoughts about the passing of another celeb? Is it for attention? The need to acknowledge being in-the-know? Genuine grief? Connecting? Or collective kvetching?