Yahoo Developing Map Algorithm To Find Scenic Routes

Yahoo Labs is adding a dimension to their navigation algorithm that aims to provide more beautiful, quiet, and happy ways to get from A to B. Researchers at Yahoo Labs sourced images from Google Streetview (irony surely not lost on them) and crowdsourced user opinions about which streets were more beautiful via, then assigned an attractiveness variable to each location. When calculating a route, the navigation tool considers beauty alongside distance and traffic to generate a path that’s not only efficient but pleasant. The full study is available via Cornel University Library open-access archive.

via Gizmodo

Yahoo Scenic Map Algorithm

Why I’m Curious

Jokes about using their competitor’s tool to conduct this experiment aside, I’m impressed by Yahoo’s effort to identify whitespace in a market so dominated by Google.

This also serves as an example of infusing emotional storytelling in to a digital space that we usually consider utilitarian. As an integrated agency, we often discuss how we can translate the emotional impact of traditional mediums like video in to the digital experiences we build for our clients. This is a great example of “Show, Don’t Tell”. Providing a tool that responds to a human truth like our enduring desire for beauty in modern spaces that are increasingly un-beautiful is an elegant way to reflect the brand’s values. This execution also positions technology an altruistic hero, using a virtual tool to help us re-discover the physical places we inhabit.

Finally, the crowdsourcing inquiry (beauty is subjective, after all) generates an interesting new body of data with implications for disciplines like city planning, design and architecture, and psychology.


Crowdsourced App Helps You Find A Quiet Place

Cities can be noisy, overwhelming and overstimulating – for all of our senses. A new mobile app, Stereopublic, tries to alleviate this stress, and allows users to find, document and share their favorite “noiseless” places in cities.

From PSFK,

Created by Australian composer and sound artist Jason Sweeney along with sound experts Emma Quayle and Julian Treasure, the app is currently available in eighteen cities around the world, with twelve more to be released soon. Geo-location facilitates the process of documentation: ‘earwitnesses’ (as Stereopublic dubs its participants) simply indicate the exact location on the map interface on their mobile device and tag it along with a 30 second recording and image so that others can find the same place. The spot can be tagged with a different color depending on the user’s mood, and an original composition to accompany the quiet space can be requested as well. Participants can also share locations through the website. With the mobile app, users can then ‘tour’ their cities in a new way, discovering havens of tranquility.

Why I’m Curious

As I hear sirens, phones ringing, chewing and over four different conversations from my desk as I type, it sounds like a great idea! However, it seems when you need quiet time you instinctively head home, rather than check your phone for a potential new quiet place around you. I was also curious about the number of users. Is it possible that the more successful the app becomes the less useful it becomes?

Airbnb launches crowdsourced ‘Hollywood & Vines’ project

Vacation rental site Airbnb has launched “Hollywood and Vines,” a campaign asking consumers to contribute six-second clips, the best of which will be included in a short film about travel and adventure.

Screen Shot 2013-08-22 at 12.18.21 PM

From August 22 to August 25, Airbnb will deliver “shot instructions” via Twitter at @airbnb. Participants can pick a shot (eg. Fly a paper plane) and shoot a Vine, then share them via #AirbnbHV. The final Vines will be collected and the best ones will be edited into a longer film, to be aired on television on the Sundance Channel (among others). Those whose Vines appear in the film will get a $100 credit for an Airbnb stay. – via CreativityOnline

Why I’m Curious

This is a neat execution from Airbnb. The promotion speaks to millennial travelers and emphasizes Airbnb as a travel brand for adventurous people.  The concept is simple to understand and participate in, and while the incentive is not huge, it feels ‘just right’. While Vine is a great platform for ‘saying less with more’, more and more brands have been flocking to Instagram’ new video function instead of joining Vine.  Airbnb’s ‘short’ challenges, however, do seem better suited to Vine.

Virtual Pride Parade


In June 2012, Moscow courts ruled to uphold a ban on Pride marches for the next 100 years. So in honor of Gay Pride Month this past June, NYCPride and RUSA LGBT created a virtual parade at to support Russia’s LGBT community.

To show support, users could send a tweet with hashtag #virtualpride. As the 2.02 mile New York City Pride parade proceeded on June 30, the march’s progress was mapped virtually onto a Google Maps street view of a 2.02 mile route through Moscow. The tweet would then appear in a voice bubble along the sidelines of the online parade route.

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Why I’m Curious

One of the defining aspects of social media is the power to foster community. I like how this project uses social to unite a Global community of supporters around a cause. By design, the project relies on social engagement to create the full experience.

As we continue to see the roll digital/social media plays in galvanizing sociopolitical movements around he world, it’s interesting to see how these mediums are employed to amplify the voice of the people.

China Turns Olympic Pool Into Live Emoticon Display


From PSFK:

Artist Jennifer Wen Ma and lighting designer Zheng Jianwei have transformed Beijing’s Water Cube into a display of the sentiments of the Chinese social-media service Sina Weibo’s millions of users through an interactive lighting display that runs from dusk to 10 p.m. daily.

Nature and Man in Rhapsody of Light at the Water Cube uses a custom software application that sifts through millions of emoticons and smileys posted to the site and translates them into a glowing light show.

Ma explains, ‘I have conceived this as a piece that can breathe, as an organic being that changes as nature and society around it changes. I want people to feel like they have some authorship because their emotions are being registered.’

Why I’m Curious:

I think it’s interesting how the designer took something as arbitrary as an emoticon and turned it into a beautiful art installation. I think the idea of visually tracking a country’s sentiment in real time is also very cool. Imagine tracking brand sentiment in this fashion.



Crowd Sourced Fashion Shoot


The Selfridges department store launched an interactive ad campaign to promote its new denim department made up of images shot by the public.

The shop held a catwalk event and invited audience members to take pictures of denim-clad models using their smartphones or digital cameras. The images were used to create a collage to live online and on digital billboards. Photos and video from the experience can be viewed here.

Selfridges is also inviting jeans fans to submit Instagram photos of their favorite denim using the hashtag #denimlovers. Selected photos will appear in the store’s window displays and each week, one winner will receive a free pair of jeans.

Why I’m Curious

There’s still quite a bit of room in the digital space for unique crowd sourcing. I appreciate seeing brands execute these programs to freshen a somewhat routine initiative – in this case a fashion shoot. There was just a 16 hr. turnaround to collect the images from 300 shoot attendees to create the finished collage. In the end, the experience could be viewed at all angles and shared by anyone. I think it’s a neat way to work with influencers and get people involved and invested in the branded experience. Additionally, the Instagram hashtag sweepstakes rounds out the social photo sharing aspect of campaign.

Ice Cream Duo Takes Nation by Storm

From the 360i blog:

Just like Ben & Jerry’s, cities are made of different ingredients that work together to form a unique essence. That’s why our first program on behalf of the brand is encouraging ice cream lovers from some of the nation’s biggest cities to create and name their own ice cream flavors based on the respective personalities of their stomping grounds.


Launched today, Ben & Jerry’s ‘City Churned’ campaign invites people from New York, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington D.C. to invent new flavors around the unique attributes that make up their cities – including things like public transportation, parks, landmarks, tweets, photos, traffic and, of course, the people themselves.


Why I’m Curious:

I think it’s cool to see brand blending a combination of user generated content, brand generated content, and the natural environment to impact campaigns.  It’s like crowdsourcing on steroids.

Photographers? Aren’t we all photographers?


File this story under the category of “The Long and Painful Demise of the Newspaper” as we know it.  In a somewhat surprising move, the Chicago Sun Times has laid off their entire 20 person professional photography staff, now relying on their reporters to shoot photos and video with their phones.  From Mashable:

According to The Chicago Tribune, 20 full-time staffers in the photo department received layoff notices Thursday. In a statement shared with its chief competitor, the Sun-Times said it was looking to shift more resources to video and other multimedia elements (where, it should be noted, there are greater opportunities for advertising revenue growth):


The Sun-Times business is changing rapidly and our audiences are consistently seeking more video content with their news. We have made great progress in meeting this demand and are focused on bolstering our reporting capabilities with video and other multimedia elements. The Chicago Sun-Times continues to evolve with our digitally savvy customers, and as a result, we have had to restructure the way we manage multimedia, including photography, across the network.”

Why I’m Curious

The trend of the democratization of content creation and “crowdsourcing” has finally hit the professional photography industry where they’ve been saying it would hit them.  The instagrams of the world have enticed profit hungry executives to believe that taking a good photo is as simple as having a subject to photograph.  I think this will open the door for other newspapers to make a similar move.  This seems to be another nail in the coffin of the newspaper as a printed medium and is helping force them into the digital space at the expense of quality and artistry.

PNB Tweet and Shoot

In celebration of its 40th anniversary of its partnership with Roland Garros, BNP Paribas gave users the opportunity to train Jo-Wilfried Tsonga before starting the French Open tennis tournament, via Twitter. The Tweet and Shoot event, which occurred on 23 May, allowed Twitter users to drag-and-drop a tennis ball on a virtual on-screen tennis court to adjust the positioning of their shot to challenge Tsonga. Each tweet, selected at random, would command a robot to map each shot to the positioning and throw balls to Tsonga with the location, power and effect chosen by the user.

Why I’m Curious:
The power on online activation is rooted in its ability to affect offline experiences. I think this is a fun brand awareness and user interaction experience (for the user and Tsonga) that brings the digital world to real life.

Makr Shakr: Be Your Best Bartender

MIT Sensible Lab, Pentagram and SuperUber is collaborating to create Makr Shakr, a robotic bar capable of preparing approximately one googol (equal to 10 power 100) crowd-sourced drink combinations. Through a mobile app, users will be able to design their own drinks, learn from other people’s recipes, and leave a few tips for the next user. The three robotic arms will then concoct their chosen mixture.

Users can gain inspiration by viewing other users’ recipes and comments before sending in their drink of choice. The cocktail is then crafted by three robotic arms, whose movements reproduce every action of a barman – from the shaking of a Martini to the muddling of a Mojito, and even the thin slicing of a lemon garnish. It is previewing during Milan Design Week from April 9th-14th, before being unveiled in its final configuration at Google I/O in San Francisco on May 15th.

Why I’m Curious: I love this concept for quite a few reasons. First, the app could be a signal of this “Third Industrial Revolution” paradigm as it empowers a consumer with the ability to be a bartender.  Second, alcohol brands could leverage this compelling tool and establish connections with their audience. As the best drinks become the most popular and can be shared through social media, I think this is a beautiful case of merging the physical touch world with the digital space. And lastly, I’m fascinated by the fact that the gestures of Makr Shakr were inspired by Roberto Bolle, principal dancer with the American Ballet Theatre, as they were filmed and used as input for the programming.

Buick Designs Car Interior Based on Pinterest Submissions

Buick ran a “Pinboard to Dashboard” promotion that encouraged Pinterest users to create interior design inspirations for the 2013 Encore luxury car. The automotive company invited ten of the most influential fashion, design and food bloggers to participate in the promo and create their inspiration board. The promotion is part of the company’s efforts to reach out to a younger target market and show that the brand can use social media and have fun with it.

The winning Pinterest board was by Michael Wurm, Jr., a bed-and-breakfast owner from Pennsylvania. Wurm has around 4 million followers on Pinterest and his collection had beach scenes and sea foam-colored tones, which became the inspiration for new design deatures, textures and colors for the luxury car.

Why I’m Curious: We are continuing to see this trend of collaborative marketing as brands move away from marketing at consumers and towards marketing with them. I find it  interesting to watch an automotive brand leverage the Pinterest platform to trigger deeper conversations and experiences between the product and consumers. Buick’s creative use of crowd-sourced design through Pinterest serves as a nice example of social activation. I’m curious to see how Buick will continue to share content through their pinboards and if this campaign really drove sales for them or simply just deepened brand perception.

Doritos SXSW Concert Directed by Twitter

Doritos is holding a concert at SXSW this year on a 62-foot tall vending machine stage. But the coolest part is that the Doritos #BoldStage will be dependent on social media activity. The more activity, the better the better the outcome of the show.


From PSFK,

Three up-and-coming musical artists (Devin Miles, Seth Sentry, and Snow Tha Product) will compete to determine who will open for the headliners: LL COOL J, Public Enemy, Ice Cube, and Doug E. Fresh.

The winner will be determined through fan engagement on Twitter. Fans will then be able to control special effects like smoke and lasers, and help select LL COOL J’s encore song. The entire experience will be streamed live on Doritos’ Facebook page.

Throughout the weekend, fans will able to share photos of their bold moments for the chance to see those images projected onto the huge screen between musical sets.

Why I’m Curious

It seems that the power is continuously being handed to the consumer through UGC and crowdsourcing, especially with consumer packaged goods. From Lay’s Do us a Flavor  to Oreo’s Pick a Side brands are leaning heavily on ways for consumers to take action in order for the brand to take action. I think it’s important to note this trend and try to apply it beyond the obvious.

Although the campaign is largely targeted toward those at SXSW, they created opportunity for fans throughout the country to tweet, and watch the outcome on Facebook. However, I’m interested to see how many fans will go on Facebook to see an “up and coming” act.

A New Type of Fiction

Twitter’s head of fiction, Andrew Fitzgerald, launches month-long interactive fiction-writing experiment on Medium 


From Andrew’s post:

Introduction: An experiment

I want to conduct an experiment.

We often think of written fiction as timeless, crafted for history. I want to write extremely timely fiction, nearly ephemeral. I want to write a story not just set in the present, but set in this very week. Almost real-time. A serialized narrative that keeps up with the events of our world and weaves them into its tale as it goes.

But also, I want to conduct an experiment with you.

We often think of the author as a solitary creator, laboring alone. It is only the author’s vision that is realized in written fiction. Where so many other art forms involve some element of collaboration, writing down stories is a one woman or one man endeavor. In this project I want to write a story with your help.

This how it’s going to work: For the month of March I’m going to tell a story in episodes. We’ll start once a week and then they’ll get more frequent. Each episode will be posted into this collection here on Medium. And each and every episode will include the opportunity for you to contribute to the story. It’ll look just like this:

Give me a sentence to include in the first episode.

Go ahead, click that. You’ll be able to send me a Tweet from right in the story with your suggestions for the next one. I may not be able to include every single thing folks send me, but I’ll include as many as I can. Every time I use a suggestion it’ll look like this. These suggestions will be a part of the fabric of the story, and sometimes they’ll be big decisions. For example, my main character’s name will be Monica. UPDATE: Also, you can use the “note” features in Medium to make suggestions, right over there on the right.

What should Monica’s last name be?

See? That was easy. For some reason, I love piecing together a fiction puzzle like this: your suggestions + real world events + a narrative arc. It’s a fun challenge for me as a writer, but also, with little doses of your creativity, it’s inspiring.

What’s your favorite word? I’ll work it in!

Now for the next couple of days I’ll be busy collecting those Tweets and writing up the first episode. You should expect to see it Monday morning. What will the story be about? Well, I don’t want to give too much away, but it begins in a newsroom in New York. A New York that is pretty much our New York, but for one very big difference…


Love Is a Bracketfield’ Facebook App Will Decide Best Romance Movie Ever

From Mashable:

Fandango is getting into the Valentine’s Day spirit with “Love Is a Bracketfield,” a tournament-style competition pitting top romance movies against one aother.

Participants, who will play along via a Facebook app, could win a year’s worth of movie tickets from online movie ticketer Fandango (that’s a lot of date nights).

“Love Is a Bracketfield” launched Friday and will end when the 32 romance movies are whittled down to the best one as determined by voters. These movies are vying for your vote:

You’ll see Pretty Woman battling Bridget Jones’ Diary as well as Titantic versus Brokeback Mountain. The app is just one component of Fandango’s Valentine’s Day-related blitz. Fandango also unleashed Valentine’s Day-themed Fandango gift cards and released some interesting stats from a poll it conducted:

  • 79% of women indicate that a romantic dinner and a movie is their preferred Valentine’s night date
  • 81% of female respondents claim they pick the movie for Valentine’s
  • Only 23% of females say they pay for the movie on Valentine’s
  • 92% of females admit they would be annoyed if their Valentine’s date talked or texted during the movie

In addition, Fandango launched a Valentine’s Day Movie Night Hub

Why Am I Curious?

I think this is well thought out way to get engagement from target customers around a well-established behavior they are likely to undertake during Valentine’s Day. I also appreciate that is it not overly corny or sweet but really driven by a point most people (especially females) feel passionately about – their favorite romantic comedy.

#SteertheScript: Lincoln’s Tweet-sourced Superbowl Ad

For their Super Bowl XLVII, Lincoln teamed up with Jimmy Fallon to get Twitter users to  #SteerTheScript of their ad.

The ask was fairly simple – share a roadtrip story with the hashtag #SteerTheScript, then Fallon and Lincoln would choose the best snippets to weave into their ad for the Big Game. Over 6,000 people responded with a variety of stories from the “Alpacalypse” to a woman being proposed to by two strangers. The teaser is live now, and the full ad will debut during the game on Sunday. What does this idea have to Lincoln you say? The teaser ends with a voiceover saying “It’s a story that starts with you – because luxury always should.” (More at TheNextWeb)

Why I’m Curious

Social Media has been a game-changer for Super Bowl ads. Should brand reveal their ad before the game? Tease it out? There’s so much to decide these ad that will be over in about two minutes or less on Sunday. But this year, the trend seems to be let social media have a say in it (like the Coca-Cola example from last week).

Lincoln set the idea up for success with the cross-promotion on Jimmy Fallon. They’ve also enlisted celebrities to help act out the stories shared on Twitter – so the result stands to be pretty entertaining. But the question is – will social media users care that the ad was created from Tweets that other people wrote?

Dodge Turns to Crowdsourcing to Sell Cars

Social media has played an increasing role in the automotive industry during the past few years. Now Dodge is using a form of social media called crowdsourcing to alter the new-car buying process.

What is crowdsourcing? In this case, if you’re looking to buy a new Dodge Dart, you’ll now have the ability to reach out to your friends and family via the Dodge Dart Registry to help fund the purchase. This registry is similar to KickStarter, a popular online crowdsourcing community used for supporting independent film productions, inventions and other projects that need funding.

Through the Dodge Dart Registry, those wanting to someday drive a new Dart off a dealer lot, can build — or should we say customize — their own Dart, which will then appear on a public page for people to sponsor. Money raised through that individual’s registry can be applied to either the full purchase of the new vehicle or toward specific parts like special wheels, heated seats or keyless entry. On your profile, you can upload a photo — maybe of that old clunker you’re trying to replace — write a short biography and set limits for donation tiers.



Why I’m Curious: This represents the “we tribe” trend that we are seeing when the shared passion of a collective of people is much more powerful than the individual. It would be interesting to see how successful this concept will be, or if it’s lacking a true charitable cause.



Bribr lets Russian citizens expose corruption, bribery

Bribr is a simple tracker for an everyday problem: it lets Russians log bribes given to government officials. If that sounds strange, consider that according to the Russian think tank Indem, bribes accounted for 20% of Russia’s GDP in 2005.

In a country where government corruption is pervasive, bribes help grease the wheels on everything from court cases to also Kindergarten admissions (who knew?).  Russia’s not alone; in many countries, corruption affects all walks of life, but the problem often goes unexposed. Partially, this is because bribes become an accepted and expected part of daily life – but it’s also because those most affected by it have historically lacked a means to document and expose the problem.

No longer. Though it’s still evolving as an app, Bribr helps digitize data instantly and in real time. Moments after an incident, citizens can report the location and Ruble amount of bribes taken, which get pinned to a map on

Why I’m curious:

Bribr’s founder hopes that as reporting these incidents becomes more commonplace, the public reaction to bribery and corruption will also evolve. Through giving people affected by corruption a way to track and document it, I’m curious to see if public opinion does evolve. I’m also interested to see how the number of users will grow as/if this is released on more platforms (especially non-smartphone ones).

From Fast Company: While similar crowdsourcing initiatives have thrived in other countries that struggle with corruption, most notably India and Kenya, similar efforts in Russia have always failed. The app, which was released in early October, was downloaded 7,000 times in the first two days, according to The Moscow Times.

Interestingly, Bribr’s app description insists that it’s about data collection and not about drawing political conclusions. To this end, Bribr is totally anonymous (allowing users to log information about the bribes, but not who they bribed). Future releases of Bribr will also allow officials to (anonymously) self-report taking bribes.

It’s now available on the iTunes app store (and yes, it’s free for everyone).

35 Million Directors

Nobody knows Canada like Canadians.  And so, the Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC) and Tribal DDB Vancouver launched the 35 Million Directors project, which challenged 35 millions Canadians to capture their country on film.

During the five-week contest, they received more than 8,000 entries. Prizes of photo gear and travel packages were awarded for the best entries, viewers’ choice and a random draw.

“No one knows better than Canadians how to show off this country,” said Greg Klassen, CTC senior vice-president of Marketing Strategy and Communications. “That authentic perspective provided us with the fresh and personal glimpse of the Canada we were looking for, one that comes from our roots and is real.”

Why I’m Curious

Crowdsourcing is certainly nothing new. But when it comes to national pride, the result is great. This project was called 35 million directors and called upon the entire country to participate.  In total there were 8,206 entries, which comes out to about a 0.02% participation rate.  This may seem small, but it’s actually a pretty big number when you think about the effort of submitting a video and the relatively small incentive (and obviously the fact that ‘engaging’ an entire country is quite an ambitious idea).

The end product is an authentic, exciting piece of video that does a great job of promoting Canada. So while 0.02% may not seem like a lot, quality over quantity prevails.

Explore the campaign – and more of Canada – here.

via The Huffington Post 

Oreo Creates Their Version Of The Daily Google Doodle Using Cookie Icing


Instead of a reading a newspaper this summer for the day’s top culture stories, you could have just looked to Oreo and the ‘daily twist.’ From celebrating Gay Pride on June 25 with a multi-colored Oreo, memorializing Curiosity’s landing on Mars with red tire treads on August 5th, and even marking the start of Shark Week with a bitten cookie on August 12th, Oreo has created a playful, relevant ad each day for nearly 100 days.

Created as part of Oreo’s 100th Birthday Celebration, the ‘Daily Twist’ campaign will cap off on October 2nd with a live, crowd-sourced ’twist.’ Oreo will set up a ‘temporary ad agency’ in Times Square, and will take suggestions for the last ad from Facebook and Twitter fans from 8am until 10am. From 10:15am until 12:15pm, reps will narrow down the suggestions to a final eight; these eight ideas will then be broadcast live on a Times Square billboard and on the Oreo Facebook page for the public to vote on from 12:15pm until 1:45pm. And then, at 2p, Oreo will introduce its 100th ‘Daily Twist.’ The campaign finale represents an opportunity for the brand to get fans involved and let them see the process that goes into concepting and creating an ad while, according to Cindy Chen, marketing director for Oreo at Kraft Foods, ‘show[ing] the world how relevant this brand is now.’

What will fans choose? Relevant moments in history on October 2nd include Gandhi’s birthday (1869), the first publishing of the Peanuts cartoon in 1950, and Johnny Carson’s first hosting gig of The Tonight Show in 1962. And of course in 2012, Oreo’s last ‘Daily Twist.’


Why Am I Curious?

As we constantly debate the role of “entertaining” content on brands’ facebook pages, this shows that entertainment, relevance and the brand can be merged. We constantly see “happy ice cream day” or “happy hotdog day” like posts from brands in an effort to be relevant and conversational but without the brand infused into the content, I find it hard to believe that this does much for the brand.  I am curious and eager to figure out how we can hone our social strategies to authentically marry the product with relevant content while remaining true to our brand values.

Music Videos Inspired and Created by Fans

– Jordan

Continuing the latest in crowdsourcing comes the crowdsourced music video. Both Ellie Gouldin and Jason Mraz are getting their fans involved by getting them to create the content for their new music videos.

Ellie has used Instagram to collect a series of photographs with the direction that fans submit photos that depict a word or lyrics from the song. (Mashable)

Jason has turned to twitter to get fans to tweet using the hashtag #mrazingthevideo. Jason will choose his favorite video ideas and then pass them on to his director to incorporate into the video. (

Why I’m curious:

Although they are similar ideas I like the specific use of different platforms for their crowdsourced inspiration. I am curious to see which ones fans like better as one uses actual user submission and another is simply an interpretation of the idea.