Category: technology

Veooz

A new tool launched today that promises to delve into the sentiments being expressed about particular topics right across the Social Web.

Veooz (pronounced, we are informed, ‘views’) tracks trending topics across the major platforms and uses semantic algorithms to determine how positive or negative the general sentiment is. This is a step forward from simply knowing that a topic is trending. Analysis of this kind will help businesses avoid finding themselves in the midst of a twit-storm for leaping-without-looking into online conversations.

Let’s have a look

On the front page of veooz.com, there are a number of trending topics to have a look at. For instance, after Prime Minister’s Question Time this lunchtime, it is not surprising that ‘David Cameron’ is being widely mentioned. Here’s a snapshot of Veeoz’ interpretation:

It’s just semantics

It’s not surprising that a Prime Minister who is not wildly popular (even within his own party) should have a negative rating, perhaps. But have a close look at the Influential Tweets. The top one is distinctly negative. What about the other two? @SaveTheChildren use the word ‘pressure’, but given they are a charity and a pressure group hawking a petition, this can hardly be seen as negative. The bottom tweet is telling, though. The key words here in rating sentiment are likely to be “condemnation” and “ugly”, however the PM joining in with the condemnation of condemnable scenes is probably a good thing.

Let’s take this further

Danny Rose is a young British footballer who was subjected to racist abuse last night during the game in Serbia. He got himself sent off for his reaction during a skirmish after the match. Many would think his reaction, although hot-headed, was quite understandable; perhaps even laudable. Why then such a hugely negative rating for the young man?

Look again at the ‘Influential Tweets’. @piersmorgan uses the words “Disgusting” and “disgrace”, but not about Danny. Instead they are directed at the scenario he found himself in. And yet, “Danny Rose” has a 96% negative rating.

Early days

Clearly it is early days for sentiment analysis and semantic search techniques. Pulling out the level of detail that would be required to provide an accurate assessment was the kind of thing Alan Turing dreamed of. We’re obviously a long way away from that. Especially for a free-to-use system that is still in beta.

For big brands, though, with large and vocal followings there may be a degree of insight available to those with the time and energy to mine the data. Amazon will be rightly pleased with the reception Kindle Paper White appears to be getting, for instance.

For you and I, though, let’s remain sceptically intrigued.

Here’s how I assemble a presentation

  1. Think about me – what’s going to get me a round of applause and some friendly handshakes after I shut up?
  2. Think about the audience – what do they want to hear? What’s going to delight and amaze them?
  3. Get lots of paper, pens and pencils – sketch out a story that will fit 1 & 2.
  4. Fire up a browser, spend hours digging through creative commons licensed pictures, note the originator.
  5. Fire up some presentation software and load in all the pictures to support the story from 3.
  6. Carefully choose a headline to go with each picture to reinforce the story.
  7. If I’m going to share the slides, I fill in the notes section with the narrative I’m going to deliver.
  8. Practice.
  9. Deliver.

I like each presentation I give to be unique. This harks back to a time when I would have to give two, three or even four sales presentations each and every day. That’s a lot of talking. Especially over a ten year period. And I desperately wanted to avoid sounding like a member of cabin crew from a low-cost airline rushing through a safety briefing for the umpteenth time.

More to the point, I wanted to preserve my own sanity. Now it’s a stuck behaviour.

So if, like me, you want each talk to be fresh and engaging, you’ll spend a huge amount of time searching for pictures that support your stories. This is where Haiku Deck comes in to its own.

Fire up the app and you’re immediately in an intuitive place. Give your deck a name and you’re straight into choosing content.

haiku deck 1

Hit the picture icon and you get to search a creative commons library:

haiku deck 2

Once you’ve chosen your picture, you can add your headline and crunch your deck together in no time:

haiku deck 3

Of course, there are restrictions.

  • There are no builds, so if you’re an slide-animation junkie you’ll have to get your fix elsewhere.
  • You can’t use every font in the universe.
  • There are seven layout options.

But the thing about restrictions is that they encourage creativity. You only have room for maybe a dozen words and one picture – I find that exciting.

So, for a quick and dirty pitch round a coffee table, Haiku Deck is terrific. For 99% of your other presentations, it’s not too shabby either.

I love Family Guy. Many people do. If you’ve ever seen more than one episode you’ll be familiar with the plots punctuated with a constant stream of asides, prefigured with the phrase “It’s like that time when…”

Now, much as I love Family Guy, we all know that the fastest way to get from one point to another is in a straight line. If the stories that you tell follow this path (i.e., moving from the beginning, through the middle and on to the end without swerving off at a tangent), then they are linear.

In natural conversations with friends and family, our stories tend to wander. They take detours, they get interrupted, bits get forgotten, good bits get stretched out (sometimes beyond the bounds of truth). Occasionally, they end up in places we never expected to go to when we started the journey. It’s like that time when I was talking to Tony Wilson and Frank Sidebottom about how Northside would save pop music*. These are non-linear stories.

The business world loves a story teller. Particularly an authentic story teller. So now there are now lots of bits of software that let you amaze audiences with a non-linear presentations. We talked about some of these a while ago. We even hoped that they would improve. Sadly, they haven’t. And there are new entrants to the market, such as projeqt that let you pull in blog posts and feeds from the social web to help your story spin round with increasing non-linearity and, it’s makers hope,  authenticity.

The sad fact is that when we plan a presentation we still think in linear terms. More to the point, audiences crave linearity. They want to be able to follow the flow of your thoughts. And if you want them to accurately re-tell your stories, it makes sense to present them as logically as possible. If your story has a defined beginning, middle and end, it is much easier to recount.

I can only imagine what the ultimate non-linear presentation tool might look like. Perhaps it would require us to dump everything we have ever known or thought about or heard onto a server somewhere. It would have been trained to follow our usual set of stories to conjure the required audio-visual aid onto the screen behind us in perfect synchronicity with our diatribe. It would know who was in the room with us and whether they were secretly willing us to slip in a vignette about the first ever football match we went to. And it would always earn us a standing ovation.

In the meantime, it’s back to thinking in straight lines and putting in the hard work to be engaging and authentic people.

 

*Actual, honest-to-goodness true story. Don’t forget to ask me about it next time you see me.

By our social web talents, according to their social web needs

Massive corporations have taken control of the internet. It’s time for us to take it back.

Yesterday’s internet was all about impressing computers. Today, the internet is all about impressing people. The social web makes us all the arbiters of taste. We collectively determine success. BigCorp, Inc. cannot compete with the passion and talent that we each possess.

New web, new work

The social web has brought together thousands of interested, motivated people with a desire to make the world a better place. There are loose affiliations of marketeers, designers, FaceBookists, WordPressistas and Twitter-junkies sharing ideas, inspiration and encouragement. We want to pull these people together into a new kind of new media business. A business arranged along the very same lines as the social web itself. A business that aims to wrest control of the social web from Big Corp, Inc. and tired agency models. A social web of social web experts making the social web a better place for everyone.

Freelancers, charge!

The web enables many of us to work flexibly but freelancers only ever see a tiny proportion of a much larger project. By combining talents, freelancers can work flexibly and collaboratively alongside people with other skills, feeding in thoughts at all stages of a project and seeing the whole thing through to completion. And that means greater job satisfaction.

And we certainly won’t be expecting to have anyone work for nothing. We all have bills to pay. But there is no need for an organisation to absorb all of the profits from your hard labours. Our new way of working will see profits split equally between all team members.

Custom customers

Each project is unique. Customers shouldn’t have to shoulder the overheads of retaining designers they don’t need, or change consultants they will never see. Our new way of working relies on self-forming project teams comprising only those with the required skills. Projects can be delivered quickly and cost-effectively. New ideas can flourish. Amazing things will happen.

Join the revolution

If you want to hoist the flag, get in touch. Or leave a comment below.

A new trend is emerging that is threatening the very existence of email, and could threaten the way many of us shop, vote and learn.

To be completely clear from the outset, email is shrinking in importance. There are now so many ways to communicate and collaborate that messages that could once only have been sent via email are moving onto other mediums. And while POP3 and IMAP still make up a huge proportion of the application traffic on a company’s network, the term ’email’ is slipping from popular usage. People now use protocols developed for email to send each other ‘notes’.

The ‘e’ prefix, once so ubiquitious, has had its day. This is a trend that we believe will continue. After all, it is no longer interesting that things are electronic. To a 45 year old, perhaps it is still a marvel, but to a 25 year old it is taken as read. So farewell e-mail, e-commerce, e-government and e-learning. And watch your backs VoIP and IPTV. Where being electronic is now taken as read, so the Internet Protocol is no longer so amazing. And no body ever really understood it anyway.

Yesterday’s celebration of Earth Day saw a certain amount of bandwagon jumping. Google created a new logo for the day on its homepage, and many dozens of articles and press releases, such as this one saying that users would happily pay more for ‘green’ phones, presciently appeared. Listening to Costing the Earth on Radio4 yesterday afternoon made me consider whether such Eco-friendly mobile telephony is anything other than a distant pipe dream.

The industry seems to be caught in a dilemma.

Network operators need to squeeze every ounce of value out of their customers and so need to make the mobile internet an attractive place to be.

To acheive this, handset manufacturers have to develop and build devices can deliver a satisfying internet experience. So phones need bright colour displays, good quality cameras, GPS, loads of memory, ultra-fast processors, great graphics rendering – the list is almost endless.

Of course, all of the new but now essential parts of a phone require power. Lots of power. So batteries drain more quickly, and hence require charging more often. And frequent charging means more people leaving their chargers plugged in and switched on for convenience’ sake. Hardly a recipe for planet friendly phone use.

One option is for the operators and manufacturers to educate customers about the need to switch chargers off when they’re not in use, but that’s hardly palettable for two reasons. Firstly a device with a flat battery cannot earn revenue for the network, and fewer chargers plugged in will surely result in more flat batteries. Secondly, there is a risk of demonising heavy users, and it is heavy use that the networks are trying to inspire in us all.

The second option, however, is even less likely. Ripping out functionality to reduce battery drain. But would anyone really want to pay more for a device that does less?

Unfortunately, as with all ‘green’ issues, less is more. Probably the greenest phone ever was the Nokia 6210i, which only seemed to need charging once a week no matter how heavily it was used. The downside (if it can be seen as such) is that beyond voice and SMS, the phone was completely useless.

My question then is this. What functionality could you easily do without? For the planet’s sake.