Tag: 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.

PowerPoint is like a BMW – a great piece of kit that is usually driven by idiots.

I’ve driven a few BMW’s in my life and I’ve always been struck by how appallingly badly other drivers react on simply seeing the badge. The same is true of PowerPoint users. As soon as the projector is fired up, audiences are used to settling in for an hour or two of complete boredom.

PowerPoint suffers so much from over-familiarity. And, while it is packed with features, standing in front of even the most beautifully crafted slide-deck is a limiting experience. Explaining ideas usually works best when is framed around a loose kind of story telling. PowerPoint, though, demands a strict narrative structure with beginning, middle and end tightly connected to each other. Moving between different story elements is extremely clunky and far too many presentations end up stifled. Presenters will often flick back and forth between slides as they clamour for clarity.

Those of us who present for a living are therefore looking for alternatives, a vehicle for our ideas that won’t be maligned for simply existing, and one that allows a more natural flow for explaining ideas. And thankfully there are plenty of alternatives available.

Prezi is a tool that has the design conscious drooling. The swirling visuals and deep dive zooming are enough to pep up even the most jaded 3 day conference crowd. It also gives the speaker the chance to engage in ‘non-linear’ discourse. In other words, while there may be a pre-planned route through a story, Prezi lets you take detours and fly off at tangents before coming back to your main thrust.

Prezi is very easy to use. Spend an hour playing with the tool and even the modestly techno-phobic will be comfortable with the main features. There is also plenty of scope for collaboration with some nice synchronisation between the desktop client and the online hosting service.

That said, while it is visually stunning, there is very little scope for self-expression with colours and fonts. Undoubtedly this will improve over time. As will the need to use highly visible borders around graphics and text to make the animations work. Output comes in the form of a flash file, so don’t expect Prezi on an iPad anytime soon.

Another intriguing PowerPoint alternative is the Visual Understanding Environment or VUE. This is a project from Tufts University and it wears its academic heritage on its sleeve. And there has clearly been a lot of beard-tugging going on in its design. The idea that makes VUE unique is the way it builds layers of information – a ‘mind mapping’ layer to help organise thoughts, a pathways layer to link thoughts together, and finally a presentation layer that pretties everything up in a PowerPoint kind of way.

What VUE lacks in visual immediacy is more than made up for by the flexibility afforded by these layers. Where PowerPoint may require a separate mind mapping tool to organise thoughts and then a labourious process of transcribing ideas into slides, VUE takes care of all of this. And what’s more, the ‘Add Most Relevant Flickr Image’ function takes care of the time consuming picture-editing process that is the heart and soul of a good presentation.

While not as intuitive as PowerPoint or Prezi, VUE is a real breath of fresh air for those looking for a new way of presenting. The concept is fantastic, allowing for linear and non-linear presentations with complete control over look and feel. The layers are strong but flexible and provide a direct link between original ideas and the finished presentation. Output to pdf puts notes and images alongside each other, akin to PowerPoint’s handouts.

Here’s a graphic I’ve just put together to explain to businesses that still don’t get it just why the social web matters. The bigger the circle the bigger the potential audience.

Corporate websites are usually full of stale and out-of-date content that may be highly relevant to the company’s business areas but that is hard to find (unless you are looking for it directly). Corporate blogs have very few regular visitors and are only updated when in-house bloggers have the time.

Compare this to the huge audience waiting on the Social Web, which is powered largely by Facebook and Twitter. Here, content is fresh – in the case of Twitter, almost too fresh! – is easy to share and, importantly, can be found almost by chance. Serendipity to us means ‘finding interesting things when you weren’t really looking for them’.

This is the challenge that businesses have to adapt to. The game has changed. Embracing the social web is not a ‘nice to do’, it’s an imperative.

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.