Archive for March, 2009

Jon Stewart takes down CNBC and Jim Cramer

Saturday, March 14th, 2009

If you’ve been watching the Daily Show over the past week you’ll know that Stewart has been exposing the shoddy and dodgy advice that CNBC gave out before the collapse of the stock markets. That led to a war of words with Jim Cramer which culminated in his appearance on Thursday’s Daily Show.

If you missed it, here it is in three parts. It’s crazy that it takes a comedy show to expose the bullshit that came out of that network but this is exactly what satire is for:

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Scary times for recruitment. What should designers do when supply outweighs demand?

Saturday, March 14th, 2009

Some freelance design is still being commissioned, though everyone is being asked to reduce their fees, and there is less work around – about 30 per cent in our experience.
Full-time work agency side is really hard to come by – very few studios are recruiting.
Many brands, especially some of the high-end fashion brands we work with, are bringing their graphic design / branding / digital work in-house, to cut agency costs. Our in-house vacancies have increased by 50 per cent, and with many brands developing brilliant studios, designers are increasingly likely to consider taking a role in what was once regarded as a less creative environment.

Supply still outweighs demand – we are finding that the designers who are getting work are not only very creative but, perhaps more importantly, have the right attitude.

Design recruitment consultant Mike Radcliffe on the downturn in the design market.

Is MacHeist’s Tweetblast an example of how advertisers will destroy Twitter?

Sunday, March 8th, 2009

Like many people (19,000 at the last count) I took part in MacHeist’s recent “tweetblast” which, as Cult of Mac explain:

is a simple concept. All you have to do is post a tweet on Twitter using a particular phrase, which in this case is:

‘@MacHeist Yeah, I’ll take a free copy of DEVONthink! http://macheist.com/tweetblast #MacHeist #free’

And once you’ve done that, you can claim a license code for DEVONthink worth just shy of 50 bucks.

I did it for several reasons – firstly I thought it was DEVONagent I was asking for, which is a rather good internet research tool. But it wasn’t – it was DEVONthink which is also a neat tool but which, as an Evernote user, I don’t really need. Secondly I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss out on MacHeist which in the past has led me to getting hold of someinteresting software at knock-down prices.
But mainly I was intrigued. I’d seen companies use Twitter for promotional purposes before – for example Evernote themselves are asking people to send tweets on Fridays for a chance to win prizes, while of course at the same time telling anyone who follows them about the product.

But Evernote’s strategy relies on people being bothered to compose a short and meaningful message – to me it’s still within the realms of what Twitter is all about. The MacHeist approach is different. To get the “prize” (which is guaranteed) you simply have to send a set phrase. It’s easy to do – in fact I read someone else’s tweet and simply copied and pasted it and sent it on. It’s the equivalent of a chain letter. It’s not a meme, before anyone uses the term, as a meme is an idea that develops and mutates. This is cloning, not memetics.
It strikes me as being similar to those advertising campaigns where you would have to find someone or be approached by them and say a certain phrase word-for-word to win the prize. They still happen: radio stations phone people up randomly and if they answer with the required phrase they get money, but anything else (like “Hello?”) loses.
It’s sort of exciting, but it’s also very useful for the organiser because it’s a sure fire way of getting hundreds, thousands, if not more, people to memorise a phrase and rehearse saying it over and over. Then telling their friends.

There’s no memorising going on here, of course, but there is certainly friend-telling. Tweeting the message ensures it’s seen by anyone who follows you and, if your updates aren’t protected, by anyone looking at the public timeline. Because it will happen quickly, it means the timeline will be flooded with the same message for an hour or so, and that it will crop up in any clients that track popular topics.

It’s very, very clever. But it’s also rather worrying. Why? Well I’ll let Cult of Mac explain:

By asking people to turn their Twitter streams into advertising billboards, the MacHeisters are damaging the community there. Twitter’s supposed to be about the sharing of status, it’s all about conversation. I find it sad to see it being co-opted by commercialism. Sad, but not surprising.

The more Twitter grows, the more advertisers are going to try and game it. I don’t want the people I follow to be tempted into doing the spammers’ work for them. I don’t want to see advertising where I expected to see real people.

I think this is right: MacHeist has distorted Twitter to suit its own ends and I fell right in to it for a piece of software I didn’t need (I even had to unprotect my updates temporarily to take part). Skittles did something similar last week, turning their home page in to a Twitter search for #skittles – the only problem being that it resulted in people posting racist and crude messages. MacHeist’s approach is cleverer. If other companies cotton on to it (which they will if people like me blog about it!) we could soon see Twitter flooded with advertising messages like this one:

‘@Coca-Cola Yeah, I’ll take a free can of cola and the chance to win a trip of a lifetime! http://whatever.com #Coca-Cola #free’

You get the idea…

Why Friends Reunited Failed

Monday, March 2nd, 2009

Andy Budd offers a couple of pointers to why Friends Reunited ultimately failed.
The first is familiar to anyone who understands the link between social viruses and biological ones, or who’s read The Tipping Point

Like all social sites, Friends Reunited relied on the network affect, so when membership reached its tipping point the whole site went viral. However a lot of viruses burn through their fuel so quickly they die almost as fast as they grow, stifled by their own success. So with Friends Reunited once you’d registered, seen what your old friends were doing, connected with the ones you’d wanted to and had a laugh at the (hopefully) tragic lives of your childhood tormentors, there was very little reason to stick around.

The second links to my oft repeated point about how the design of the site (in terms of its graphic look and feel) isn’t as important as people think.

The design of the site was delightfully amateurish, which was no surprise considering the background of the creators. However it had a low-fi ascetic that made it feel genuine; something it shares with it’s later contemporaries like MySpace. The truth is, while a better design would almost certainly helped its fortunes, people are willing to ignore bad design and usability if the perceived value is great. With Friends Reunited there were no credible alternatives or competition so people were happy to make do.

The greater the perceived value of something the less “good” it has to look. This is my Pizza Flyer Theory of design. Aesthetic value is inversely proportional to use value. The less useful something is, the more “beautiful” it has to look. Also the look of a thing has to match the purpose. For more see this article I wrote for Speak Up.

(Via Andy Budd::Blogography.)