My cross-channel moment

I spend a lot of time thinking and talking about digital advertising. Probably more than I should. It’s an occupational hazard given the fact that most of my clients over the past three years have been in ad tech. Sometimes though you can’t see the forest for the trees and I just had a cross-channel experience that was something I’ve only thought about in the abstract.

I use VSCO as the main camera on my Galaxy S4. It’s pretty nice and has a ton of controls and reasonable presets. At some point I gave VSCO my email address. Today I got an email letting me know about a new set of analog/aesthetic filters. The email included a link to learn more.

That took me to a blog post with more details. I checked it out and it seemed cool. The post said the filters were available in the in-app store so I pulled out my phone, fired up the app and went to the store. Downloaded them in no time, easy as pie.

Here’s a pic of my soon-to-be-retired glasses using one of the filters.

glasses

It seems weird that I can’t think of having done this before, or even of being aware of the opportunity to do this. Every day I get a ton of offers – through email, online, in Facebook, in-app, etc. – but I rarely bother to see what they’re about. Most of them just aren’t that interesting or well targeted. This one was and VSCO managed to move me from my email to their site and to my phone. I’m glad they did. It’s nice this whole ad tech thing in action sometimes.

Poor Ad Placement by a Premium Publisher

You would think by this point in the development of online advertising things like this wouldn’t happen. As I read the New York Time’s coverage of the tragic loss of Malaysian Air Flight 370, a large banner expanded in the middle of the page. It was a photograph of a stretch of empty ocean with clouds across the horizon.

Screen Shot 2014-03-24 at 11.09.48 AM

When the image initially appeared I assumed it was content related to the story. When I read the copy I realized it was promoting the Fontainbleau hotel in Miami and was frankly stunned.

So what went wrong? Was the placement determined by the content of the story? Are the automated systems in use so trusted that human review is no longer part of the process? Have publishers cut back on the resources to review placements to ensure they aren’t adding insult to injury?

Whatever the cause, this type of juxtaposition of advertising and editorial isn’t OK. Publishers need to do a better job of policing the user experience to prevent damage to their own brands and to their advertisers.

It’s worth noting that within 30 minutes of my seeing this ad it no longer appeared in the story. That’s a good thing but it’s unfortunate that this occurred at all.

The top 10 faces

It’s been just about six years since I started my 1000faces project. The first photo that I count was this one taken in Austin, TX back on March 5, 2008. I don’t know who she is but it was her 21st birthday.

Faces 14

I’ve now photographed almost 4,000 faces and for some reason they’ve been getting more attention lately. Since my Flickr account hit 2M views today I decided to share the 10 ten faces (based on views), so here they are:

Face - a woman with red lips and a red headband.

I photographed this woman with red lipstick and a red headband on the street in Montreal.

Face - smiling man with white hair, beard and glasses

This is a professor at MIT that I photographed in the basement of the old Media Lab.

Face

This is one of my colleagues at InkHouse, outside our old office on Crescent Street in Waltham.

Faces 2

Here’s my wonderful wife Wendy.

Face

Another colleague outside our Crescent Street office.

Face - smiling woman with long hair and glasses

A couple of years ago I photographed MIT’s emTech conference and took this one.

face

This is Omar Tawakol of BlueKai, taken at Craft in New York.

face

This is another colleague out on the streets in New York very late one night.

face

This was taken late one night (or early one morning) in a bar in New York.

face

Also in a bar, in New York – but not so late.

While I like some of these pictures, they probably wouldn’t me on my top 10 list, but these are the faces that have had the most views. Can’t explain it, not sure what to make of it but it is what it is.

My biggest musical disappointment

A few months ago I started listening to Divided and United, a compilation of songs from the Civil War. It’s a great collection with some songs I’ve really come to love. There’s one song that I like above all others and that I’ve wanted to play with Waiting for Neil. The song is “Listen to the Mockingbird” performed by Stuart Duncan and Dolly Parton. Check it out:

It’s really good. The fiddle is something else, the harmonies are great. I love it. I wasn’t familiar with the song before I heard this recording. At least that’s what I thought. As soon as I started sharing it with people they’d say, “oh, the Three Stooges song” and laugh. How is it that everyone I know has heard this song but me? It’s not just the Three Stooges either – there’s a Barney version, a Flintstone’s version, the list goes on and on.

It doesn’t change my opinion of the song though. And I’m not the only one. The New York Times did a piece when the album came out that tells the story of the song. It also provides links to lots of other versions. Again, how did I not know about this song? Seriously, I love the Three Stooges but my ear didn’t hear the connection between the Stooges and the version on Divided and United.

I’ve resigned myself to the fact I’ll never convince my bandmates to play it. That’s OK. It’s still a great song but I’ll just have to enjoy it on my own.

WebInno41: Preview

Right or wrong I fell off the WebInno wagon. I haven’t been to an event in a while and it’s been even longer since I’ve written up a preview. Bad me, bad bad me. Such is life. Things get busy, distractions crop up, such is life. As it happens though, I’m planning to be in Kendall Square next Monday so I’ll be at WebInno41. And since I’m attending, why no go the extra mile and write up what I expect to see?

Here we go.

Main Dish Companies

Chimani, Enhancing the Outdoors – Long before I started in PR, I was a PR – as in park ranger. My first park was the John Fitzgerald Kennedy National Historic Site in Brookline. From there I made my way west and spent a summer as a wildland fire fighter (though I didn’t get to go to any big fires) based in the Marin Headlands and then out to Alcatraz. The Park Service was great and I’ve always loved our parks. I’ve seen plenty of resources for finding and exploring National Parks and some have been pretty good.

Chimani is a great new tool for learning about and getting the most out of the National Parks experience. You’re probably not going to spend a lot of time on the site since it’s the app (or apps) that you want. Chimani offers one app that gives a general view of all 400+ National Parks. There are multiple ways to search – by Park type, via a map or by activity; and there are basic details on each site: a brief description, statistic (which are kind of light – just the area and when the Park was established) and a link to the Park’s website. The content is light but it’s well presented and of some utility.

What’s really cool are Chimani’s Park-specific apps. Right now there are 14 that cover some of the most popular Parks – from Acadia to Zion. The apps include detailed maps of the park, news, information on ranger programs, photos and more. For the Cape Cod National Seashore the app includes tide information and details on the lighthouses. These apps are clean, comprehensive and cool. If you’re into exploring the National Parks Chimani is definitely an app you’re going to want on your phone or tablet. Love it.

CO Everywhere, Be Anywhere – At the moment, CO Everywhere is iOS only so I wasn’t able to check it out. Here’s what I got from the Web site. You circle an area on a map – can be small or it can be large – and CO Everywhere pulls social content from that area for you: photos, tweets, etc. It seems like a cool idea if you want to stay connected to a place (as opposed to people or events). I can imagine using CO Everywhere to keep up with what’s going in places that matter to me and I’m looking forward to the launch of their Android app soon so I can check it out. Seems solid.

Happier, What Makes You Happier? – Who doesn’t want to be happier? I suppose there are some cynics and misanthropes that don’t want to but for most of us the pursuit of happiness is pretty important. Happier is all about sharing and celebrating happiness and they have all kinds of ways to help make that happen. On the site itself you can dive into a stream of happiness as people share tweet-like posts about what makes them happy. There’s also an iPhone app that I assume allows you to post happy thoughts on the go. And there is a 21 course on feeling happier and living a more grateful life. (The course is $25.)

I think this is a great idea. When I look at Facebook and Twitter – or the comments on YouTube videos or news stories – I see a lot of anger and negativity. Sure, the world isn’t all sunshine and ponies but it can’t be all bad. Happier is a modest attempt and reminding us that there are things in life that are awesome – and encouraging us to share those things with others. Will it make you happier? I don’t know but trying it certainly isn’t going to do you any harm. Check it out.

Side Dish Companies

BoardProspects, Join the Online Boardroom Community – Well it certainly doesn’t have the same existential zing of Happier or the back-to-nature promise of Chimani, that’s for sure; but BoardProspects it is still a cool idea. Basically, BoardProspects is an online community for board members to connect, share news and ideas and stay in touch. The company has some great people and organizations engaged with what they are doing. It’s a bit off my path to be able to say much about the value they offer but I can imagine for many this could be really useful.

EZCater, Feed a Meeting – Ever have to plan and feed a bunch of people? Me neither. But I have been in a meeting where someone should have planned to feed me but didn’t and I can tell you it sucked. Dealing with feeding people in a meeting must be a pain in the butt. EZCater is trying to fix it by making it easier to find potential caterers. Not only find them, but also see reviews of others that have used them in the past. The company has almost 40,000 caterers around the country (2,461 here in Massachusetts alone). You can search by geography and filter by all kinds of things – delivery, order size, cuisine, etc. I have to imagine that there will be office managers all across America who will come to love EZCater.

Pictual, Picture your Words – Before I get into Pictual, it struck me how many sites take the infinite scroll approach these days. I really loved the first 50,000 of them but I’m starting to get kind of tired of them. Anyone else feel the same way? But I digress. Pictual appears to instantly convert dull text messages into very snazzy graphics. Instantly. I’d like to try it but it’s only on iOS. Meh. They have a showcase on their site that shows some examples of what their messages look like and it is pretty cool. In trying to find out more about the company I clicked on the “press kit” link on the site. That resulted in my downloading an 8MB zip file. Really? For a company that’s all about design (and some of the stuff on the site is terrific) this seems like a pretty kludgy way to share information.

Prep4GMAT, It’s a Full Course in an App – There are lots of things that I imagine doing, but taking the GMAT isn’t one of them (but who knows maybe I will, dum spiro spero). For the moment, it’s not in the cards so it’s tough for me to evaluate the utility of Prep4GMAT. I’m sure there are plenty of people for whom this is a godsend and if you’re one of them I’m happy for you. Enjoy.

Quick Key Mobile – Wow. So here we have another of those scrolling sites but we also have a way to convert a smartphone (iOS only at the moment but Android and Windows coming soon) into an optical scanner that can read those “fill in the bubble” tests we all took in school. Let me repeat that now that you’ve had a chance to catch your breath. Quick Key Mobile convers your smartphone into an optical scanner that can read standardized tests. I’m going to lay down now.

Rednote, Add Emotion to your Texts – Here’s what the about page says: 1) Choose a mood, 2) find a song clip, 3) listen and send. That’s it. What does choose a mood mean? Where do these songs come from? To whom might I send them? To answer these questions I decided to download the app. (By the way, one of the things I love about Android is the ability to install apps to my phone from the Web.) Here’s my experience:

I launched the app and it suggested I find my Rednote (but what is a Rednote?). My only option is to click “More” so I do. Nothing happens. I click it again. Still nothing. Again. Nothing. As I continue pressing “More” my mood becomes one of frustration. Repeated clicks do nothing to improve the situation.

Maybe I should go back to Happier to make myself feel better?

Well, there, in a nutshell, are the nine companies that will be on hand for WebInno41. If you’re going to be in Kendall Square on Monday you should come and check it out. You can register here and I hope you will.

Face of the Day – 9.4

Today’s face of the day is Nat Hefferman

Faces

For a few years I worked at Davies Murphy Group (nee SparkSource); first in Lexington and then in Burlington. One of the people I worked with their was Bobbie Carlton. Nat is Bobbie’s husband.

Nat and I only met a few times and never talked much, which is too bad. One of the things Bobbie used to talk about about Nate was his music. Nat is a brass/woodwind guy – plays bassoon and some anachronistic horn I think. What I’m curious about is the horn and the group he plays it in. For some reason I think (probably incorrectly) it’s an old time brass band.

As someone who plays in a string band I like efforts to preserve (but still interpret) music from the past. The next time I see Nat perhaps we can talk about music for a bit. This picture is from the last time we met (almost four years old) so it might be a while . . .

Face of the Day – 9.3

Today’s face is a woman with a split tongue.

Faces

This is from June of 2009. I was at a bar photographing strangers and asked this woman if I could take her picture. What I’d noticed when I approached her was her hair, which was a bright fun orange. She said “sure”, smiled and stuck out her tongue. The split was surprising, as was her ability to move both ends independently.

For a long time this was one of my most frequently viewed faces (it’s tailed off now, dropping from the top 10 and sitting at number 30). I’m sure there are occasions when a split tongue could be useful but I can think of a lot more when it would be a real pain in the butt.

What I like about this picture is the expression on her face and the color of her hair.