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Sounds of January 2015

Not a huge month for new music for me – mostly because I’d been listening to a lot of existing playlists on my new Sonos (because browsing the dynamic playlists is way harder via Sonos AND there’s no easy way of quickly adding a tune you hear to a favourite when you’re not near to the machine.. interesting usability challenge, when you’re not near a device, or if you’re running, how do you add a track you’ve just heard to your favourites?)

Although, a number of notable new artists added to the playlist: Tove Styrke, Veronica Maggio, and Panama Wedding who were getting the lion’s share of listens this month.

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LoveThink – a new project for 2015

You may have already seen a few tweets and posts about my new project for 2015 – lovethink.

It was sparked by a few recent conversations about the rise of Tinder and similar apps, and during exploration of the explosive category of connection platforms, from match.com to OKCupid, from Happn to Cuddlr – it struck me that they all start with one thing – physical attraction.

Clearly, this is a fairly fundamental biological drive, and years of evolution demand that physical attraction has purpose way beyond just wanting to be with someone ‘nice looking’, but I think we’d all agree that it isn’t the most important dimension, and certainly not the only one.

Fast forward to today – and I’ve been developing a platform to test a question: can you create romantic connections without physical appearance being the first filter?

In all honesty, it’s developed from a thought/concept design to talk around into a quick wordpress hack to see if something was possible, and now I’m interested in whether people will take part, and what might happen.

As with most of my projects, I’ve not really thought this through, or am too worried about what might happen and how – I’m more interested in just seeing what happens. I’d be keen for as many people to just take part, whether they’re single or not, whether they’re looking to meet collaborators, friends or something more.

You can register for an account at http://lovethinkapp.thinkplaymake.co and we’ll be posting regular updates here on the project as it develops, as well as what I discover or start to think about the concept as it unfolds.

Fresh baking ingredients

Recipes for iOS

There are a handful of ‘task series’ which i regularly do on my phone.

The most common, I think, is:

  1. Turn on Wifi
  2. Turn on Bluetooth
  3. Pair to my speaker
  4. Open Spotify
  5. Start the ‘_currently‘ playlist

I pretty much do this every time I get home at night.

There are others, like ‘close all apps’, or ‘go into low battery mode: close apps, switch off wifi, bluetooth and lower the screen brightness’ or ‘go running: launch the ABGT podcast, open runkeeper, start a run’.

I’d love there to be functionality where you can sequence tasks into a little shortcut which lives on the home screen, and to build upon that further, then set up triggers to fire those tasks, for instance, run the ‘Start my music’ task above when i ‘enter the proximity of home’.

Sort of IFTTT meets AppleScript.

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Hey. How was your day?

I’m mostly bored, so I reply to requests on dating sites like Tinder and Guardian Soulmates with long rambling fantasies. Oddly enough, I don’t get asked out on many dates.

 

Her: Hey. How was your day?

Me: well, first of all, i visited our local A&E to tend to burns on my hands and arms from spilling hot coffee all over myself this morning before i’d left the house. at the emergency ward, a patient in the next bed was talking in his sleep, about a cache of stolen nazi gold which he had hidden in his east-end lockup. he had been arrested and was handcuffed to his bed. some hours later, a darkly dressed man entered the ward, and shot my murmering fellow. whilst police swarmed, i was discharged, and decided to make haste, with the memory of the location of the gold firmly lodged in my mind. my plan was to reach the gold, sell it on the black market, and return the funds to local charity organisations, as my good deed for the day. upon arrival at the gold stash, it seems i was not the only person in that hospital who had overheard our now deceased antagonist. a doctor, a nurse, a registrar, a hall porter, two nuns, a DHL driver, a fifteen year old pizza delivery boy, a cat with a twisted ankle who had mistakenly confused the hospital for a veterinary centre, and a vending machine had all arrived with the very same thought – steal the gold for themselves. fortunately, i was late and i enter the location to see the results of an all out battle between the cast of would be criminals. only the vending machine is left standing, his face dripping with the blood of his adversaries, hunched over the still warm bodies, sobbing, in the realisation of what the desire for gold had turned him into. i slowly walk up to the vending machine, my face white with fear of what may happen next. my foot brushes a pile of gravel, making a soft noise, but enough to startle the vending machine, who spins around, pointing a make shift knife, forged from the thigh bone of the wounded cat, straight at me. frozen to the spot, i slowly raise my hands, panting. “I.. I..”, not able able to get the words from my mouth. I see a tear roll from the machine’s change slot. it stares at me silently, but somehow i understand completely what it is feeling and thinking. I go to speak, to console it, to explain that I… when he jams the cat bone shiv into itself. I look away, determined not to see any more death, destruction or pain, and just start walking, walking faster and faster until I break into a sprint. I don’t stop running until I reach work. I would normally make myself a mug of coffee when I get in, but even just the odour of coffee now has the attached to it pain of a dozen lives lost driven by greed, and reminds me of what could have happened to me, if I had been just a few minutes earlier.

So I made myself a cup of tea, and nothing else really happened for the rest of the day. Sort of boring really.

How about you?

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Streetview Ghosts

I used to appear on Google Streetview a few doors down the road from where I lived at the time. They’ve clearly sent a car around again since that day in 2012, as I’ve now disappeared from the live maps.

https://www.google.co.uk/maps/@51.4558963,-0.3229111,3a,15y,329.45h,77.37t/data=!3m5!1e1!3m3!1sYwczGaadQphsXHyWKn4-kA!2e0!5s20120701T000000

But not to worry, you can seemingly scroll back in time to see Street Views historically.  Click on the little clock icon, and you’ll be able to select three snapshots in time of the same patch of wall – two without me, one with.

I love that Google are capturing the historic views of a location – and in time (perhaps decades), we’ll have a unique and powerful tool to see the change of our urban environments over time.

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Predictive Poetry

iOS8’s new little ‘predictive typing’ tab creates strange poetry if you just keep hammering at the buttons. Here’s a creation of the OS:

the fact I can get it right away
with the same thing to say
it was the best of the year
of high quality of life
and the rest of the year
of high quality of life
and the rest of the day
before I get a follow
back on my way home
and I don’t think I’m going to the gym today
and it is not the same thing

to say it was the best of the day
before I get a follow
back on my way home
and I don’t think I’m going to the gym today
and it is not the same thing

as the most beautiful girl is the only thing that would have to go back
and I don’t think I’m going to the gym
today is a good time
with the girls in my head
and the rest of my friends are so cute
I can’t even see you soon enough
for you and your friends are so cute
I can’t even see you soon enough
for you and your friends
are the only thing

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A word from the wise

In the interest of making a year of cataloguing my door mat more than just photos of leaflets, I wanted to get the inside track on why we receive mail based marketing. I spoke to Ben Cunningham, Head of Direct at Carat UK, for a few insights into how door drops work.

You can follow the complete project at oneyearofjunkmail.tumblr.com

Why do you think we get so much marketing material pushed through our doors?

Door drops (eg non addressed leaflets that go through the letterbox) are an effective media channel due to a number of factors.  They are better are targeting regionally than many other media channels because you can target only the postal sectors that have a high penetration of your target audience segments rather than relying on the delivered audience of radio or regional press. Retailers use door drops because it offers the least wastage when looking at particular audiences within certain drive-times of stores which is also cost effective when using local free newspapers for distribution (circa £10 per ‘000 which is lower than other channels).  The second big factor is the creative potential.  You can practically door drop anything, so supermarkets like to drop booklets of all their offers which they couldn’t do cost effectively in other channels.  Also because you can include more information on a leaflet to explain the product and to encourage response they tend to work well for direct response advertisers.  Lots of telco’s, mail order, charities, financial services products all delivers cost effective volumes of response through door drops, generally using Royal Mail as the distribution method which is more expensive (£40 per ‘000) but more effective from a response perspective due to standout.  So because you can target audiences effectively, deliver a detailed message which gets into the hands of homeowners you tend to see that door drops are one of the most cost effective channels for driving acquisition.  Response Rates of 0.1% would equate to positive ROI for most advertisers.

Does randomly non-targeted mail make targeted-mail less effective? Does it at the very least give it a bad name?

I haven’t seen any studies that compare one to the other.  For advertisers using a combination of DM and door drops to the same household they would certainly have to apply frequency capping across both because there will be an optimum level over a year. Direct mail (addressed) typically achieves the highest response rates, often as high as 0.1% – 1%.  Door drops may be 0.01% to 0.1% with press, TV etc at around 0.005%.  DM and Door drop probably does combine to give each other a bad name but response rates are still effective and not on the decline because of poor perception.  The response rates may decline due to changing response habits to digital or increased competition in a category.  Personally because I receive shedloads of door drops for virgin media I wouldn’t even read any DM they sent me so it would negatively impact results for me.  But they are playing a numbers game, they can only deliver cable into certain postal sectors so door drop is the perfect medium to reduce wastage, so whatever decline in performance they get from this approach it is still better than other channels with higher wastage.

What is the key to making content like this stand out?

Like any other media channel the advertiser needs to know their customers or prospective customers extremely well in order to provide a relevant leaflet that speaks to them in the right tone, provides a relevant service at the right time.  A good door drop advertiser builds postal sector ranking models based on multiple data sources which varies by category.  EG in car insurance you know geo-demo profile of target audience, number of cars in household, renewal data, claims data, etc, etc.  So because of all this you can be broadly happy with your targeting (as much as you can be for a postal sector rather than individuals).  So once you have the targeting correct then it’s all about using the leaflet format creatively.  This is often achieved through standard approaches in terms of benefit led, product detail, strong call to action etc but occasionally you see very creative items which are made out of different materials (I saw one from DIY retailer which you could plant and turn the leaflet into flowers).  More recently clients have started to try to use the door drop as a way of accessing content via QR codes, etc.  More needs to be done, linking door drop to mobile makes total sense.

If people are frustrated about the amount of door drop content, is there anything they can do about it?

You can register on the mail preference survey list.  Also Royal Mail has its own list as well to stop unaddressed mail but this won’t stop teams or local paper distribution so they propose the customer uses a ‘no junk mail’ sticker on the door.  The Direct Marketing Association are a good source of options available.

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Timesheets

Many businesses struggle to encourage teams to keep their timesheets up to date – which leads to frequent emails chasing to complete them, and lack of up to date data on client resourcing – and ultimately profitability. I’d also wager that the longer from the moment of doing the work that it is captured and reported, the less accurate it becomes.

Our CSO (and my boss) sent a few folk internally an email about how we could encourage positive behaviours around timesheets. We have a specialist team with decades of experience in behaviour change within our Insight team, so it felt like a natural brief to include them in – but being a contrary type, my immediate response was: the question is wrong.

The challenge isn’t “how can we encourage people to keep their timesheets up to date”, but rather “how can we reliably and accurately report upon what people are doing with their time”.

Without doubt, timesheets are universally loathed. They are painful to complete, they are rarely accurate, and they take time to complete, creating a meta-loop of logging time on your timesheets for completing timesheets. They are a relic of an old way of doing reporting and data collection – and are completely out of step with how modern data collection works.

If you had a blank sheet of paper, and you were designing a process which allowed you to capture what people were working on, you wouldn’t end up with timesheets as the answer.

Automation. Ambient sensors. Big data. Natural language processing. Location data. Apps. Calendar data. Emails. Texts. Instant Messenger. Card entry systems. Intention casting. Predictive analyis. Pattern recognition. We are practically drowning in new forms of interface and data analysis which shift the very way in which we design systems for understanding systems.

But what do you end up with?

That’s my question, and that’s what I’ll be exploring over the coming months before Xmas.

Now, what job code should I put this under?

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One Year of Junk Mail – Data so far.

It’s one month of being in the flat, so I’m publishing the September data today – 41 pieces of Junk, of which a whopping zero were interesting or particularly compelling to read (I’ll let you know that already things have changed in October – perhaps September is a poor month?).

You might be surprised (or not) to know that Estate Agents are the clear leader with 7 items (17% share of mailbox), followed by Takeout Menus (5) and Health/Wellbeing (5) – which ironically cancel each other out.

You can see all the data here, and I’ll be posting monthly updates to the data as we go. I’ll also start logging the amount of non-DM mail which comes through (i.e. actual real letters) to truly reflect what proportion of mail is marketing vs. ‘real’.

You can follow the project at http://oneyearofjunkmail.tumblr.com/

Projects and Thoughts.