Paris Hilton with a Blackberry

I’ve never really understood Twitter. I regard this as a weakness. All the coolest people seem to love it, and I can see how it’s a neat concept. I just wonder what I’d put: “Doing sudoku on tube”, “buggering up a lasagne”, “In meeting”, “reading in bed”. I’d bore myself.

Well I’m delighted to see that I’m not 100% alone in my luditeitude (I hearby create a new word!). This brilliant ‘Creating passionate users’ post by Kathy Sierra goes well beyond that initial suspicion that there’s something a bit freaky in it, putting a (very cool) name to a phenomenon I’d been quietly aware of for some time.

In the quite brilliant Perfect Pitch, Jon Steel talks about how constantly receiving and checking of messages can (temporarily) lower your IQ by 10 points.

We now know what it’s called:  “intermittent variable reward”. Or, in other words: behaviour which is rewarded/reinforced intermittently, rather than consistently – is the most difficult to extinguish. Or to really reduce it to simple terms, the addiction to email and Blackberries is similar to slot machines. As Patricia Wallace put it in Time magazine: “You are not sure you are going to get a reward every time or how often you will, so you keep pulling that handle.”

Not content with revealing the real reason for email addiction, Sierra goes on to explain the emotional dissonance that arises out of “virtual” interactions – although this is not necessarily a twitter phenomonen – it applies equally well to TV. The brain feels like it’s experiencing social interaction but is missing an element – body language etc, leaving the subject feeling disappointed and dejected.

Finally, Sierra brings in the concept of “continual partial attention”. Thinking-wise, what we as humans enjoy most is deep thought and processing. But what we do now is the opposite, we constantly pay partial attention to a huge range of inputs. We care more about not missing anything than about actually focussing on and achieving anything.

Scoble on Edwards Campaign Trail


For all of those who find WebCameron interesting but mainly cringe-worthy (and I’m definitely one of the them), it seems pretty likely the 2008 presidential race in the states will set a new high water mark in the way candidates communicate and connect with their audiences.  

Just when does that kick off? Well, amazingly enough about a week ago. John Edwards (the Kennedy-alike running-mate of Jon Kerry in 2004) announced his candidacy. And did it simultaneous online, on MySpace, YouTube, Flickr and loads of blogs on his site. He actually screwed it up and announced it a day early by accidentally turning on some pages on his site

People will think this is a desperate attempt to be “hip” and “youth” but look at how he’s actually done it. He’s not tried to make it his own, he’s not trying to control it (there are anti-Edwards posts *on his own site*), he’s taken Robert Scoble, tech blogger extraordinaire (an ex-Microsoft tech evangalist) with him. I believe this last move is to show how much he’s open to the stuff and so he gets some quick insight if he’s getting it wrong. I think people are defining some of the rules of engagement pretty quickly here. See Scoble’s post here over bias criticism.

Personally I think there can be nothing better than a political re-engagement. Even if it is just a re-engagement of those who currently vote to think a bit more deeply about the issues. The Edward’s initial tour and announcement has – apparently – caused a real stir, with town hall meetings sold out and big crowds outside. Do you believe it? Well you’re more likely to if Scobleizer says so and John Edwards has 5,000,000 friends on MySpace!

How the hell will he keep up with answering voters’ quesions? That’ll be worth watching. Obviously assistants and interns will have to do it. How will that go down? And finally, whoever wins the 2008 election will have to work out how they actually govern if this is how they are going to get elected.

About the truth – don’t lie

A lot of the issues that brands and brand marketeers are now facing have a kind of déjà vu to them. Why? Because we have seen them before. What are the lines? “Brands should connect”, “brands should be useful and relevant”. Well those are how the original planning groups got started. Yes, technology is allowing users deeper and deeper access to brands, it is removing the ability to intermediate, and that in turn means that your brand actually has to be what it says it is. Is that new? No it’s just become more pressing.

So tell the truth and make that truth compelling.

Nike setting the example yet again

Nike has always been a formidable marketing organisation so it shouldn’t come as a suprise that they continue to lead the way when it comes a richer more three-dimensional branding. Indeed the entire concept of RunLondon or RunNYCity, took them into a space they could easily own and imprinted their values on it. The sight of 10,000 Londoners wearing identical blue Green and Orange tops in Hyde Park a few weeks back couldn’t have left us in any doubt of that.

 Run London 2006 start

Well their latest move makes RunLondon look like nothing. Partnering with Apple of all people, they’ve produced a system that turns any iPod into a complex run monitoring piece of kit (when partnered with certain Nike shoes). As you run, you get audible annoucements telling you how far you’ve got, your average pace etc.

Even better, when you get home you can see exactly how you did mile by mile with a graph (see below, I don’t know how it knew I was wearing a red top).

Nike Plus (Nike + Ipod)

You can then compare your times, track your progress, even compete with others around the world.

 Definitely one to file under “wish I’d thought of that”.

 MINOR UPDATE: I just got back from another cold and wet run. When I finished the ipod+Nike session, I got a voice update from Paula Radcliffe: “hi this is Paula Radcliffe, you’ve just completed your personal best mile” (although still a shocking time!). How cool is that!?

Ultimate web 2.0 site, so far

It might be all flash and take ages to load but look at this excellent site. It’s like x 100:

Yahoo Time Capsule graphic

A few people have pointed out that it doesn’t do what “normal” (and by “normal”, I think we all mean “Blue Peter”) time capsules do, it’s not full of pictures of old, out of date Walkmans and pictures of the queen. Time for another capsule, with some different tags I think.

In mourning

(Transfered from Blogger / Typepad)

Leo’s funeral in West Wing

OK, I know this might appear to be a little off-topic (!) but this weekend marked More 4’s end of the West Wing series finale. Two final episodes – as well as six great repeats and a crumby quiz show hosted by Rory Bremner.

This is a show which genuinely motivates its viewers to greatness. How rare is that? Great scripts (yes, yes – even after Aaron Sorkin), great actors, great plots. A TV show that genuinely does reach for the stars and I have genuinely enjoyed all 154 of them.

The alleged polling of Jed Bartlet (the series’s fictional president) as a having a higher approval rating than real life President Bush is surprisingly unsurprising to us Brit. We find it easy to believe because we don’t understand how much the Americans respect and follow their leader, and we expect our leaders to posses and academic superiority. In two of today’s episodes (24 hours in America parts 1 and 2, series 3) Bartlet is competing with Governor Ritchie, a Bush style Texan with an unintelligent grasp of English. Bartlet staff argue about whether this should be used against him; how it will play politically. As Josh remind Toby: “not everyone was the smartest kid in the class; not everyone liked the smartest kid in the class”.

Two things we can take out. (Trying desperately hard to get back to the topic) technology makes us accountable: Nowadays every day we should be thinking that all of our actions are accounted for the same way the president’s are. And, leaders can come from anywhere but that serious morals are what defines us. Barlet is sharp, clever and expedient but he is defined by trust.