Category Archives: digimerssive_

Dinosaur Interface and Bathroom UX

What’s your favorite dinosaur?

Most folks go ‘later-Mesozoic’, for a Cretaceous bad-ass like T-Rex, Spinosaurus, Triceratops, etc.

Few go for the earlier ‘betas,’ those sausage-fingered, blobby dudes, with the ‘fresh-from-the-primordial-sludge’ smell. If a museum DOES feature these earlier lizards – we’re talking deep Mesozoic, here – it’s usually a  ‘blob-on-a-rock-clearly-regretting-the-terrestrial-move’, or a half-hearted mural in muddy colors of blockheaded stumpy things. Those earlier guys barely feel like a footnote, despite kicking out a boatload of iterations and lasting hundreds of millions of years.

Cut to the “Internet of Things,” “smart”, sensor-embedded environments. And the Burgerville bathroom.

Now I LOVE Burgerville. It looks weird when you type it, but it’s SO GOOD. I  recently went to use the restroom at the Burgerville restaurant in Gresham, OR. It went something like this:

<bathroom>

I come in and notice the water running in one of the three sinks bathroom empty, faucet going full tilt, handle up.

Mental note: “idiot didn’t know it wasn’t automatic!”

I push down the handle and shut it off. I do my stuff, then when I go to wash MY hands, I wave them  in the area of the sensor under the faucet a few times before I remember, again, it’s a manually-operated sink.

I turn to the soap dispenser. I’m thinking “manual”. I’ve been primed for this user experience – I know how to navigate.

Soap Dispenser, Gresham Burgerville
Soap Dispenser, Gresham Burgerville

I press the dispenser to pump out soap. None comes. It doesn’t budge.

Because… it’s MOTION-ACTIVATED! The FAUCET was MANUAL, but not the soap dispenser.

I put my hand under, cursing. Nothing. I wave. Nothing. Wave again. Nothing.

 

The light is on, I hear it making machine-y sounding noises, so the power is working, but…THERE’S NO SOAP. Curse, move to sink on left. Hold hand under. Nothing. WAVE HANDS, soap dispenses onto countertop. Curse, place hand under, wave with other, get soap ON HAND. Seethe. Rub soap in, then place hand under faucet to rinse. Nothing. Wave. Nothing. Curse. Remember AGAIN that FAUCET IS MANUAL. Lift handle, rinse. Turn to paper towel dispenser.

paper towel dispenser, Gresham, OR Burgerville
paper towel dispenser, Gresham, OR Burgerville

Sign on front: ”pull down towel with both hands”, but no towel visible. Think: ‘YEAH, I GOT THIS, HOMES.’

Reach around side for those spinners (the ones they tell you to use if a towel isn’t visible?), probe with fingers, then hands. No spinners. Curse.

Pat up the sides through the wet tracks of those who’ve come before, until I’m patting the top of the damn thing. Nothing. Realize: must be a sensor underneath! Curse. Put hands under. Nothing. Wave. Nothing. Wave again – nothing.

Paper towel dispenser, Gresham, OR Burgerville
Paper towel dispenser, Gresham, OR Burgerville

Reach around, find a handle underneath – invisible, from my angle.

Pull handle, nearly tear dispenser from wall. Three realizations: (1) it’s a PUSH handle; (2) I’m not the first to pull; and (3) none of us ‘pullers’ have been gentle by this point in the chain of fail.

I push the dispenser back against wall, hoping the screws don’t fall out. I push the handle several times to dispense unapologetic towels.

VERY GENTLY take towel with both hands and tear praying dispenser doesn’t crash to floor. Dry hands.

As I leave, I notice some idiot has left the faucet running. Realize it’s me. Curse. Return to sink, push down handle. Leave.

</bathroom>

The franken-tech clusterf— of incompatible systems exploding around us is the result of individual solution providers (soap dispensers, towel dispensers, faucet manufacturers, etc.) each tackling their use-case-in-isolation, with no-one fighting for an overall experience that feels right. That’s why we’ll be stuck waving our hands under manual sinks and standing in front of our smart home locksets with dead phone batteries for a while to come.

We are in the early Mesozoic Era of connected environments interface. And it looks pretty slimy from the Burgerville bathroom.

But it will get better.

We have to go from ‘use’ cases to ‘love’ cases. I don’t need a “smart” environment – I’ll take a “stupid” one…that cares a lot more.

Sausage-fingered-lizard UI will make way for velociraptors, and ultimately delicious, delicious chickens.

We’ll need experience designers and technologists who understand, deeply, the emotional weight of need states and our urgent journeys through them. They’ll need to grok us and how we’ll crash their parties and trash their assumptions with our messy, irrational, emotional selves – and love us for it. These folks won’t just build solutions we’ll use, but the experiences we’ll love.

Yes, please.

We aren’t counting our chickens yet, but we’re investing in a few and starting to break a few eggs trying to make irrationally beautiful omelletes – and I hope more people will, too.

We’ll love you for it.

 

we are hard-wired for ‘same day’

Much of the heat around the Walmart and ‘eBay Now‘ plans to test same-day shipping has been generated through the positioning of these efforts as a ‘retail/e-tail battle royale’ with pretty much everyone against Amazon.

Rebecca Greenfield at The Atlantic writes: “Walmart will send Internet-purchased items to you the very same day as online check-out, in 5 select cities…Amazon already offers that same quick delivery time in 10 cities…Walmart [has] 4,000 stores primed for this delivery option…Amazon…40 warehouse distribution centers. That means Walmart could offer same-day delivery to a lot more people in far more obscure places.”

Game on!

There are operational and logistical hurdles to overcome (and Amazon’s done this “e-mmediate” thing before – remember Kosmo?), but with the global near-ubiquity of mobile, marketers should pay close attention: when you can impulse-buy anywhere there’s a data up/down, every brand impression is a potential point-of-sale.

Imagine: on your lunch break, you see a Coca-Cola awning – a minute with your mobile, and Amazon ‘Same-day’ has a case waiting on your doorstep when you get back from work. All the light touches that add up to our personal brand experiences – vending machines, retail signage, delivery trucks, packaging, social media, and yes, advertising – are purchase-enabled product shelving in the infinite aisle of Amazon.

(And people LIKE instant gratification – the more instant the better. We are hard-wired for same-day. That’s why 3-d printing is the next industrial revolution and all this will change again.)

Granular sales attribution to individual brand expressions may be hellish, but if Amazon, eBay and Walmart (and their partners) enable infinite-shelf impulse-buy, could this be a way for CMO’s to use their brand footprints in entirely new ways to drive revenue? Could an unintended consequence of “Same Day” be a reconsideration of the right column for ‘Marketing’ on the P&L (revenue, instead of expense?), and with it, a reconsideration of the value of brand communications in the overall revenue mix?

I think it’s cool to get stuff the same day. Or even better: yesterday.

what do you think?

 

 

Portland Incubator Experiment, Reloaded: PIE 2.0

You may have seen some news about PIE today, or came across it on Twitter.  The application form went live yesterday.  What is PIE?  Well, let’s start with “delicious”:

“PIE is technology accelerator/incubator seeking 8-10 brand-collaborative startups who’ve identified an emergent opportunity in brand-aligned and business-aligned hardware, software, services or experiences – and we’re particularly interested in mobility.  Applicants need an existing prototype or proof of concept, and a scalable, viable idea deployable in 3-9 months.  Most importantly, they need a collaborative spirit and want to work with some of the world’s greatest brands – including Coca-Cola, Target and Nike!”

I believe you don’t really talk about something until you’ve got something real to talk about.  Crazy, I know, given the business I’m in, but hopefully fair when you consider that Dan Wieden (the guy who let us set up PIE in his building) speaks pretty convincingly about brand voice and brand truths.   We wanted to make sure we had a few before we ran off at the mouth.

 

"Know your voice or STFU"

This is why my first blog post about the PIE experience comes a full year after it began, when a motley band of W+K’ers, technologists, entrepreneurs and ne’er-do-wells set up camp in the old PICA/Icebreaker space at the corner of NW 12th and Davis in Portland, Oregon.

PIE was initially conceived as a social and entrepreneurial experiment by four folks – myself, Silicon Florist blogger Rick Turoczy, serial entrepreneur/mobile force of nature Scott Kveton, and the man who has turned the notion of ‘side projects’ into an art form, Jason Glaspey.  But it wouldn’t have been what it became if the idea hadn’t caught the imagination of a wider group of interesting people – what we called PIE’s “crust” and “filling”.   [insert your own bad joke here – lord knows we have]

Mobile PDX meetup at PIE

All of us (from the fruity middle to the flaky edges…I know, I know) wondered: what would happen if you put a bunch of entrepreneurial technology optimists into an open space? Would you get a brilliant hive mind?  SkyNet?  Given the ready availability of solid off-the-shelf and web-based software packages, how quickly could you build entire businesses (Bac’n took 21 days) ? What happens when you bring iterative speed development by folks who don’t eat if their idea fails, inside Wieden’s walls?  Would the proximities and adjacencies in PIE make ideas better than they might have been otherwise?  would unexpected things happen?   would it be fun?

Short answer?  Yes.  And the keg helped.

Taking the name “Portland Incubator Experiment”, or “PIE”, we set out with some pretty vague but audacious goals – build a techno-cultural social hub for Portland, launch new businesses fast, build platforms/cultural disruptions not one-offs.  We didn’t know what to expect, but we did know that there was a lot that PDX tech culture and W+K culture could learn from each other.

In our first year, PIE was home to 20 startups, and amongst other things, generated 3 venture-backed companies, hosted a wide range of interesting events and kicked out a book on fast innovation, fast-ly.

So with that under our belts, and some innovation where our mouth is, we are taking off our stealth paint.

PIE 2.0: fresher and more delicious.

Dan Wieden judges the entries in Wieden + Kennedy's tenth annual PIE contest
Dan knows PIE

This time around, Wieden+Kennedy and a hardy band of technology innovators and entrepreneurs are joined by tech-forward brand partners Coca-Cola, Target, and Nike.  We’ll work together to explore and redefine brand experiences.  PIE will continue to serve as an active hub for the PDX tech community, entrepreneurship, and creative thinking, but now we’ll collaborate to help brands find unexpected solutions, accelerate mobile efforts, share brand wisdom and insights with young startups and expose brand organization to the wacky world of real-time, startup-flavored innovation.  Each brand has volunteered amazing mentors for the program; they and the extended PIE mentor network of tech entrepreneurs, geo-location wizards, mobile gaming experts, open source advocates and techno-cultural disruptors will look to make communications objects/products more compelling and our lives a little more interesting.

The application for PIE is here. Got a business idea, a dream and a prototype?  Want to work with some of the world’s most amazing brands and the insight and scale they can provide?  Applications close August 1st.  September 1st, the new class takes their seats.

We are pretty excited.

I’m done with Foursquare

Remember when foursquare was a ruthlessly brutal playground “app” where you downloaded a BALL from the GYM and kicked ASS?

HELL yeah.

"Three enter, but only one can serve."

Then it became an OCD compulsion.

I couldn’t talk to the hostess at a restaurant til I’d checked in.

Or land without fumbling for my mobile and using the last of its battery (EVERY F-ING TIME) to tally another airport.

When I became the on-again, off-again “mayor” of Sadness (aka Portland International Airport, or PDX), I knew I was pushing it.

When I was dethroned as the “mayor” of the Auburn Hills Marriott Pontiac at Centerpoint, in Pontiac Michigan, 4square suggested cheerfully that a few more soul-sucking stops there might ‘put me back on top’.

Done.

I’m not over geolocation – I believe it’s huge and getting huger and will be super super huge. But here’s the thing: I want more storytelling and less box ticking. More participatory narrative, less faster badge acquisition. Things like Blacktop, or Casey Halverson’s Nike+ hack are neat directional moves…but they focus on automating the process of check ins and check in aggregation, and I want ones that deepen the actual experience.

Geolocative DEPTH, not breadth. In the moment, not for posterity

Things that make ‘being in a place’ about more than a few finger taps and adequate wireless coverage.

Brain Belches and Sentience

Somewhere this past year, I effectively traded blogging for brain belches.  Blog posts gave way to tweets, FB status updates and foursquare check-ins. "@"replies and retweets replaced blog comments as my virtual crack.

I'm not proud of it, and I will  rectify that this year (resolution #3, just after #2's "ripped abs")

In Katie Hafner's NYT piece "Driven to Distraction, Some Unfriend Facebook" (a piece dealing with kids attempts to self-regulate their Facebook addictions) she quotes Michael Diamonti, head of school at SF University High School:

"[I support] these kids recognizing that they need to exercise some control over their use of Facebook, that not only is it tremendously time-consuming but perhaps not all that fulfilling."

Hafner goes on to quote Sherry Turkle, director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self, who writes of an 18 year old male who quit FB while working on his college application:

"Facebook wasn't merely a distraction, but it was really confusing him about who he was."

Jonathan Harris, in his recent piece on World Building, writes

"Our online tools do a great job at breadth (hundreds of friends,
thousands of tweets), but a bad job at depth. We live increasingly
superficial lives, reducing our relationships to caricatures and our
personalities to billboards, as we speed along at 1,000 miles an hour.

We trade self-reflection for busyness, gorging ourselves on it and
drowning in it, without recognizing the violence of that busyness,
which we perpetrate against ourselves and at our peril."

There is something beautiful, terrifying and powerful about the rise of ambient intimacy, and our willing adoption of the latest and greatest tools to feed it.  We feed it with our hearts and souls like a confessional booth after a Las Vegas bender, but occasionally forget that every wry observation and catty tweet is now searchable, indexable and forever. 

But seeing is not knowing.  Telling alone does not create understanding. And the fact I can't actually deal with the immediacy of a restaurant until I've "checked in" in pursuit of my "Crunked' badge is…well, a little sad.

Sad, but I believe it will evolve into something beautiful.  This stuff would not survive, we would not be obsessed by it, if it did not meet a fundamental human need.  Our job is to understand that need and work to meet it with technology that enhances our humanity, and deepens our connections, rather than reduces our rich world of experience to 140 character bleats.

But it does make you think – children learn interaction by observing our emotional states.  How much of our hearts and souls can we pour into the technosphere before it develops its own api to tap our raw data, and begin to react?

It feels inevitable that a status update will someday generate a reaction – "feeling blue" may generate a skype call from an unknown (but somehow familiar soothing) voice, suggesting you "look on the bright side – you've got that Mexico trip coming up!  You'll be tan and happy, and you'll probably hook up!" – and when the line goes dead, you'll feel great, and maybe slightly, momentarily unsettled.  But you shouldn't be – you put the trip into dopplr, booked it through Expedia, and you've got a profile that matches someone else who did the same (and is single)…weather.com predicts sun for the 10-day forecast, and the tweets you posted from Tulum the last time were, algorithmically speaking, the happiest of your 8,956 posts. 

You can't miss!

Toilet Paper Users and Facebook Users

We social media wanks often earn our fear money through hyperbolic/histrionic presentations laden with "you're business model is f***ed" slides, typically including a gasp-inducing image that compares the population of users of Facebook to the population of actual countries.

But Facebook isn't really a country.  Individual users of Facebook have as much in common with each other as individual users of toilet paper. 

And come to think of it, there may be more TP than FB users for a little while yet.

Facebook-heat-map

(FB heatmap when they were limping along with 200MM users back on april 8th,2009, stolen from Dave Know's HardKnox life blog…and interesting to note that if in April they were "admitting" 200MM, and in December Zuckerberg claims 350MM, HOLY HOCKEYSTICK, batman.)

If FB were a country, it would be an interesting one – a preselected technological "upper" class who have sufficient material resources to at least guarantee access, so they probably aren't hurting for basic needs – food, shelter, etc. 

They'd be the world's third most populous country – 350MM+ people, all a few rungs up Maslow's ladder.

And in spite of various valuation discussions, this "country" of tech "haves" wouldn't be a G-7 or G-20 candidate.  Various estimates peg the FB "GDP" at about a billion for 2009 – with about half that coming from ad revenue, the other half from monetization of the FB platform via third party developers.  that puts them at #169 for global GDP, a few steps behind St. Lucia, and just edging out Dijibouti.

The smartest, wealthiest, tech saavy folks in the world, 350MM strong, barely edging out a win on Dijibouti?  Golly.

But there is something much more interesting and a little sad going on here.  A real country has many things that make for an engaged citizenry.  The two I think are relevant here are

  1. economic/social/emotional barriers to leaving, and
  2. a national mythology/narrative

Friendster, MySpace and Facebook are cheap, easy, and addictive, but their glue is driven by the critical mass of friends (network effect) and the difficulty of porting your entire life onto the NEXT BIG PLATFORM.  Facebook Connect is a brilliant way to deflect the need to re-port, but at the end of the day, FB loyalty will be proportional to its perceived utility.  Like toilet paper.  If there is a softer better cheaper toilet paper, I'll use it.

Tpjoke

(stolen from extremefunnyhumor.com)

But none of these social nets has an embedded narrative or mythology.  they have a perceived "cool" factor, or not, but they are social tools, little more.  FB is doing its best to become the Leatherman of social nets, with a tool, port or app for every need, but I question the loyalty of its users and the longevity of its position.  Because they have no narrative.  The US Army/Marine Corps CounterInsurgency Manual (available as a pdf here – Download COIN-FM3-24) defines a "narrative" as:

"a story recounted in the form of a causally linked series of events that explains an event in the group's history and expresses the values, characters, or self-identity of the group.  Narratives are means through which ideologies are expressed and absorbed by members of a society."

There is no common purpose to FB, no shared mission, no shared narrative. 

Like Toilet Paper. 

We flush (TP) and upload (FB) our crap every day.

When will a virtual social net nourish our souls?

W+K+Schmidt+Birkett+N900+OneDotZero = fun

As part of our effort on behalf of the Nokia N900, W+K London partnered with computational designer  Karsten  Schmidt and software architect Gary Birkett in conjunction with OneDotZero to demonstrate what happens when

per Birkett:

“we are using a 3 inch display to try to control a 70 foot
display”. Based on the N900’s accelerometer, the software uses an
interface that takes movement data from the handset and sends it to the
projection app, created by Schmidt.”

This is so cool, it must be 37 degrees

OK – so that's a reference to the "perfect pour" temperature of Coke – 37 degrees Fahrenheit – that optimizes the drinking experience to the point you have to sit down to drink it or your brain will explode with pleasure.  And frankly, that'd be a mess, what with the bubbles and all.

I know that because (disclaimer) I have the pleasure to work with Coke.

Read about Coke's "interactive fountain" in Fast Company today.  Touch screen + 46-ounce concentrated flavor cartridge = your perfect Coke.  That in and of itself is pretty neat.

Coke machine

But I like it for two reasons – one that was stated in the article, one that wasn't:

(1) According to the article, "Another perk is the business data the dispenser sends back to Coke's headquarters in Atlanta.
The machines upload data about beverage consumption, peak times, and
popular locations. Coke can also talk back to the machine, letting it
know if a particular flavor needs to be discontinued or recalled and
causing it to stop serving the drink immediately."  This is FANTASTIC.  The machines become real-time focus groups and interactive sales terminals.  As long as the info generated isn't left in the hands of the inventory department but rather feeds the broader marketing organization, this has significant implications.

(2) This machine will feed a fundamental behavior intrinsic to Coke's target audience – sharing.  you can't create a witch's brew flavor without the friend next to you asking for "just a sip" to compare to their concoction – and you'll probably see an uptick in sales as people 'experiment' with different flavors.  Expect different flavor combinations (the more esoteric the better) to form fan groups and passion communities online.  Expect #Coke flavored hashtags cropping up on Twitter, etc. etc. etc.

The machines don't just mix flavors, they start conversations.  probably not unlike the ones that mmay have happened at soda fountains.  Even better?  Good-natured arguments.  And THAT is cool.

Sodafountain
"My Diet Vanilla Black Cherry Bomb is tastier than Biff's Crap-tastic mix…"

Kudos to Coke for harnessing a technology that speaks to both their heritage (the soda fountain) and their future.  And for turning their product into a participatory experience. 

Win.

Coraline Marketing

Coraline_pulp_tn

[ Mike Baker's reconceived pulp 'Coraline' cover, from his blog 'Knack for Art':]

You haven't seen a lot from me on W+K's marketing efforts behind Coraline. 

The best gauge of a campaign is what other people say about it anyway, right?   And other folks have done a great job of covering it – Ward @ Drawn and The Future of Ads pretty much nail it, and if you missed anything, 'Evil Buttons' is the unoffical blog we've all been reading to track the campaign and its offshoots. 

Phil Knight was interviewed by AdAge about the Coraline marketing effort and had this to say:

"The original agreement was that Focus [Features] would do the advertising, but in
some of the early meetings, it was clear that we had a difference of
opinion on the advertising — "target audience" being one. They were
used to doing "data" advertising: They wanted to push this more as a
kiddie film, because that's what the data told them. And Nike and
Wieden & Kennedy together had grown up with what I call "emotional
essence advertising" — the essence of the product is its emotional
core, and you push that. It was two very different approaches, and it
kind of became clear in some of those early meetings that we had a very
strong difference of opinion. And to Focus' credit, they said, "OK, why
don't you guys try it? There's no use in fighting this thing. Let's
negotiate a different way to market this thing."
Marketing Quals ("emotional essence" types) and Quants ("data" advertisers) have been slugging it out for a while, so I wanted to share this nugget:

Pundits projected a $9MM opening weekend for Coraline, and $32MM total run gross.

We are damn proud that after a $16.3MM opening weekend take, Coraline's 3rd week US gross stands now at $53.93MM and counting.