Category Archives: Thoughts
I was asked recently by old pal and fellow Devonian Dom Bridges to help out with some ideas for an upcoming movie poster project. One of his suggestions was to produce a sketchy hand drawn route. The subject… Frank Capra’s perennial feel-good classic It’s a Wonderful Life, starring Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed. This got me thinking about drawing and its relationship to graphic design… More
Back at the dawn of digital time (1999) when I started noodling about with Dreamweaver to make my first websites one of the early projects was ‘Rick’s Mates Top Five Albums of All Time’. The idea behind it being that those things your friends like you’ll probably like yourself and hey, isn’t the internet a great way to share this sort of thing… I expect Mark Zuckerberg will be getting in touch any day now to thank me for coming up with the idea. And offer me lots of cash…
Anyway, at the time my mate Ben raised the concern that if all we ever did was listen to whatever music our friends were listening to then we were necessarily ‘pre-filtering’ and, consequently, restricting our choices. He had a point.
Fast forward a decade or so and now one of the primary sources of net information is not an unbiased collection of knowledge accessible via sober enquiry but bits and pieces cobbled together from your friends ‘likes’, and the like, found through social media (see previous post here).
At the same time it’s now commonplace to find adverts for products and services you’ve previously shown an interest in being ‘magically’ displayed on completely different websites. “What a coincidence” you might think, “that puppies.com has ads for toasters when only yesterday I was looking them up. ”
Of course it’s no coincidence – the net knows what you’ve been looking at and what you’re interested in. This is obviously profitable and arguably it’s beneficial – if there must be ads then at least let them be for something I might be interested in.
It seems though, that we are now moving towards filtered searching, where the results of your search engine enquiry is not absolute – the top ranking links for that keyword – but relative – the results that Google thinks you want to see.
Remember when there used to be a ‘UK Results Only’ checkbox? Presumably it’s removal means Google knows where you are and will only show you what it judges to be geographically appropriate material. Not necessarily a terrible thing, but remember, Google is not a friendly librarian, working in a publicly funded institution for the benefit of society, but a shop assistant, there to make a commission on sales.
We’re already getting a lot of our information pre-filtered from friends via social networking tools, and now search engines are giving us pre-filtered information based on what they know about us from our previous digital activity.
Do we run the risk of living in a ‘like’ ghetto and having our choice restricted to things a bit like things we’ve previously chosen – or which ‘They’ think we’ll be interested in / likely to buy?
Check out ‘The Filter Bubble’, extracted here.
What did we do before Toodledo? Despite it’s ‘amusing’ name and not especially appealing default interface this is probably the thing we use most to get us through the working – and non working – day.
There are lots of GTD style systems out there (and we’ve tried ‘em all), but Toodledo is tops. Really easy to use, simply accessed via a browser (or app, which works even without wifi), it’s expandable, and it just plain works, doing a job that is genuinely useful on a daily basis.
“The times we find information aren’t always ideal for consuming it. Instapaper helps you bridge that gap.”
A fantastic little free tool that’s enhanced my life since I started using it a few weeks ago. Capture long text content and store it for when you’ve got time to read it.
Install a widget in your browser then just click ‘Read Later’. Text and images go up to a cloud and can be revisited, in simplified easy to read format, either from a browser or downloaded to your i-thing and read offline – brilliant on the tube!
For a while now I’ve been digging these Faber Poetry Collection books.
The best 20th/21st century poets, design that’s beautifully restrained yet full of life (Justus Oehler at Pentagram, based around Perpetua, since you asked), and with a tactile quality that your Kindles and Pads can never even hope to dream of. They make the Northern Line in the morning a place of joy, and that’s no small thing at all.
We’ve long been a bit doubtful about the merits of ‘Search Engine Optimisation’. Artificially skewing the content and structure of a site in order to trick Google into doing something it doesn’t want to do seems a bit counter-productive.
Quite apart from the fact that Google is cleverer than you are and going to be VERY hard to fool, compromising the experience of a real-actual-today visitor to your site in favour of some hoped-for future user just didn’t seem to make sense.
Of course, you have to have a site that search engines can index, but beyond that we’ve always adhered to the principle that the best way to get traffic to your site is to have great content, well presented, which is relevant to what the user is looking for.
Our advice has always been that targeted online marketing is a better use of most people’s time than blindly pursuing a page ranking.
Recent reports of Facebook overtaking Google (see here) would seem to vindicate our position. The trend, it seems, is away from ‘Search’ and towards ‘Social’, and strategies for driving traffic are becoming more and more personal (see here).
This underlines the importance of quality over quantity – it’s better to have 10 users who ‘like’ you than 100 who click away immediately. You’ll only do that if you build a site which gives users what they want, rather than one that you think search engines want.
Our good friend Emily, owner and creative force behind Caravan, asked recently if she should set up a Facebook account. It prompted a bit of thought here at Frank Towers.
Its seems for many FB is almost becoming the default way to access the web. It’s not just about staying in touch with your friends anymore, but a way to crowd-source* the task of keeping up with what’s going on.
No more tiresome surfing of websites or subscribing to blog feeds – your friends find stuff and share it with you, and you do the do the same for them. Rather than you going to the web, the web comes to you, pre-filtered by people you trust.
Perhaps it’s part of our (increasingly?) narcissistic modern self. Broadcasting to the world you ‘like’ something cool begins to be almost the same as actually being cool. Or, less cynically, perhaps it’s about people coming together and making the world a better place.
Either way, there’s a good argument for businesses that trade on having ‘cultural’ as well as a commercial value, to be involved in it. People who like Caravan will tell their friends, and those friends will, hopefully, tell their friends. Once ‘liked’, businesses have a direct means of communication with an already sympathetic audience.
That it’s done in a form dictated by the commercial interests of Mark Zuckerberg and his business partners may or may not bother you, but it’s also worth remembering that internet currency can go down as well us up – Mypace anyone?
Whereas the web as a whole was designed to able to survive a nuclear strike – a flexible system not dependent on any one element – Facebook remains in the control of a single ‘Them’ and not a communal ‘Us’. Perhaps it should should still be considered as just one element in an online presence, rather than the whole deal.
Two years from now? Who knows.
*Getting people to do stuff for you for free