Snap, the tech company behind Snapchat, released a limited number of Snap Specs late last year and we managed to get our hands on a pair of the not-so-unisex coral-coloured 10 second video capturing sunglasses.
Here’s something. We love our Lifx lights, but we thought, “wouldn’t it be great if we could talk to them? So..
Introducing “Tell it to the lights”. Simply email firstname.lastname@example.org and our kitchen lights will flash and blink and colour themselves based on the mood of your message. Because they listen. And they care.
Having a bad day? Let the lights knows. Pumped about getting your work finished? Tell it to the lights. Feel like sending an email, but deep down, you know it really shouldn’t be read by a human? The lights will hear you.
How it works: We set up a service that monitors the email address and then passes all content through a sentiment analysis API called “Tweet Sentiment API” (made for Twitter, obviously, but you can push anything through it). Then we made Maker Recipes on IFTTT to trigger our Lifx lights based on the mood expressed in the email message.
Heaps of fun
Paul and Dave
Recently Royals partner Andrew, our very own ‘Golden Tonsils’, was interviewed on an episode of the renowned Melbourne podcast, ‘Hookturn’. Episode 36 was all about ‘Keeping your principles’ and in it Andrew shares annecdotes about our beginnings, our values, our culture and how we stay as true as possible to our original vision. If you’re a little curious about what makes us tick, this will give you a pretty good steer:
Go listen: http://www.hookturn.com.au/thenudge/36
That it sought power because men in the mass were frail, cowardly creatures who could not endure liberty or face the truth, and must be ruled over and systematically deceived by others who were stronger than themselves. That the choice for mankind lay between freedom and happiness, and that, for the great bulk of mankind, happiness was better.” George Orwell, 1984.
If you haven’t read 1984 as an adult, it might be worth a refresh.
Just like last year, privacy was again a big deal at SXSW 2015. “Data (in)Security: MIT Scientists Tackle Privacy” saw three MIT pros, y’know, tackle privacy. Although they promised to completely solve all issues pertaining to privacy within 45 minutes, they didn’t. But, they did provide some thought provoking considerations and opinions – and at least one really interesting idea that gave some confidence that there might be smart enough people in the world to crack a serisously complex and important problem. With debate about data retention happening in Australia right now, it all felt pretty topical.
The panel consisted of:
Danny Weitzner, Principal Research Scientist, MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab.
Ronald Rivest, Professor MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab
Sam Madden, Professor MIT CSAIL
Ron Rivest is a legendary cryptographer who has won the Turing Award (like an Oscar for these guys) for his work in making public-key cryptography useful in practice. Whilst a lot of the incredibly technical stuff went a little over my head, Ron highlighted three really interesting areas they are looking at where privacy will play a bigger and bigger role: Making election ballots secret, making payments anonymous (bitcoin is pseudo-anonymous) and how computers can work with encrypted data. That last one is fascinating because if computers do do computations on data without encrypting it, it means that organisations and companies that don’t have or need permission to see individual data, can still work with it.
Sam Madden pointed that there is a big tension between privacy vs. public good when it comes to ‘big data’. He talked through a few areas where aggregating people’s data can do great things. It’s not all bad. For example, MIT is working with enough hospitals to aggregate medical records to help significantly reduce deaths resulting from some diseasese. Whilst sharing medical records is obviously a concern and needs to be carefully scrutinised, the value in finding patterns and ideas via analysis of this data could only be realised a vast range of datapoints from across the US.
But the concept that really gave me hope, was something that was discussed called ‘Accountable systems’. An accountable system has like an overlay that looks at how data is being used in a database and looks for misuse and can hold individuals or groups accountable. It’s like a set of rules that wrap around a database that look at logs and combine them with policies and language to come up with an assessment. The real importance of this was evident in the quote that Danny Weitzner put up which reffered to a judge that said even when he issues the NSA an order, he has no way of determining if they’re acting in accordance. Accountable systems should really help protect us by closely linking not just whether a company has our data – but how they use it.
In closing, the panel asked the audience to raise their hands if they were concerned about privacy (everyone), if they used social networks (most) and if they encrypted their email (hardly anyone). It seems that at the moment the amount of concern in the community may not actually result in much action. I’ve got a feeling this is going to be one of the biggest social issues of the next 20 years so we’re probably going to have start holding our governments and companies to account – unless we want Big Brother’s world to be ours.
The thing that blew my mind today was a session I went to on how NASA uses social media in space. An awesome topic that gave me a totally different perspective on things: basically the whole point of being in Austin during March.
I’ll start with all the ‘on-topic’ information that justifies me writing this for an ad agency, and then share more really interesting facts and stats shared with us by a legit Astronaut, Reid Wiseman.
NASA has 490 social accounts. A mind-bending amount of profiles to manage by our standards. But they need this many for all the projects and missions they run. Imagine managing and moderating all that content? I can hear our Vyv whining as I type.
Over the last few years NASA has been using social media platforms (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Vine mainly) with a huge degree of success. The main purpose was to make people care more about space. This is especially important as government funding drops and people aren’t as interested in space exploration as they were a few decades ago. Where social has really helped is giving people real time access to what is going on 10km above the earth.
The missions are mostly about science – what kind of science is beyond me – so social allows the general public to better understand what’s happening during these missions and what the team is trying to achieve. Social really helps to drive engagement between important trips in to space and maintain the interest in the space program for NASA. However it’s always the view of outside that captures the most attention from people.
Ried Wiseman was an Astronaut who used social to a great degree while he spent 6 months at the International Space Station (ISS). His images, tweets, updates and vines were incredible and it gave the people back on earth a real view of what he was experiencing. He pretty much had a Go-Pro on him from the moment they blasted off from earth capturing his reaction to accelerating from 0 to 17000mph (that’s miles per hour) in a matter of seconds. His total trip in to orbit was recorded and took just over 9 minutes. Which leads me to the off-topic facts and stats that I found really interesting and mind blowing…
Wiseman was an ex-Navy pilot with over 15 years experience flying fighter jets. He then spent 5 years training for his 6 months in space. His first feelings when entering the ISS was that he felt so full in the stomach. Over the next few days nothing in his body worked. Everything he learnt and had meticulously prepared for was forgotten when gravity was removed from the experience. By Day 4 everything had adjusted nicely.
The space station that he would call home for half a year was roughly the size of a football field, but that’s not the living space, just the total surface area of the structure which was mostly made up of solar panels that power everything. It’s been built by a collective group of countries – Russia, Europe, Japan and the US. It’s orbiting the earth at 18,000mph (that’s miles again so virtually 27,000 kph). They would circumnavigate the earth about 19 times a day. Wiseman managed to record a huge amount of content from the station and uploaded it straight to social. It would help being so close to satellites I guess. No one competing for WiFi. I’d highly recommend liking NASA on Instagram, the images and videos are incredible.
In all it was a really engaging session that demonstrated, at the very least, that social media is being used in amazing inspiring ways. And the measures of success for NASA are the same as any one person, brand, business, team etc. Keep people engaged and involved in a topic with great content. I personally think that NASA has it easy. Who doesn’t want to see stunning images of the planet in all it’s glory, solar flares, black holes, and video of the effects zero gravity has on water.
Last year one of my highlights was Michael Nieling’s “How to say Fuck No to client and have them love you”. Michael is the Creative Director and owner of Ocupop. He is an interesting cat and started life as a pro snowboarder. After pretending he could build a website for a snowboard brand he then went to the library to work out how. He has gone on to build an agency his own way. You get the feeling that because he hasn’t grown up in agencies he hasn’t picked up any of our bad habits.
Ocupop has a few rules which is where the “Fuck no” comes in. They don’t give clients options. They only deal with key decision makers. They don’t deal with committees .And they don’t do work for Architects because they are arseholes. Michael believes that as everything has become amateurised we need to stake our claim as experts and say “Fuck no” more often.
That was last year. This year screw “Screw fuck no, say shit yeah” was all about jumping in. Ocupop has done free work for a lifetime supply of burritos, they have started their own solar related company, a shoe company and have an Hawaiian organic beef farm. They also have taken equity instead of payment in a tax company that specialises in artists and musicians. If you say no nothing will happen says Nieling. If you say yes all sorts of bad shit might happen but you can just bail on those.
He loves saying shit yeah and helping people out who have limited resources. But when people say they have no money his response is we will do whatever you want for free just so long as we have as long as we want to do it. If people ask you to discount his advice is do it but ask for something in kind. An introduction to another client, a testimonial or a lifetime supply of burritos. Check out http://ocupop.com/.
I came to SXSW to immerse myself in all things of the internet – what the future holds for social, content marketing, technology, how consumer behaviour is adjusting to all these variables and what businesses need to do to win. So far there’s been more on these topics than my brain can handle.
Surprisingly, I didn’t expect to stumble upon a seminar by Dave Anthony, the Director of Call of Duty game franchise, August Cole, a former WSJ journo and national security expert, and Peter Singer, a futurist and military strategist. This panel was discussing the scenario’s that might lead to World War 3 and what weapons might be used.
They agreed that the next war, between states and nations (not smallish groups like ISIS) would be fought not only on land, in the air and sea but also in space and online. They discussed that WW1 saw the introduction of the tank, WW2 saw the first use of atomic weapons and that WW3 would see the crucial and game-changing use of cyber technology. We’re not talking just drones and high-tech weapons but bio-engineering and bio hacking (the manipulation of human cells to increase performance and stamina – think of everything that’s illegal in the Olympics) plus a very real use of 3D printing – where weapons and ammunition can be printed on the battle field thereby reducing the reliance on the supply chain. This was all interesting stuff, if not slight un-nerving but when it came back to things I actually understood some really interesting questions were asked.
During previous world wars governments would instruct local industry to change their production priorities to producing machinery to assist the war effort. The economy saw a huge upside from this. So what will happen if there’s another world war and there isn’t a need for Ford to produce land-based army vehicles. When more submarines can’t be produced quicker than a 10 year sprint? What will Google, Facebook and Twitter do when there’s a requirement of them to help with the US war effort (assuming they’re involved of course). The panel didn’t mention Apple, but would they be required to manufacture an iRocket? What will Anonymous do when states are at war with each other? Will they take sides? Especially if the future of the human race is at stake.
Another significant change since WW2 is the 24/7 news cycle. How would a war be covered in the various media platforms? Vietnam was fought with TV reporters on hand. But how would WW3 be different when news can be broken about conflicts and issues by anyone on the ground well before governments find out?
While I sincerely hope that we never need to serious contemplate these questions, but it was a refreshing break from the standard SX content. Tomorrow I’ll check out Artificial Intelligence, Immortality and the Future of Self. After breakfast.
I’d always wanted to see Al Gore’s documentary Inconvenient Truth, so for him to be a keynote speaker first up on day one was an unmissable for me. And it was exactly that: unmissable. It gave me a snapshot into how the world is changing in front of our eyes but so many of us are naive to the facts. Gore used real world examples emotionally engaging us in the cause so that we can make changes for the better. How is it, that in 2010, that 55,000 people died in Moscow from smoke inhalation – due to pollution. Or how is that Miami streets now flood feet deep, without rain but rather from high tide? It’s these real life nightmares that we actually have the means to halt.
Sustainability became a theme for my day one. It came through in different streams from Gore’s environmental conversation and also later in Paola Antonelli’s “Curious Bridges”, and then finally a panel session on Sustainable Fashion in business.
Each talk brought to life the importance of our choices in effecting the future of our everyday world.
Antonelli’s talk was pretty overwhelming (mainly because she doesn’t breathe while speaking) but had some interesting takeaways and examples. One that stood out was a piece by Olafur Eliasson ‘Ice Watch’ in which Eliasson installed blocks of ice in Copenhagen so people can understand the effect that the melting poles are having on our world. The physicality of the blocks slowly disappearing, going through different stages of cracking and changing form actually shows audiences that climate change is a real thing. Seeing is believing.
Finally to sustainable fashion, moderated by Fashionista.com. This was about being sustainable in impact on the world through up-cycling vintage wears, streamlining processes though well planned business models and meeting demands and avoiding excess production at the same time. Also it focussed on sustainable business in which Maiyet founder Kirsty Caylor discussed their brands focus on luxury product using quality fabrics produced in Kenya in which they have worked to develop a great product that lasts beyond one season. This included keeping all facets of the arrangement growing rather than moving on with the trends and the production within Kenya, which would do more detriment than good.
Overall takeaways along my sustainable journey; I’m going to continue wearing vintage (damn…), purchase ‘fewer better things’, and become vegetarian (after I’m down with all the Texas BBQ).
So here’s something everyone has an opinion on: the pros and cons of constant connection. To be honest, I was worried heading into this panel discussion that we would be preached at, that there would be a consistent narrative of “be present, be mindful” etc. But thankfully it was more nuanced than that, largely due to the presence of the incredibly insightful, Christine Batcho. Ms. Batcho is a psychologist and a professor in the Psychology Department at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, New York. Her research has ranged from early work in human-computer interaction to the impact of higher education on how society is evolving as a result of the influx of opportunities to interact with social data.
The panel discussion which also featureed Paul Tyma from Refresh.io and Jenny Stoltenow from 3M marketing, was divvied up into observations about the constant connection which either contributes to, or detracts from, each stage of Maslow’s hierecahy of needs. A useful framework to pump through sixty minutes of commentary.
When considering physiological drivers, the point was made that many of todays interactive or social experiences (eg. Fitbit) attempt to create motivations rather than address them. This is interesting because I think the best emerging experiences today convert you to care more about the intrinsic movitation (eg. getting fit, dieting, meeting people) rather than the gamified elements added after the fact. Apps and interactivity that can’t pass your attention onto, or back to, the intended core motivator, eventually come across as gimicks and novelty.
There was also plenty of chat about the delegation of control within interactive experiences. When the app demands too much of you without a reasonable exchange of value, people can feel like they’re at the wrong end of the “Who’s the Boss?” equation. It needs to be a balance of reward and demand. Seems obvious, but perhaps if we put all of our branded websites and experiences through this filter we wouldn’t ask users for so much in exchange for so little.
Overall, Ms. Batchco summed up the ultimate paradox that exists when thinking about the value connectivity and socialisisation has brought to many people. The internet allows people to be connected., but.. the more time people spend on social media websites, the worse they feel. Some people are helped, but a lot of people feel disconnected. Its social but at a distance – it’s great until you hang up the phone.
The great hope is that we can continue to learn from what’s come before us and that we can enrich peoples’ lives in the softer emotions: empathy and compassion, and learn how to understand identity in new ways. All the emphasis used to be on ego and the “I”, in Freudian terms. This doesn’t work anymore. Our work should serve people, not just use them.
I know it sounds lame but SXSW is a pilgrimage.
It’s a filter for like-minded people. So if you don’t find enlightenment or redemption in one of the hundreds of events each day you will find it in the bar at the end of the day or in the random person standing next to you. Or in my case, on the plane over to Austin. Our plane was full of excited hipsters and tinkerers. I, by chance was lucky enough to sit next to Ben from Snepo. Check them out. They made Alert shirt and Fundawear. Ben reminded me of what is great about this festival. It isn’t about awards or who has the best boat, it’s about making stuff. Making the kind of stuff we all want and love to make. And sharing ideas not protecting them. So as one of the many who are reporting on SXSW I will try and tell you who to check out. Who are your like-minded.
Check out The Crossroads of Should and Must. Elle Luna, cool name huh? Wrote a blog then a book about doing what you have to do – not what everyone expects you to do.
An our later, I was talking to Sarah who works at Apple during the day – and volunteers wth Save Democracy after hours. You know, like stopping big American business shaping political policy. Shit website but great cause : wesavedemocracy.org.
Another mob to check out are teamdetroit.com. Michelle Silvestri talked about creating beautifully designed content with threesomes : analysts, strategists and designers. They make some bold statements on their site but the quality of the work they showed was insightful and creative. Smart beautiful creative for social which a lot of time effort and thinking had gone into – not just slapping stuff up on facebook.
If you haven’t been to SXSW before, you need to get here. If you can’t, I’d download the app and see what you would have wanted to go to then check them out online. You may not find God but you will find that inspiration to help you do what we do.