To Give and Not Receive

This afternoon New York Times readers were assaulted by a full page takeover that unfolded across the front page effectively roadblocking the news of the day with a “special report” layout that was both interruptive and offensive. If this is where they are going with their native advertising, I do not like.

Merrill Takeover

All publishers need to make a buck and, as someone that works in online publishing, I encourage experimentation but the fact that an institution such as the New York Times would stoop to running such an amateur-looking infomercial hints of desperation. While the Face Retirement campaign is innovative (the landing page asks for access to your computer’s camera so it can take a photo of you and “age” you), there page curl takeover is as old as the hills and takes me back to the Dancing Mortgage Man remnant ads we used to joke about at Yahoo. These ads take more than they give.

The add was frequency capped so it only ran once per unique visitor but the CPMs must have been pricey. But I can’t help but think that the hundreds of thousands spent by Bank of America to run this ad could have been better spent in other ways. Instead of invading your senses, wouldn’t both the audience, publisher, and advertiser have been better served by underwriting an open house for heavy users of the site? What about granting a free subscription to the paper for three months in return for some personal information that helps you better market your retirement planning services with glossy mailers? There are so many other ways that you can spend $250k, throwing up roadblock banners just seems lazy all around.

How to write a good set of Community Guidelines

Writing the Community Guidelines for an online social network is an art. Next to on-boarding and FAQs, the community guidelines are an important document that helps set the tone for the site and the people that use it. You need to be clear and firm but also treat those that use your site as humans that can think for themselves.

I can’t tell you how to write a good set of guidelines as each community is different and the voice that you choose to address the community needs to come from you as a unique reflection of your values. I can point you to some of my favorites and point out choice snippets.

Get Satisfaction

As a corporate service, Get Satisfaction needs to strike the right balance between fun and engaging but also covering all bases for those corporate buyers (more likely the corporate lawyers) that might not be comfortable with loose language. While the language is pretty straightforward, the titles of each section let slip a little personality. “Be your awesome self” and “No trolls!” have personality but for those that are not sure what they are getting at, the details are explained.

The Guardian Participation Guidelines

For a mainstream media site, The Guardian has a refreshingly crisp set of guidelines that are clear and easy to to understand.

We welcome debate and dissent, but personal attacks, persistent trolling and mindless abuse will not be tolerated.

I’m not a legal mind but I would say that such a phrase is open to interpretation but the guidelines make clear that the Guardian owns the platform and takes responsibility to curate the conversation and keep it civil for everyone.

flickr

As a photo sharing site, the flickr community managers have been inspirational for their balanced approach to weaving the line between one person’s form of expression and another’s sense of morals. Their community guidelines are as much an ice breaker as an appeal to all of us to be human. Included are such gems as:

Don’t be creepy. You know the guy. Don’t be that guy.

Tumblr

Who ever wrote these guidelines (you can see a working draft on github) sure was having a lot of fun. Sprinkled throughout are gems such as:

Harm to Minors. . .Being a teenager is complicated enough without the anxiety, sadness, and isolation caused by bullying.

Sexually Explicit Video. . .please don’t use Tumblr’s Upload Video feature to upload sexually explicit video. We’re not in the business of hosting adult-oriented videos (and it’s fucking expensive).

Username/URL Abuse or Squatting. . .Don’t squat, hoard, amass, accumulate, accrue, stockpile, rack up, buy, trade, sell, launder, invest in, ingest, get drunk on, cyber with, grope, or jealously guard Tumblr usernames/URLs.

Spam. . .don’t tag a photo of your cat with “doctor who” unless the name of your cat is actually Doctor Who, and don’t overload your posts with #barely #relevant #tags.

Confusion or Impersonation. . .Don’t impersonate anyone. While you’re free to ridicule, parody, or marvel at the alien beauty of Benedict Cumberbatch, you can’t pretend to actually be Benedict Cumberbatch.

Lastly? Check out the original TOS for Blogger. Most of it is what you expect but then you get to section 12E which helpfully states:

IF YOU HAVE READ THIS FAR THEN YOUR EYES PROBABLY HURT. ALL CAPS, WHAT WERE WE THINKING? HOWEVER, WE ARE NOT LIABLE FOR THIS OR ANY OTHER OCULAR MALADY.

On Ephemera

Om Malik recently wrote about receipts as a design experience. He was writing about Square, the payments company, that is re-thinking the way people exchange currency. Square’s focus on design, particularly the receipt, is inspirational. They view commerce as a design challenge, not only the method by which a transaction happens but also the artifacts left behind from the transaction, the receipt.

In his post, Om quotes Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Square, on their approach,

One of the things that really excited us in the early days was the receipt, putting a very simple map on the receipt where the transaction took place, putting a business’s Twitter account, putting a big picture of what they just sold, a beautiful photograph of a cappuccino, just to make it feel like something that was a lot more tangible, and also a lot more focused around communication. In the early days we saw the receipt as this amazing, kind of often played down and often forgotten about communication channel. It kind of evolved our thinking, this is not about payments, this is about commerce, and the definition of commerce is the activity between buyers and sellers.

Back in the 90’s, I took a trip through pre-Euro Europe. One of the things that fascinated me were the receipts which I saw as vestiges of the experiences I had on my trip. The receipts were ephemera.

ephemera

I would collect the best ones and mail them back to my parents who kept them for my return. Om’s post reminded me of this collection so, over the weekend, I pulled out the old wooden wine crate that holds them and scanned a few to share.

As I pawed through the box of receipts, I ran across another box, a cigar box this time, filled with all the ticket stubs of every concert and sports event I’ve been to (as you can tell, I’m a bit of a hoarder of this stuff).

Each of these slips of paper bring back of flood of memories. While the ticket represents the details of a commercial transaction where money changed hands in return for an experience, important for record-keeping, they each expressed these details in their own unique way.

Each moment in time has been crystallized in time, a keepsake to be shared, a gift and celebration of a shared experience. I am thankful that Square is thinking of this in this age of e-tickets and am glad they encourage attention to this important detail.

Apple and Storytelling

Apple’s latest installment of their storytelling marketing campaign is on their home page today. Your Verse features Robin Williams who narrates Walt Whitman and invites you to stop watching and start making.

Poetry, Beauty, Romance, Love – these are what we stay alive for.

That the company that has produced one of the best media consumption devices ever made is now inviting its customers to begin to produce content, no, art, on these devices points the way to how Apple will expand the market for all the new converts to the Apple platform.

From the original Macintosh to the latest Mac Pro (“Built for creativity on an epic scale”) the premium customers of Apple’s products have been the creative class. By inspiring all those new customers with iPhones and iPads to delve into creating new media, Apple will nudge these customers toward the upgrade path to new devices and software that bring them deeper into the Apple ecosystem.

It’s cinematic in an age where advertising has stepped a bit too far on the wrong side of literal and clever. It’s not about specs and stats. It’s not about the devices at all. It’s about how you can use the devices. How these devices are both approachable and aspirational. And oddly, just as with the best cinema, the feeling you’re left with is one of nostalgia.

MG Siegler

Apple Verse

Life on an iPad showed how others use the iPad to do things, how the iPad was integrated into our life to get things done. Your Verse is an invitation to create. Once again, Apple is changing the game.

That powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?

this yor folt

moerk

The Reply Allpocalypse is something everyone who has ever been on a large email list (NYU, Columbia). It’s an amateur mistake but it starts out with someone send an email to the entire list but is then compounded when people on the list (the larger the initial list, the more chances they’ll be some jokers in there that don’t understand how email works) start to reply and, instead of replying to the sender, decided that everyone on the list needs to see their response.

As the thread continues, everyone’s inbox starts to fill up with further replies of things like “unsubscribe” or “stop spamming me!!” that are also sent to the entire list. This can spiral out of control and bring a mail server to it’s knees and totally take out any mobile mail clients that are frantically trying to keep up.

At some point, people begin to realize that the list is a way for anyone to push a message to everyone at the entire company so you get and “open mike” situation where everyone who has had anything to stay will jump on the bandwagon with their own one-liner they just had to share.

The graphic above is from one such incident that happened while I was at Nokia. I don’t even remember the initial email but it was sent to a large list, could have been the entire company which I think is over 100k souls. As the Reply Alls started to pile on, everyone’s inbox was momentarily taken over and then someone helpfully decided to make an infographic of the type of responses that piled up.

Most famously was the “this yor folt” which came from someone in one of the Central European offices. English was obviously not his first language but his one-liner kicked off a whole new thread of people who started a new thread to poke fun at his butchering of the language as a representation of the folks who kept hitting Reply All to vent and complain,  not realizing that they were actually compounding the problem.

If you’re going to send out a mass email, the BCC is your friend.

UPDATE: Apparently shirts were made.

this-yor-folt

and mugs

folt-mug