Our pick of some of this week’s most interesting, amusing and enlightening digital stories, including Sky News’ Twitter policy, an algorithm to measure ‘funny’ and bringing your own devices to work. Join in by posting your thoughts in the comments box at the bottom.
Paul Mallett, Managing Partner
I’m really looking forward to the liberation that the first wave of Windows 8 tablets will bring. The pick-up-and-go-PowerPoint-games-machine is something I will definitely be buying.
But it raises a problem; I just want ONE of these. I don’t want a ‘work’ one and a ‘home’ one. I just want my one, that encompasses the world of home and of work. I think the IT department might have some problems with this though: anti-virus, security etc. Let alone the potential intrusions into my privacy with PC Anywhere and assorted maintenance and ‘monitoring’ tools.
So, maybe it’s time to re-think the whole IT thing. My view would be to make everyone provide their own technology. It will make people think twice about whether they really needed that 40″ Mac Pro for £4,000, when a £250 laptop would do just as well… (but it won’t look as pretty and allow the user to admire themselves in the pristine wipe-clean gloss finish screen).
What about the poor grads starting out in the world, I hear you say? Don’t know about you, but I’ve never met a student who wasn’t fully broadbanded up with the latest smartphones and a decent laptop… so no worries there.
So that just leaves the technophobes. Well, they’re probably best left anyway. After all you don’t expect work to provide pencils for you…? Oh, you do.
Bring on Bring Your Own!
George Hurrell, Digital Designer
Interactivity, especially human-machine interaction, has really exploded over the past few years. Just look at the Wii, Playstation Move and Microsoft Kinect, as well as touchscreen phones and tablets that have changed the way we think about using and utilising technology. A lot of it can be incredibly ‘tecchie’, but some of the best, most forward-thinking advances in technology come from people who just like to play and create, who have the knowledge to make use of the technology but have the ability to create something that is immediately usable and, more importantly, fun.
This is where ‘Stimulant – Interactive design studio’ comes in, with ‘LoopLoop’ for ‘Sifteo cubes’. These cubes originally featured in 2009 at TED. But Stimulant has been playing with and tweaking them to create a very tactile and exploratory audio/visual tool or toy, depending on how you look at it, winning Best in Category, Expressing and Best in Show at the inaugural Interaction Design Awards.
The basic idea is that you start with three cubes (you can have up to six to increase the length of your composition) and each is aware of their own orientation, tilt, direction, and proximity to other Sifteo cubes. A single button is embedded underneath each cube’s 128-pixel-wide screen. They are controlled wirelessly by a nearby computer and come in packs of three (expandable up to six) cubes.
You then rotate, tilt, press, and connect to create music and sounds that change with every different connection.
This video will give you the best idea of how they work and what you can do with them. It may still seem like witchcraft but the premise of this project was “to work on a multitrack music toy that was more exploratory than goal-based, and would leverage the minimalist and modular nature of the cubes themselves.”
For the full article that explains the design/interaction process and more, follow the link in this story’s title.
Tim Downs, Head of PR
Last week The Guardian broke the story that Sky News was adopting draconian social media guidelines that seemingly not only undermined its own journalists but also the channel’s ability to be first with the latest news. This was, according to some commentators, either a cack-handed attempt to retain control of the news agenda or a demonstration of not understanding social media.
The social media commandments included; thou shall not retweet rival journalists or people on Twitter, though shall stick to your own beat and though shall always pass breaking news to the news desk before posting.
Having prepared myself to join the baying masses I read many of the proposed dictats and simply thought… errr, how very sensible.
These were some simple and easy-to-follow rules that applied to work Twitter accounts in order protect the quality and accuracy of the output of a news organisation that relies on the trust of its viewers in order to remain in existence.
What the new guidelines did in my mind was to raise a couple of questions: 1. What is best, to be first with the news or to be right in the digital age? And 2. What was Sky News doing before these guidelines?
On question one, in my view Sky News is the organisation that proved that the two don’t have to be mutually exclusive precisely because they were early digital innovators. Personally, in days gone by, and being an ex-journo, I would have said be first every time. However, in the digital age, my answer now would be: be right. Because you can’t always be first and cock-ups are now potentially seen by much larger audiences over much longer periods of time.
The biggest problem for Sky News is question number two. A number of its journalists have built reputations for being first to the punch specifically by using Twitter and retweeting other sources. One of Sky’s online news editors, Neal Mann, who tweets as @fieldproducer, was announced in November 2011 as the UK’s most influential journalist on Twitter, with over 100,000 mentions and retweets in a three month period. He gleans much of his information from the many and varied sources who he trusts enough to retweet and, under the new rules, his ability to do his job and therefore his influence would be badly impaired.
So, whilst it would appear that Sky News’ motivation for the new guidelines is to safeguard its reputation, its journalists have been happily enhancing its reputation without such restrictions in place. Which to my mind is a bit like trying to close the stable door after the news horse has bolted.
Ally Manock, Head of Digital Strategy, Planning & Insight
While people are still watching much more traditional TV, streaming video continues to grow in popularity, mainly, it seems, due to increased smartphone and tablet usage. It’s interesting to note that:
• In the social sphere, Facebook users on average share ten times more video than Twitter users.
• Tablet viewers are far more engaged than desktop viewers – they are 45% more likely to complete at least 75% of videos played.
Could these findings be partly due to the fact that Facebook is more visual and less fast-paced than Twitter and therefore seems to lend itself to video better? And could it be that tablets are used in leisure time more than desktops (which are generally associated with work), explaining the fact that more videos are completed?
Either way, online video-viewing looks set to soar in 2012.
Simon Marshall, Digital Account Director
Well according to Google Research it can. This article caught my eye on Mashable and I figured I should take some time to watch some silly videos and research the story in a little more detail…
According to Google it has “designed features to quantify the degree of emphasis on words associated with amusement in viewer comments, then trained a passive-aggressive ranking algorithm using human-annotated pairwise ground truth and a combination of text and audiovisual features”. Whatever that means… Either way, I’m sure they had fun doing it. (You can read the full post by clicking on this story’s title.)
While a sense of humour is pretty subjective, I can’t help but think that my own sense of humour algorithm isn’t quite tuned in. I was a little disappointed in the results I saw on the Comedy Slam leaderboard, which is voted for by real viewers rather than calculated by a fancy algorithm.
Does this mean Google has got a better sense of humour than real people?