Necessary Procrastination

Interaction guru, John Maeda suggests that procrastination might be useful after all (hey, I bet that’s what you’re doing right now right? Reading my blog…).

“Necessary procrastination” is a prime factor in the creative process. When the cost of procrastination increases, the probability for radical new thoughts to emerge increases as well. The thought you never thought you would ever need, is often the one that can count the most in the big scope of things.

If you’re one of my students, check out his thesis tips whilst you’re at it.

Right then. I’m off to surf the web a bit more until that great idea pops-up.

New BMW ‘Say No’ Ad

Whilst writing that story about You Tube I spied BMW’s new “So No To Compromise” ad and website. It’s a US ad and is aimed at giving BMW a bit more “heart” apparently.

BMW saying no - a communal affair

The site itself features the ability for you (yes you the web-surfing, blogging, public) to upload an image and tell the world what you say no to. It’s all a bit Flcikr-esque and not dissimilar to Jon Harris’s projects. Clearly they’re plugging into the whole social network, public content idea. But I wonder if this is really the best way to do it? Something akin to what real BMW drivers actually do might be more interesting. I’m suspicious that those aren’t ‘real’ people either.

Not sure about the compromise idea either, after all BMW, as with most German car manufacturers, have been given a panning for their declining build quality recently.

In any case, most designers I know don’t get paid enough to buy a top-of-the-line BMW (BMW are apparently wanting to appeal to the ‘creative class’ in the USA) although here in Germany, as you might expect, they are ten-a-penny.

One thing: I would like to just say “No!” to BMW drivers tailgating me at 200km/h on the autobahn flashing their lights as if that’s not fast enough. But usually giving them the finger does the trick.

You Tube Advertising Dollars

Some enlightening “theoretical” figures being bounced around in Endgaget’s series about You Tube’s potential for generating revenue. Clicker contributor, Stephen Speicher, even came up with a new metric – “Eyeball Minutes” (but are these adjusted to account for those with only one eye?)

I have written quite often about this previously (see related links below), in particular the relationship to traditional TV shows and advertising. So it’s great to see some figures, however theoretical, being produced about how this might work. Speicher, once again, uses Judson Laipply’s “Evolution of Dance” clip as an example (my goodness, Judson must be pretty happy right now – 15,529,686 downloads as of today and it’s not even that funny):

Just for fun let’s do one other comparison. Let’s look at ad revenue:

Again we will use “Evolution of Dance” as a comparison. If you still don’t think that micro-content could be a macro business, consider the following. Six minutes of network content would be accompanied by 1 minute and 30 seconds of advertising. For a show with 15 million viewers, expect an ad rate in the neighborhood of 200k per 30 second slot. That’s right; “Evolution of Dance” would garner 600k dollars in ad revenue if calculated with basic “network math.

Check the all three stories for more – it’s an interesting read.

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Fake Beer in Germany

Fake booze, fake money. What else do you need?

Fake beer? In Germany? Sacrilege!

Slightly off topic for this blog, I know (well, okay, it’s about design and I live in Germany), but Deutsche-Welle have an entertaining story about the Schein Berlin agency in Berlin who create fake products for TV and film to avoid product placement issues.

This is real contrast for me compared to my experience with Australian TV, which seems to have programming content product-placed between branding and advertising. Most major sporting venues are also branded “Aussie Stadium”, “Telstra Stadium”, etc. and so are their sports teams. I imagine the U.S.A. is similar in this regard.

It must also keep those folk displaced by CGI visual effects employed in their model-making skills (a true art). But I felt a bit sorry for them when I read of their encounter with the fickle world of film:

Sometimes, they’re in for a shock, as was the case with “The Bourne Conspiracy.” The team built a complete Russian supermarket for the film, using hundreds of logos and labels, all of them invented.

“We spent half the night taping and stacking cartons, then we watched the film and were really disappointed at the way the camera simply rushed by,” Brehm said.

Nice to see fake operating systems keeping Adobe(!) Director alive and well too.

Photo (actually that’s a bottle of rum): Schein Berlin

Get Smart with your metering

Quick post about the BBC’s story on Smart Meters – the meters, designed by More Associates show you exactly where all your energy is going. The theory (and practice, it seems) being that when you know what you’re using, you use less.

It’s a good example of how decent interface design (not to mention a smart idea) can help you re-interpret data in a meaningful way.

Check out where all your energy is going

The second screen shows you what you could have done with that energy instead. Rather like the ideas in Change the World for a Fiver (a book I encourage everyone to buy – at least visit the website). Simple ideas, well communicated.

Then find out what you could have done with that energy...

Whilst you are at it, check out the link on the BBC story about how appliances on standby use up energy. It’s pretty shocking:

[Norman Baker, the Liberal Democrat’s environment spokesman] has calculated that the CO2 emissions from electrical equipment being left on standby are equivalent to 1.4 million long-haul flights.

So, now I just need to turn everything off for about ten years to make up for all those flights to and from Australia…

Thanks to the good people at Worldchanging.com for the link.

Images More Associates.

Finland in Euro Monster Rock Shock

Lordi - Eurovision 2006 Winners

Once again I ‘accidentally’ ended up watching the Eurovision Song Contest. No really, I was reading and had the TV on in the background.

Anyway, once again, I ended up only seeing the re-cap of the performances and all of a sudden it’s like a scene from Lord of the Rings meets Black Sabbath – Finland’s entry was absolutely mad genius. What in Middle-Earth are they drinking up there in the fjords?

The band, Lordi, fronted by Mr. Lordi, sang Rock Hallelujah, thrashing it out with fireworks and crazy Finnish Orc-style monster outfits. And, of course, they won.

It’s take the Eurovision in a completely new direction. All those other shiny pop-groups with mini-skirted girls and smarmy Euro guys suddenly looked so passé. What with Greece’s attempt to turn the show into a high-tech amphitheatre that unfortunately looked like the set of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? (complete with SMS ‘ask the audience’). The shiny, beautiful people must be crying into their own reflections in the mirror right now, poor darlings.

Meanwhile the Finnish monster boys will no doubt be partying into the night, ripping a few limbs off babies, the usual sort of thing. (UPDATE: Actually they are full of contradictions – vegetarian with Christian leanings. See this interview. )

I can’t let you go without a sample of the lyrics:

Hard Rock Hallelujah!
Hard Rock Hallelujah!

The saints are crippled
On this sinners’ night
Lost are the lambs with no guiding light

The walls come down like thunder
The rocks about to roll
It’s the Arockalypse
Now bare your soul

The ‘Arockalypse’ – Sigh. Such brilliance. Makes me proud to be European.

New theme

It’s about time I had a new theme I felt. Noodling around with themes is a great way to fritter away real working time. As usual I haven’t had time to design one myself as I’ve been working on other things (like noodling around with themes… ahem), but thanks to the folks at Oinam for their KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) theme.

I’ll still do some tweaks on it I’m sure, but for now it stays. Or did you prefer the old one? Oh the dilemmas I face in this modern world…

Warner Bros. to distribute via BitTorrent

I can’t believe I missed this story last week, but Warner Bros. have finally started to get their head around the idea that BitTorrents are the most efficient way to distribute large files online and have announced they’ll start seeding their movies when released onto DVD. So, only about three years too late and after trying to shut down most BitTorrent servers for ages.

From Yahoo’s story:

“If we can convert 5, 10, 15 percent of the peer-to-peer users that have been obtaining our product from illegitimate sources to becoming legitimate buyers of our product, that has the potential of a huge impact on our industry and our economics,” said Kevin Tsujihara, president of the Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group.

It’s exactly what lots of people have been banging on about for some time. I would have loved to have listened into the conversations at Warner Bros. about this because I imagine there are some very smart people there and some old-guard dunderheads who wrangled over this for a while. There’s not much mention of how they plan to avoid piracy or whether they have given up on this to a certain degree. But here’s the whiff of compromise:

The studio also will sell permanent copies of films and TV shows online that can be burned to a backup DVD, although the copy will only play on the computer used to download the film and not on standard DVD players.

That’s pretty lame. It fails to recognise the increasing trend of people networking their computers/media centres with their AV set-ups or use the computer as an entertainment ‘pip’e into the house before then deciding where they can play it. It’s like buying a DVD and being told you can only play it in the bedroom, but not in your lounge. And in what way is that a guard against piracy? Anyone really interested in large scale DVD burning style piracy will go a different route (and almost certainly any DRM will be cracked in no time).

The lawyers obviously got their “marketing point” into the story too:

Studios believe that offering reasonably priced legal alternatives will be preferable to downloading files that could contain viruses or poor quality copies of films.

This is always the “scary internet” tactics that copyright lawyers use. It’s akin to telling people smoking is bad for them – people who do it know the risks. In general files I’ve seen tend to be excellent – they’re simply rips from a DVD and quality certainly isn’t an issue (which is why the studios are so paranoid about digital files in the first place).

Ultimately its good to see a major studio take a step in the right direction (and entertaining to see BitTorrent’s Web site suddenly go all glossy and corporate – even the .org site is all pseudo Web 2.0 styled) – when did that happen? I must have been sleeping…)

The article does make a common factual error though:

Last year, BitTorrent agreed to remove links to pirated versions of movies from its Web site.

I’m reasonably certain that BitTorrent never had any illegal versions of movies on its Web site, that’s the whole point, a torrent file is just checksum information, not the actual data file itself. That’s why it’s been so hard for the MPAA to get a handle on a roving swarm. Smells like lawyer talk to me.

Khronos Projector – turning back time

I’m having a depressing time for “things I wish I had made” right now. Karl just sent me the link to the Khronos Projector, which is a flexible screen that laser-tracks your movements and flexing of the screen. It then calculates the surround pixels’ positions in “time” from a piece of video.

Space Time Gesture from Khronos Projector

By actually touching a deformable projection screen, shaking it or curling it, separate “islands of time” as well as “temporal waves” are created within the visible frame. This is done by interactively reshaping a two-dimensional spatio-temporal surface that “cuts” the spatio-temporal volume of data generated by a movie.

It’s great to see computer scientists coming up with such interesting interactive devices. It would be even better to see some interesting content in there though…

read more | digg story

The Real World

Ever noticed that the usual world map you see in atlases doesn’t really reflect the land-mass of the countries (the Northern Hemisphere countries are actually much smaller that they look). What about representing the world in relation to, say, the export/import of clothes. That is exactly what the Worldmapper website does.

Below is the the clothing import map (click to enlarge):

Clothing Import Map

From the Worldmapper site:

Despite the vast range of clothing styles throughout the world, there is a large international trade in clothes. These clothes arrive, more often than not, in the United States, Western Europe and Japan.

Most clothes are made in territories where employers can pay low labour costs, which partially maintains low prices for the populations of importing territories.

(Japan is the big, purple warped blob on the right there if you were wondering).

And here is the clothing export map:

Clothing Export Map

Shame they don’t have one of the world distribution of wealth to complete the picture. There are plenty more though, go and take a look.

Thanks to the folks at WorldChanging.com for the Worldmapper link via BLDG BLOG.