Google, Ingress and the genius of their big data collection

A couple of weeks ago, Google launched Ingress, a new augmented-reality game for Android devices. The idea of the game is that you explore local areas in a bid to find items. If I’m understanding it properly, its almost like an AR geocaching game of sorts.

Like a good many, I found myself initially reading this and thinking “Why would Google bother with what seems like a complete departure from their general market positioning and service offerings?” They’re not a games company after all. I’d missed something here though, and it took one keen-thinker over at Reddit of all places to spell it out – namely, how Google has become astonishingly good at creating services that get the public creating huge datasets for them; datasets which can then be developed into new, more relevant things that become part of Google’s bigger gameplan.

Don’t believe me? Then read this:

Continue reading “Google, Ingress and the genius of their big data collection”

Airplay, Bluetooth and how we’ll be listening to music in future

Since I switched to an iPhone a few years ago, I’ve bought a few iPod docks which are dotted about my house. This means that if I’m in the kitchen for example, I can just dock my phone and play music through the app of my choosing. Of late however, two of the three have broken, with the connector docks no longer working. Ironically both packed up at the same time, which happened to be when the iPhone 5 – with its new, smaller Lightning connector – was released.

The new connector was something of a dealbreaker for me. I now had two dock connectors that didn’t work, and hence was using the Aux input and a lead with both to play music. The notion of upgrading at some point to Apple’s latest proprietary connector was far from appealing – especially if they might prove as unreliable as my current hardware.

The docks themselves still work – and, I might add, sound great too. It is only the connector part that is broken; other than that they’re fine. So, rather than throw them out I looked for a means to still be able to use them, preferably wirelessly. So, I picked up a Logitech Bluetooth Receiver for the very reasonable sum of £23 and gave that a shot.

Continue reading “Airplay, Bluetooth and how we’ll be listening to music in future”

How to easily enjoy US-only services in the UK

Ever since Netflix launched in the UK I’ve become a huge fan of using VPN services to enjoy US content. The sad fact of it is that Netflix in the UK is a pale imitation of the US version, which has infinitely more choice and a far broader category of content – including, in my case, no end of ridiculously good music documentaries.

Virtual Private Network (VPN) services, in plain english, route your connection so that you appear to be in a different country (among other things – they can also be used to secure your connection when on public WiFi, tunnel you back to your office’s network and more).

In the context of my usage though, these VPN services make me appear to be in the USA, thus circumventing the “sorry, this content is not available to your in the UK” error messages that you can often run into on anything from Songza to Hulu. Setting these up is a actually a doddle, so I thought I’d document the process here so you can try it for yourselves. Frankly, its worth it for Netflix alone, though god knows its also great for the aforementioned Songza among others.

So how easy is it? Well, this easy:

Continue reading “How to easily enjoy US-only services in the UK”

A followup (and conclusion?) to the whole Facebook Promoted Posts saga

Since I last posted about Facebook and Promoted Posts, there’s been some very interesting discussions going on, not to mention some interesting articles and at least one notable development on Facebook’s side.

The first post that caught my eye was Erin Griffith’s piece on Pando: “Enough with the entitled whining — Facebook isn’t running an advertising charity“. This took quite a similar stance to my own piece, with a few choice quotes – this being one:

Facebook has do to this because it needs to make money and, more importantly, because it can only clog newsfeeds with a limited number of brand messages. Facebook has three constituencies right now. Users, shareholders, and advertisers. They exist in a sort of symbiotic recycle-reuse-reduce triangle: Facebook needs users to make advertisers happy, it needs advertisers (aka revenue) to make shareholders happy, and it needs shareholders in order to stay in business continue making the people Zuckerberg cares most about — the users — happy.

So Facebook must tread very delicately with each constituent. It can’t go overboard on ads to the point where it turns off users, and they move on to another social network. That’s what Myspace did, and look how well that worked out. And that is the specific reason Zuckerberg provided when asked about the latest Edgerank tweak: The feed’s quality is crucial in order to not turn off users, he said on Facebook’s second quarter earnings call.

Something that also came out of the whole discussion around Richard Metzger’s original post on this subject and my own response to that was that for content creators – ie people running websites relying on maybe 10+ posts per day – the challenge differed greatly to the likes of bands, where maybe one post per day is made at best. I stand by my point in my last article about the strategy for content creators being wrong, but where this got interested was when Sean Adams of Drowned In Sound started a discussion around the whole topic on his Facebook page. Now, if I were to pull every interesting comment on this thread I’d be reposting the entire thing, so all I can do is urge you to head over there and read it in full. A few of my peers contribute, and overall I’d say it was one of the most interesting discussions I’ve seen around this whole topic.

Continue reading “A followup (and conclusion?) to the whole Facebook Promoted Posts saga”

Reflecting on Alt-J’s Mercury Prize win…

Wow. Just… wow. Its been 48hrs now since Alt-J won the Mercury Prize, and I still find myself stopping to think “God alive – WE WON!!”. So, permit me a few reflections because to be honest, this is something of a career highlight to date and when you hit those high points you inevitably wind up reflecting on how you got here.

In summer 2011 I was still working at PIAS, as the Head of Digital Marketing. I was getting pretty frustrated, and felt like the time was drawing near where I’d have to move on. I chatted with my then-boss, Clare, who was 100% supportive. So, in September I resigned and founded Motive Unknown. My first client was Infectious Music, and my first artist on their roster to work with was Alt-J.

I’ll make no bones about it: I love working with Infectious. In the year since we began working together, they’ve pushed me to be the best I possibly can. We’ve discussed things a lot. We’ve even argued a few times. However at all points, it was for absolutely the right reasons: because we are all so passionate about the music we work on.

Continue reading “Reflecting on Alt-J’s Mercury Prize win…”