Just somewhere to put down my thoughts on Interactive Media Strategies (IMS) and occasionally some other stuff that pops into my mind...

Sunday, 6 December 2009

How To Claim Your Blog on Technorati

I decided to submit Mind Mole to Technorati (a massive blog search engine) in order to give it a bit more exposure and hopefully to gain some more readers. Here I will run through the simple process I went through to do this.

First off, head over to http://technorati.com/ and set up an account. This is pretty standard really, username, password and all that. I was then sent an email where I had to click a link to activate my account. Simple as that, I had a profile which I could customise with a picture and brief bio etc.

Now on to the important stuff, claiming your blog. At the bottom of your profile you can enter the url of your blog and then submit a claim. You can add a title and a description of the content on the next page, as well as some tags. Once you're done, Technorati send you an email which includes a claim token. This is so they can verify you are actually the author of the blog. All you have to do is submit a post on your blog and include the token code. You can take this post down again after a few minutes if you want to so don't worry about it ruining your blog's content. My code was D346NZAKQ77B. Once the post is submitted to your blog, on your Technorati profile click "Check Claim" and then "Verify Claim Token". You should then get another email saying they have successfully found the claim token and your blog will officially be yours in Technorati's eyes.

All that's left to do is sit back and watch as the hits come rolling in.....

Or so I thought.  It turns out Technorati is rubbish and no-one uses it anymore.  Oh well, that was a waste of time.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Web Culture

As mentioned in my previous post, Uses and Gratifications, the web has created a new culture (or even cultures) that is inconsistent with the offline world. Baym (1999) considers four aspects of this:
  • New forms of expression
  • New forms of identity
  • New relationships
  • New behavioural norm

Here I will discuss the first two.

Identity on the internet is created in a number of ways. Avatars, nicknames and signatures are all tools for people to portray themselves online. They empower people to create an online identity that resembles their authentic selves, free from the restrictions they face offline. Similar to the way people offline buy products that portray certain qualities, people make use of images and quotes online that create specific associations.

People have also developed new ways to express themselves online. The degree of anonymity allows a freedom of expression that doesn’t exist offline. People can say as they please without fear of repercussions. Acronyms have become popular for frequently mentioned phrases (STFU, ROFL, IMHO and RTFM to name but a few) as well as emoticons. The common use of the “f” word is a signal of this freedom.

In my latest IMS seminar, we were asked to mock up an ad which appropriates a popular internet meme (a sort of viral inside joke) or online expression. Here is my first attempt that plays on the ceiling cat meme.

Go ahead, ceiling cat is busy eating... Whiskas

I’ll link to everyone else’s when they have been presented, but in the meantime feel free to comment on my ad or even share some of your own.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Uses and Gratifications

Consumers of traditional media are thought to have no say in how it influences them. They are push media in that people receive what is supplied. Uses and gratifications theory suggests that interactive media is different as its consumers use it in order to satisfy certain motivations. They actively pull through what they want.

Korgaonkar and Wolin (1999) categorise reasons for using the web into the following 5 motivations (taxonomy):
  • Information
  • Social escapism
  • Socialisation
  • Economic benefit
  • Interactive control

This can be of use to brands when building their online presence. Molesworth and Jenkins (2002) discuss how sites that meet a specific need better than others will be favoured and that if a user doesn’t experience the gratification they seek, they may become hostile towards the failing site. Folksonomies, where users actively categorise sites with tags, are becoming increasingly popular to signpost to others what they can expect from sites. This may promote the notion of specialisation rather than trying to offer something for everyone. The most successful sites have one very clearly defined function.

There are a number of criticisms of the uses and gratifications framework and many feel it rarely goes beyond a list of reasons for why people use media. It would be of more use if it helped define types of web users (typology) in terms of personality and behaviour. This would be a highly advantageous to brands for targeting.  Traditional demographics are becoming less applicable online because a new online culture has developed.  Brands are going to need to understand this to make the most of the media.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Interactive Media Navigation for Marketers

Marketers would benefit a great deal from insight into how people navigate on the internet. In much the same way as they layout real life retail environments, with this knowledge they could optimise sites so that they keep peoples' interest. Hoffman and Novak (1996) suggest that “flow”, originally mentioned by Csikszentmihalyi in 1977, is a key concept for this area.

Flow describes a state of navigation where the user becomes totally involved in what they are doing. They seem cut off from the rest of the world, even losing track of time. This is related to, but different from, stickiness. Stickiness is where users are offered various functions that have the potential to keep them engaged and so they remain on a site. Flow is an enjoyable experience that doesn't hold someone on a site, but that comes about by facilitating the user's needs, creating a seamless environment. They feel good about what they are doing and so they are more likely to return to the same activity.

Hoffman and Novak believe that flow occurs when users have clear goals, receive immediate feedback and encounter a match of skills and challenges above a certain level. Are users more likely to encounter these characteristics when engaged in “goal directed” or “experiential” navigation? Both would be relevant for marketers in terms of aiding purchasing decisions and creating positive perceptions of their brands for example.

Either way, Rettie (2001) has provided some inhibitors to flow that marketers should try to avoid where they can. These include, waiting for downloads, receiving inappropriate search results, being interrupted by advertising, using the web from work (and so being conscious of restrictions etc) and being aware of the cost of using the internet. These seem to make sense in terms of breaking the smooth navigation of relevant content, but do they assume users take on a scopic regime where everything is an obstacle? What is to say that users don't enjoy the variety that web search sometimes throws up? This may be the case particularly when users are engaged in experiential navigation.

Flow does seem like a phenomenon that exists, but I think there is more to navigation than flow provides. What if someone has a busy schedule and simply pops online for a quick browse? They may well react negatively towards brands that entice them into a flow experience that lasts for hours.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Interactive Media?

Innovations in the media landscape led to a range of channels being labelled interactive. The birth of internet was the start but this term is now used to describe a range of media from mobile phones to video games. Brands now see interactivity as the thing to be participating in if you want any level of success. But didn’t traditional media have the capability to be interactive?

This all boils down to your definition of interactivity I guess. I see interactivity as dialogue or action between two or more people. In a similar way to Grunig and Hunt’s two-way symmetrical mode of communication, I think interactivity has to involve mutual negotiation and real evidence that both parties are listening. This can be achieved in traditional media. You can write a letter to journalists and editors of newspapers for example, and if it raises an important point it could be published and even commented upon. You may say that this is a rather awkward, convoluted and slow method of interactivity, but the capability is there.

The internet does facilitate interactivity, but it isn’t always used by brands who claim they are embracing it for these very qualities. Just because it’s online doesn’t make it interactive, so should the label used to describe these new media be changed? I don’t think they even need a label really...

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Mind Mole Says, "Don't Cut The Corner!"

I am a keen driver and so often travel by car. I have been driving now for about 4 years and I generally enjoy it. I know some people drive out of necessity and just put up with it but I have always been quite fond of this mode of transport. I wouldn't say I'm a boy racer type or drive particularly fast, I just enjoy being able to get around and not being restricted by bus timetables or anything else. However, of late I have been getting increasingly frustrated when driving at what seems to be a growing phenomenon; people cutting the corner at a right turn.

Here is the highway code's rule for making a right turn:

Wait until there is a safe gap between you and any oncoming vehicle. Watch out for cyclists, motorcyclists, pedestrians and other road users. Check your mirrors and blind spot again to make sure you are not being overtaken, then make the turn. Do not cut the corner. Take great care when turning into a main road; you will need to watch for traffic in both directions and wait for a safe gap.

Remember: Mirrors – Signal – Manoeuvre
Highway Code
I have highlighted my main point, “Do not cut the corner”. This seems quite reasonable doesn't it, especially when you consider that in essence, cutting the corner equates to driving on the wrong side of the road!

From my experience I wouldn't consider this a universal trend. People everywhere aren't developing this inability to drive properly, it's very much a localised tendency. Drivers in the Bournemouth area, what's going on here?! Is the sea air doing something to you so that even driving around other cars on a bend becomes too much to ask? You don't seem to be that bothered that sailing round a blind right turn on the opposite side of the road could have dire consequences.

Sorry to have a bit of a rant here, but it's difficult to enjoy driving when inexplicably you're faced with oncoming cars at every turn.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Predicting the Future

In my recent Interactive Media Strategies lecture I was shown examples of books which had, to an extent, successfully predicted the future. The Neuromancer by William Gibson back in 1984 made use of the term “cyberspace” and described a “graphical representation of data abstracted from the banks of every computer in the human system”, while most people recognise the move towards the world described by Orwell in his book 1984, written in 1949. These authors have shown great insight into the progression of technology and how it would be utilised in years to come. That's right isn't it, people haven't read the books and then just decided to work towards creating these predictions have they?

What I'm really asking is who decides the direction of our future? Does it simply come about or do we attempt to achieve what we have dreamt or even read about? I haven't read Orwell, but aren't the predictions in that book rather dark and unpleasant. That isn't a future anyone would actively strive for is it? As I have hinted at in my previous post, The Ins and Outs of Progress, surely the future should be shaped by technology that delivers some real benefit rather than what someone has dreamt up to establish an interesting premise for a story.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

The Ins and Outs of Progress

We think of progress as essential to being measured as successful. If we didn’t make progress, or simply stood still, we’d have failed. Progress is making things better. So maybe it’s fear of failure that drives us to claim we’ve made progress when there is none. Or that pushes us to change things, even complicate them, just to keep moving.

Real progress is rare nowadays. Instead, we simply complicate our lives to achieve something different. Something our generation can claim as their addition to the world. When you think about it, new technology does anything but make our lives simpler. There are a vast array of tasks that need to be completed before this kind of progress can work. A huge network of people employed to administer several little tasks that combine to give the end user a simpler life. A simpler life this end user spends working within other networks which help other end users enjoy the same simplicity.

When thought of like that, our lifestyle seems moronic. At least we’re kept busy. But this is just one view. Another is that the human race, in its desire for something different, so that we don’t become bored, is pushing its capabilities. Testing our environment to the maximum to see what we can achieve. It’s somewhere between inquisition and pomposity. A quest to master our environment. However, is “because we can” a good enough reason to employ resources to technologies that do nothing to improve things?

Would we, in our capitalist society, continue in this manner without the financial rewards developing these technologies guarantees? These rewards exist because people demand new technology. We want new things, to be at the cutting edge, but do we need to think a little harder about the good new technology does us before we go out and buy it/sign up to it? Wouldn’t this make new product developers work harder for us and actually generate real progress?

Slightly off topic but vaguely related; I watched 2001: A Space Odyssey the other day. Initially I was slightly put off by the pace of it. It takes an incredibly long time for anything to actually happen, and when it does it’s rather abstract. That being said, subsequently I have enjoyed mulling over the issues it raises, especially those to do with human race’s progress. Ape’s, having developed the ability to use the tool, evolved to humans who took this to the extreme, eventually managing to achieve hugely powerful computers and even space travel. However, this is almost their downfall when a computer (HAL), being used for most of the functions of a space mission, determines human’s themselves are too risky to keep around. Could this be considered a progress trap?