Photoshop & Tate Modern's Giant Baby installation

I was at Tate Modern this weekend, and was really impressed by their new Giant Baby installation in the turbine hall…



Ha, yeah, fair cop… I was just mucking about with a bit of perspective, and using the TiltShiftGen app on the iPhone.

The app replicates some of the functionality of proper tilt-shift photography, which is most often used to replicate miniature photography…

…for instance this shot below from the Wikipedia page is a great example of a real life scene that’s been made to look like a model village scene.



All very fun, but do I have a point beyond just posting fun family pics?  Well, maybe.

A while back I wrote a post about how phone apps were beginning to replace hardware things

Well, Max (PHD’s resident photography whizz) and I were talking yesterday about the implications of apps for the more professional, heavy duty software like Photoshop.



This is a screengrab of Photoshop Elements, which I’m trialling at the moment; since switching to a Mac, I don’t have a copy of Photoshop anymore, as I was using an ancient version (PS7) on my old Windows laptop.  I do have CS3 at work though.

It costs £80, it’s very much the stripped back version of Photoshop, designed for the home amateur.  To be fair, I’m not found that much I’m missing from the full version, but there’s the odd thing here and there that bugs me when it’s missing. 

I’m not sure I think it’s worth £80 though, and that’s probably because my internal perception for the value of ‘mucking about with images’ is being pulled down by various things.

Firstly, of course, there’s the phone apps. 

QuadCamera, Hipstamatic, CameraBag, TiltShiftGen… they all do a small element of what Photoshop can do, and in comparison they are just one-trick ponies. 

There’s a Photoshop app too, which I’ve got, but only use it infrequently for the cropping tool.



But having the suite available wherever and whenever has meant that I never do what I used to with snappy phone photography, which is go back to a computer and touch up the best ones in Photoshop.

I have the instant ability to either take more interesting photos, or adjust ones I’ve taken already, right there in my hand.

Then there was Sumo Paint, which Michael drew my attention to yesterday… it’s basically a cloud-based version of Photoshop (and feels very like Photoshop too). 

As long as your connected to the web, you can use it.  If you’re offline a lot, you can buy the download for about £14.  That seems a lot better value than Photoshop Elements…



(Suneil pointed out the irony of something that challenges Photoshop so directly running on Adobe’s other big ‘ting, Flash…)

It’s all made me think that the ‘photo manipulation’ market if fragmenting in much the same way that the print market is.

Imagine Photoshop is the original newspaper; it sells you everything in one big package, you can’t strip out just the parts you want, because originally it couldn’t be served to you that way… and it was just the model they continued with when the interweb came along.

Then something like Sumo Paint is the news website… it gives you most of the content you used to have in a paper you paid for, but for free.  The catch?  You’ve got to be online to use it.  But that actually suits a lot of people, so they stop buying the newspaper…

Finally, the apps are… well, the apps.  They take one specific element of the paper, do it REALLY WELL, and sell it to people for a small fee.

I guess Adobe are heading down The Times paywall approach with photoshop; big fee, small audience. 

Personally, I’d like to see them playing more in the app end of things… let their imagination run wild, and use their excellent tech to make many small, cheap, wondrous things.

But maybe that’s not how big companies work.


#commutebox playlist & spotify; TV next, please?

It’s been a while since a few folks and I started mucking about with the #commutebox hashtag on twitter.  It was a way for friends to share the tracks and albums they were listening to on the way to work. 

That way, you’d find out what else folk were listening to, and might find a few more interesting things yourself.  (I talked about it here, ’twas over a year ago now it seems.  Doesn’t time fly..?)



But of course, twitter’s hardly the most natural home for doing it perfectly.  Like it is for many other things, the simple twitter interface was the inexpensive ‘best’ we could do at little effort at the time.

But most folk didn’t search for #commutebox every day, they probably just saw a tweet here and there suggesting some new music.

What we were probably all waiting for was the social Spotify malarkey. 

Since they launched the social features, we’ve compiled a lovely spring playlist, and we’re halfway through a summer playlist.  It’s really easy just to quickly add tracks whenever the mood takes you.



Then everyone who subscribes to the playlist has it on their desktop, or their phone if they have a premium account.  An instant source of a peer-curated music.

So with that experience, it’s of great interest to see the launch of Spotify TV in Sweden & Finland…



Sure, at the moment it’s just for creating your own playlist of music through the TV remote.

But you’ve got to think they’re just paving the way for the technology to work for TV content, rather than just music.

Which would be great; a TV guide curated by you and your mates, that you can all set up to watch on specific occasions (not unlike when we’re ‘all’ commuting with the music…). 

It’s been talked about before, but please, make it so, Spotify…


The vanishing point for print moves closer…

There’s an interesting piece from Robert Andrews on (HT Gerd Leonhard) rounding up some predictions from the newspaper industry themselves on when they’ll be winding up their print runs…

…the ‘sunset of print’ as Madi Solomon of the FT referred to it as:

Solomon says the FT is committing to “less print” and says the FT sees a five-year trajectory for having exited print in substantial part. “They’re not saying that, by five years, they’ll completely stop it, but they do see that the sunset is going to be in about five years.”



Now, five years probably seems like a long time… after all, five years ago there was no Youtube.

But now that the newspaper industry in particular is in the mindset that they will stop print (perhaps they’ve moved through the Kubler-Ross model… denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance), I wonder if it will be even quicker…

…after all, if it’s losing you money, you know you’re going to stop, and you’re developing alternatives, the logical thing to do is switch over as quickly as possible.

Which goes back to the Vanishing Point for media I talked about a while back.  Whilst we may expect the ‘vanishing point’ of media vehicles to be a little while after the returns from things like advertising (blue line) have dropped below the costs (red line)…



…the real vanishing point comes a lot sooner… as soon as costs exceed income, and there is a viable alternative model to jump to (which is what makes the iPad so attractive for newspaper publishers), then newspapers don’t make economic sense, so production stops…



…even though there will still be advertisers who would have spent money with those newspapers.

I guess it all means it’s not just newspapers that need to be experimenting with new ideas… existing advertisers need to be willing to help find new and better ways of connecting with people through these news organisations. 

Which needs less ‘prove to me that this will definitely work’ and more ‘let’s give this a go and see what we can do…’.


Social TV yes. But a Social TV remote? Oh FFS…

There’s a great piece on Social TV in the MIT Technology Review, which talks a lot of sense (HT @graemewood).

But there’s a barrier at the top that makes you initially want to skip over it… and it’s this stupid picture…



See, the article features an idea that makes a lot of sense; provide services and software that work through people’s existing technology (e.g. phone).

Whereas the picture is another example of people thinking ‘oh, I’ve got a great idea… and I’ll turn it into a standalone gadget…’

Yeah, because we don’t have enough gadgets lying around the place.

If you already like the notion of Social TV, you probably use your phone to do talk to other people about what you’re watching anyway… so why would you want a ‘social remote control’?

Companies are, more than ever, playing catch-up to the things people do together through whatever technology they have to hand.


Want a good review for Four Lions? Ask twitter…

This is interesting…

…the honourable Rupert Britton, Dark Lord of Content Strategy here at PHD, has had a tweet picked up of his thoughts on the new Chris Morris film Four Lions, and it’s been used in an ad. 

It’s the second one down…



He’s not the only one though… they’ve used about four or five, mixed in with reviews from proper journalistic organs.

Oh, and the Evening Standard.

Anyway, it’s really interesting, for several reasons. 

Firstly, if you were a little short of good write-ups of your film (which I’m not suggesting Four Lions is, it’s just a hypothetical ‘if’), you could just find the tweets by people who did like your film, and use those.

Secondly, it highlights the fact that we increasingly trust (or at least marketers believe that we trust) the opinions of other people at least as much, if not more so, than those of the so-called ‘experts’.

Thirdly, if you are going to use someone’s tweet in a review… is it polite to ask?  The first Rupert heard of it was when a friend called him up and told him…

Rupert says he wouldn’t have minded at all. 

So why not just ask?

(If you’re listening, Four Lions folks, the very least you could do is send him a poster or something…)


The iPad; it's TV, only more so

Now, you’ll remember my previous post on the iPad, TV and the like, yes? 

Well, our superclever research team here at PHD (Clare, Chris & Carrie) have been working on a project to gauge the impact that this generation of devices (i-pad-tablet-slate things).

Here’s Clare to take you through what they’ve found so far…



Following on from this, I thought we’d add the view from the research couch. 

We recently did some work with people – not early adopters, not geeks, just ordinary people who like gadgets that make like easier, or more enjoyable – about how they use mobile devices (netbooks, smartphones etc) in our qualitative facility, The Living Room. 

The ulterior motive was to get them thinking about mobile media use and then get them to consider how they might feel about and potentially use iPads in the future.

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The results were fascinating.  We found massive enthusiasm appetite for mobile TV.  While few had watched much TV on their iPhones to date, when asked to try it out for a couple of weeks they came back full of enthusiasm and thought the iPad’s combination of screen size and simplicity of use would offer an even better way to watch mobile TV and video content.  <o:p></o:p>

The possibilities for combining viewing with interactions through social networks also appealed to some, with the chance to watch and discuss things together while apart, or pass on recommendations all from the same device you’re watching on.

They also thought it could easily be an option to replace second and third household TV sets, and could even replace some main set viewing especially where people have limited multichannel access, which suggests potential for a “pay as you go” option for mobile tv.



Basically, they saw an opportunity for telly, only more so.  And better.  And easier to share.  Whats not to like?

Mind you, the success of TV on iPad will rely on Apple and other service providers marketing their mobile TV apps clearly and effectively as awareness of existing services for smart phones and computers was still pretty low (we had to show our groups some of the possibilities to get their views).


iPad video review; it's the future of television

I got my mitts on an iPad for the first time yesterday, thanks to David at The Guardian.

We worked with them and Canon on the Guardian Eyewitness app (now the SECOND MOST POPULAR free app for the iPad… FTW).

So we were understandably VERY eager to see the fruits of our labours.

(Apple, ‘fruits’?  See, it’s a pun, geddit?  Oh, never mind…)

Anyway, I took the opportunity to create a little video run through of some of the ‘media’ properties on it, just to get a first feel for what ‘worked’ on the iPad:

So, that was yesterday.  My thoughts today?

All in all, whilst newspapers and magazines (and of course comics) can do some wonderful creative things with the iPad, having used it you realise what a great in between step between ‘lean back’ and ‘sit forward’ it is…

…which is perfect for just watching TV on.

Ben Malbon points out that the posters they’ve put up are like a giant user manual… “this is how you use it”. 



Looks like a great way to watch content, yet still have access to everything the web offers at the flick of a finger.

And sure, as a device it has the potential to do untold amount of wonderful things, depending on the apps developed for it.  And it may revolutionise many markets (news, games, work, healthcare…)

Yet given the amount of ‘watching’ people still do (television, films etc), and the quality and flexibility of the iPad for fulfilling that need, I believe that for mainstream take up it’s the viewing capabilities that will be key. 



People LOVE watching TV, as we all know.  This represents a different, flexible, personal way to do that, wherever you want.  TV has a mass appeal that opens up the interest in the device to a wider audience than would be interested in more early-adopter tech (the iPhone, for instance).

Which means there’s probably an interesting behavioural economics thing going on here too

People will justify spending £500 or so when they compare it not just to the price of netbooks, laptops etc… but to the price of flash flatscreen TVs.

For instance, would you buy a TV for the kitchen when you could buy a stand for an iPad and sit it in the corner when you’re there?  Especially if you can download whichever recipe you want on it too.



Which all means that whilst people will be watching as much, if not more, television content in the future, the way in which they are watching it is even more flexible and on demand…

…whatever, whenever, wherever.

Which has interesting, challenging repercussions for business or marketing models based upon the traditional linear TV watching with ad breaks every 20 minutes… but more on that another day…

What do you think?  Is the iPad the future of TV?


"Making communications products, not just communicating products"

Via the House of Yakob comes this brilliant 5 minute talk from Gareth Kay of Goodby, Silverstein & Partners… it’s excellent, please do watch it now…

The notion of ‘doing things for people’ rather than just ‘advertising at people’ has been something that smart people like Gareth have been saying, repeatedly, for a while… I picked up on an Ed Cotton post in Oct 08 and turned it into a little mantra for PHD

…do things for people that are useful, educational, entertaining, connective… or ideally a combination of as many of them as you can…




The Mythology Engine

This is a fascinating experiment in augmenting storytelling by the BBC… it’s something their R&D department have been working called ‘The Mythology Engine’.  (via Emily Bell)

Theo Jones does a walk through in this video…

So, skipping over the fact that it’s Doctor Who (and therefore very, very exciting anyway), I think this represents a huge step on in terms of how complex narratives can be split out.

Going back to the Jimmy Wales talk on Wikia (at the Guardian Changing Media Summit), the tools that those communities use to build their databases aren’t a massive leap on, technology wise, from the first Wikipedia.



The Mythology Engine, on the other hand, looks like a Wikia site with a V6 engine in it.

If there was a way to make the tools that created it open-source, the communities who created things like Lostpedia, Wookiepedia or the Harry Potter wiki would be all over it I’m sure, creating the perfect framework for exploring the narratives of each of those stories.

At the very least, I’m sure the Doctor Who fans would very quickly and efficiently complete the BBC one.

But would they ever make it open source, like Wikia would be?  In these interesting times for the BBC, they’re being forced to watch carefully the areas in which they go into, as private companies complain that it ‘threatens competition’ in these areas.

Yet something like Wikipedia, famously, doesn’t make money; they raised funding to keep going from users last year.

So if it’s an area where people can’t find a way to make money, should the BBC fill the void with it’s own open source experiments?  And how does that work just with the UK..?

Tricky questions, but yet more evidence that the established practices of yesterday aren’t that relevant in the modern age.


#CMS2010 – three big things, pt III

Finally, after part I & part II, we reach the final part of the Guardian Changing Media Summit thoughts…

Part III – The BBC of the past, present & future…  the all powerful Timelords

So, the BBC have been getting a regular kicking over the past year…

Back in August, James Murdoch’s MacTaggart lecture left no doubts about his thoughts on the BBC…



“The corporation is incapable of distinguishing between what is good for it, and what is good for the country… Funded by a hypothecated tax, the BBC feels empowered to offer something for everyone, even in areas well served by the market. The scope of its activities and ambitions is chilling.”

Then you had the cost-cutting review announced by Mark Thompson, which included the axing of 6music and the Asian Network. 

It was nothing but a self-mutilating act to try and head off the inevitable calls from what an incoming Conservative administration might demand of the BBC in terms of cuts & sell-offs… this poster from mydavidcameron nicely encapsulates Tory thoughts on the BBC…



So, under all this pressure, it was always going to be really interesting to see what Erik Huggers, BBC Digital Chief, would say about the BBC’s new, pared down service.

I thought what he gave us was a great vision for what BBC online should be; precise, focus, less sprawling, better value….



“The BBC’s online strategy has, for many years, been to play a supporting role to our broadcast output. Programme first, website later. This is not the best way to deliver our public purposes in a digital age. We are moving away from the disparate approach of the past, and to create a single coherent BBC Online which is greater than the sum of its parts.”

And summing up, my notes from the liveblog run as follows:

“The focus moving forward; the core five editorial areas, working as equals with the technology guys, to be the one ‘BBC’ that is the ‘past, present and future of the BBC’…”

(The full blog of his speech is here, btw)

What does all this add up to?

They’re cutting over 200 websites, being more focussed, leaving space for competition… which on the face of it is of course what the Murdochs and the Conservatives want…

(…though I’d like to echo David Mitchell’s sentiments from his Guardian column – “the BBC is the envy of the world. Why are we letting its competitors, and the politicians they have frightened or bought, tell us that we can’t keep it as it is?”)

But something struck me as Huggers outlined the vision…



The BBC has been forced into a corner.  Its tormentors are prodding and poking it…

…’yeah, be more focussed, yeah, take away the license fee, yeah, let’s see how you survive in the competitive landscape… ‘

If I was James or Rupert, I wouldn’t be quite so sure that this is a great idea.

(Given the announcement today that The Times will charge £1 a DAY for access to their website, I’m less and less convinced that they’re big on great ideas…)

Firstly, the focussed vision of the digital element showed just what happens when someone makes the BBC concentrate, think a bit more about what it’s delivering, how to make it lean, mean and effective.

It’ll be brilliant at it. 

I mean, it’s really good now, but not very joined up, a bit haphazard and bumbling… but given drive and focus the BBC will be terrifyingly good at the online offering bit, and joining it up with the TV & radio bits.

Which doesn’t exactly sound like great news for the Murdoch Empire.

Secondly, this whole ‘take away the license fee’ movement.  Think about the strength and depth of the content, public trust, ability, talent, experience all wrapped up in the BBC…

…and then saying to it ‘you’ve got to make all your money from commercial routes’…

…so like advertising, paid for games, apps, archive content, pay-TV platforms, news services… and on and on?

If the BBC is forced by its competitors into a place where it has to focus, react, become more commercial… it will simply eat those competitors alive.  Think about how good BBC Worldwide is at making money from around the world.

Fittingly, it all reminds me of a Doctor Who episode called The Family of Blood



The episode goes as follows… there’s a parasitical family of aliens chasing the Doctor, as they want to feed off his life force and live forever. 

The Doctor hides his mind away so he thinks he’s human and doesn’t know who he is, in order to prevent them from doing so.  But they keep chasing him, hunting him down, until they find him, and force him out into the open…

…but they don’t get exactly what they bargained for…

I guess the moral of the story is ‘be careful what you wish for…’